Digging into reported Notre Dame hires of OC Gerad Parker and QB coach Gino Guidugli

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Notre Dame tight ends coach Gerad Parker talks with reporters during the media availability Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — After striking out in its pursuit of Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, Notre Dame has turned to the man seated to Ludwig’s right at that well-publicized hockey outing over the weekend.

Notre Dame tight ends coach Gerad Parker, according to a person with direct knowledge, is "expected" to receive a promotion to offensive coordinator. Football Scoop published the initial report Wednesday.

Parker, 42, put himself in a "strong position" during a formal interview on Tuesday, ESPN's Heather Dinich reported, for the opening created by Tommy Rees’ departure for Alabama on Feb. 3.

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A longtime coaching confidant of Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, dating to their time on the Purdue staff from 2013-16, Parker was the only in-house candidate who had experience as an offensive play-caller.

With the start of spring practice roughly a month away and Notre Dame also searching for Harry Hiestand’s replacement after the 64-year-old offensive line guru retired suddenly on Sunday, hiring Parker would be a key step toward system continuity as it tries to bring Wake Forest graduate transfer Sam Hartman up to speed as its projected starting quarterback.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin assistant Gino Guidugli, who worked with Freeman at Cincinnnati from 2017-20, is scheduled to interview on Thursday in South Bend "with the expectation he will get the job" as Notre Dame’s new quarterbacks coach, according a person with direct knowledge.

ESPN first reported Guidugli as the expected hire for that role on Wednesday afternoon.

Guidugli, 39, recently followed former Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell to Wisconsin after serving as the Bearcats’ passing game coordinator for two seasons (2020-21) and then replacing Mike Denbrock as offensive coordinator in 2022.

Quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli instructs Desmond Ridder as the University of Cincinnati football team started 2020 training camp Wednesday, Aug. 5, at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center.

Guidugli, who was key in the development of current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder, earned $600,000 in his final season at Cincinnati, according to the USA Today assistant coach salary data base. Denbrock, who coached at Notre Dame from 2010-16, was reunited with Brian Kelly at LSU last season.

A four-year starter at quarterback for Cincinnati from 2001-04, Guidugli (guh-DOO-lee) was hired Jan. 7 as Wisconsin's tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. One month earlier, Wisconsin hired Phil Longo away from North Carolina as its offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

In 2021, the Bearcats reached the College Football Playoff behind a Denbrock-led offense that averaged 36.9 points per game, 11th nationally, and tied for 24th in yards per pass attempt (8.4). Those figures dropped last season to 29.2 in scoring average (59th nationally) and a tie for 55th (7.6) in yards per attempt with Guidugli as the coordinator and Ben Bryant, an Eastern Michigan transfer, replacing Ridder at quarterback.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cincinnati ranked 32nd in offensive efficiency, including 12th in passing and eighth in rushing, during its 2021 run to a 13-1 record and a semifinal loss to Alabama. Last season, the Bearcats sagged in all three areas en route to a 9-4 finish: 57th in offensive efficiency, tied for 25th in passing and 95th on the ground.

Parker spent two seasons (2020-21) at West Virginia as offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach. The Mountaineers went a combined 12-11 and finished 82nd and 88th nationally in scoring offense during Parker’s tenure.

According to, West Virginia went from 82nd to 67th (2020-21) in overall offensive efficiency under Parker, but fell off in both passing efficiency (tied for 49th to 78th) and rushing efficiency (94th to tied for 101st) during his tenure.

A former wideout who played for Rich Brooks at Kentucky, Parker worked closely with Rees on game-planning and has drawn praise from Freeman as well as departing All-American Michael Mayer for his preparation of the next wave of Irish weapons at tight end.

Parker, who spent two seasons at Duke (2017-18) with offensive guru David Cutcliffe, went 0-6 as the interim head coach in 2016 after Purdue fired Darrell Hazell at midseason. Parker, the Boilermakers’ recruiting coordinator as well during his tenure, and Freeman worked again briefly together at Cincinnati in early 2017.

Parker resigned his position as running backs coach at Cincinnati to coach wide receivers at East Carolina. Before his new job became official, Parker was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated on Feb. 21, 2017 in West Lafayette, Ind.

ECU rescinded its job offer, and Parker pleaded guilty in May 2019 to operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Parker received 364 days probation and 28 hours of community service, according to court records filed in Tippecanoe County.

It was Guidugli, newly promoted to offensive coordinator at Central Michigan after seven seasons on staff with the Chippewas, who was hired to replace Parker as running backs coach at Cincinnati in early March of 2017.

In 2019, Parker coached wide receivers and was Penn State's passing game coordinator for coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions went 11-2 and won the Cotton Bowl with first-year starter Sean Clifford at quarterback.

Penn State's 221 passing yards per game ranked 76th nationally in 2019, but its 7.8 yards per attempt were tied for 50th.

At West Virginia, where head coach Neal Brown was part of the “Air Raid” coaching tree of the late Mike Leach, Parker gave way to Graham Harrell (now at Purdue) after working on a two-year, $1.075 million contract.

Parker’s contract with the Mountaineers ran through Feb. 28 last year and reportedly included a buyout provision of 25 percent of his remaining base salary if he left without a release from university officials in Morgantown, W.Va.

When former Notre Dame tight ends coach John McNulty was hired at Boston College as offensive coordinator in late January 2022, Freeman turned to Parker as his replacement. McNulty, one of Rees’ prime mentors in coaching, was recently hired to the Alabama staff as an offensive analyst after being fired more than a year left on his contract at Boston College.

Former interim Purdue head coach Gerad Parker is the new tight ends coach at Notre Dame.

Parker becomes the third reported candidate to interview for the Notre Dame opening. Kansas State’s Collin Klein, 33, reportedly spent parts of two days in South Bend discussing the position with Freeman before removing his name from consideration.

Clint Dowdle, a former Kansas State athletic department official (2013-16) who now works at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), represents Klein and Parker as well as Freeman.

Klein’s contract with the Wildcats reported paid him $600,000 a year with a $100,000 buyout.

Ludwig’s three-year rollover deal with Utah reportedly carried a $2.8 million buyout provision along with an annual salary of $1.25 million in 2022.

Notre Dame offensive coordinator candidate Andy Ludwig, second from left (top row), takes in a Notre Dame hockey game Friday, Feb. 10 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend. Seated next to him is Irish tight ends coach Gerad Parker (left) and ND head football coach Marcus Freeman (right). Ludwig is currently the OC at Utah.

Ludwig sat with Freeman, Parker, football administrator Ron Powlus and Yulander Wells, Jr., deputy athletic director for business strategy, at the Feb. 10 hockey outing at Compton Family Ice Arena. When Peacock’s livestream and the in-house videoboard showed Freeman and friends, there was a widespread assumption Ludwig would soon be hired.

By Monday evening, Notre Dame’s pursuit of Ludwig, a well-traveled Utah native, had reportedly fallen apart, with the buyout sum the main culprit in that disappointing outcome.

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