Reports: Andy Ludwig to stay at Utah after visiting Notre Dame

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Andy Ludwig - Offensive Coordinator talks with is players during Vanderbilt's first football practice of preseason camp
Friday Aug. 3, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.

SOUTH BEND — Andy Ludwig, who seemed to check all the boxes for Notre Dame in its search for a new offensive coordinator to replace Tommy Rees, won’t be joining the Irish after all.

An exorbitant $2.8 million buyout clause in Ludwig’s three-year rollover contract with the University of Utah proved too rich for Notre Dame, the Salt Lake Tribune and ESPN reported Monday evening.

Ludwig earned $1.25 million last season, according to USA Today’s coaching salary database. His prior contract with Utah, a three-year, $2.5 million deal signed in 2019, reportedly included a $450,000 buyout provision.

More:Utah OC Andy Ludwig emerges as top candidate for Notre Dame position

The 58-year-old Ludwig, whose play-calling talents helped the high-scoring Utes reach the past two Rose Bowls, made a two-day visit to Notre Dame that included attending a Friday night hockey win over Ohio State.

Ludwig sat with Irish football coach Marcus Freeman, tight ends coach Gerad Parker, football administrator Ron Powlus and Yulander Wells, Jr., deputy athletic director for business strategy, in an appearance that was openly broadcast on both Peacock’s livestream and on the arena’s videoboard.

Kansas State’s 33-year-old Collin Klein reportedly spent parts of two days in South Bend last week discussing the OC opening with Freeman, but no deal was reached. Klein’s contract with the Wildcats reportedly pays him $600,000 per season and includes a $100,000 buyout clause.

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) is hugged by co-offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore during warmups before the game Nov. 26, 2022 against Ohio State at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

When Notre Dame hired Freeman as its defensive coordinator in January 2021, he had one year left on his contract with the University of Cincinnati. Freeman reportedly was making $600,000 annually with a $50,000 buyout.

Brian Kelly's 10-year, $95 million contract at LSU reportedly included a $4 million buyout in Year 1. That figure drops to $3 million should Kelly leave in 2023 and $2 million for the duration of the contract.

With Utah coach Kyle Whittingham attending Sunday’s Super Bowl, where his son Alex Whittingham is a defensive quality control coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, Ludwig was unable to meet in person with his longtime boss until Monday evening. This is Ludwig’s second stint as Utah’s OC, having also worked on Whittingham’s staff from 2005-08.

Earlier Monday, Rees was officially announced as Alabama’s replacement for Bill O’Brien, who left for the same role with the NFL’s New England Patriots. Rees, reportedly with two years left on his Notre Dame contract, visited Alabama’s campus on Feb. 2 and accepted the job the following day.

It's currently unknown if Rees' Notre Dame contract included a buyout provision. Like Rees, Ludwig typically coaches quarterbacks as well.

Notre Dame reportedly paid a combined $4.5 million to arrange so-called guarantee games in 2022 with California ($1.9 million), UNLV ($1.35 million) and Marshall ($1.25 million). The 2023 schedule includes similar arrangements with Central Michigan ($1.2 million) and Tennessee State ($1 million), and in 2024 Notre Dame has agreed to pay Northern Illinois $1.4 million and Miami (Ohio) $1.25 million to visit Notre Dame Stadium without a return engagement.

With Pac-12 membership in flux and Utah already contractually obligated to play three non-conference opponents annually through 2028 — with 2025 a notable exception — finding a way to offset Ludwig's buyout through football scheduling would have added a degree of difficulty to an already protracted and arduous process.

Notre Dame and Utah have met just once in football, a 28-3 home win for the Irish in 2010. That was Utah's last football season in the Mountain West Conference before joining the Pac-12.

Sunday’s surprising retirement by offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, 64, could change the calculus of Notre Dame’s ongoing search. Should the Irish hire a coordinator who also coaches offensive linemen, such as Michigan’s Sherrone Moore, they could hire a dedicated quarterbacks coach to round out Freeman’s 2023 coaching staff.

More:Legendary Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand announces his retirement

Highly valued by the Wolverines, who have reached the College Football Playoff the past two seasons, Moore has coached the past two Joe Moore Award-winning offensive lines.

Moore, 37, reportedly earned $1.3 million, including $400,000 in bonuses, last season, the first of a three-year deal he signed last March. His previous contract, which paid him $550,000 in base salary, called for Moore to pay Michigan 25% of his base salary if he left for another job or 50% if he left for an opening at a Big Ten school.

Mentioned for head coaching opportunities at Stanford and Colorado in recent months, Moore, a former Oklahoma offensive lineman, addressed the topic in December.

“Most coaches at some point in their life want to do that,” said Moore, a Michigan assistant since 2018. “When the time comes, the time comes, but I’m in no rush to leave this place, this great university, these students and coach (Jim) Harbaugh.”

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.