Jack Swarbrick says Notre Dame football looking to add general manager, praises Freeman

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick during a press conference announcing Marcus Freeman as the new Notre Dame head football coach Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 at the Irish Athletic Center in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, while expressing admiration for the way Marcus Freeman continues to conduct business, said Thursday the second-year coach could soon have an additional resource: the first-ever general manager for the Irish football program.

Swarbrick, during a 35-minute online video chat conducted by Vice President for University Relations Lou Nanni, said Notre Dame is “in the process of looking for a person to sort of lead the whole personnel side of the player process” for Notre Dame football.

That newly created role would include responsibilities in recruiting and development and act as “sort of a general manager for roster purposes.”

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Joining a trend that has taken root with similar hires at the top levels of college football, including LSU under former Irish coach Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s football GM would “help bring a lot of different pieces together that aren’t necessarily connected as well as they should be right now,” Swarbrick said.

Dave Peloquin, director of player personnel for Notre Dame football, functions as the main “liaison” between the football program and charitable opportunities in the name, image and likeness (NIL) space, Swarbrick said. The person in this new GM role would be “an important conduit” for NIL discussions, Swarbrick said, and a “real resource inside the (football) building.”

Swarbrick’s comments came two days after multiple reports that former Notre Dame assistant Brian Polian, who followed Kelly to Baton Rouge as LSU’s coordinator of recruiting and special teams, was moving into a GM-type oversight role with the Tigers program. Polian, according to those reports, will focus on recruiting, NIL, the transfer portal and football operations.

Former Notre Dame offensive lineman Hunter Bivin, director of player development for football since July 2019, announced in January he would become the new assistant AD for alumni engagement.

Ron Powlus, the former Notre Dame quarterback who trained Bivin for the player development role, is senior associate AD and sport administrator for football.

Olivia Mitchell recently completed her second full year as director of football operations at Notre Dame.

'Great process' led to Gerad Parker hire

Swarbrick gave Freeman high marks for the recent national search that resulted in the promotion of tight ends coach Gerad Parker to offensive coordinator.

Tommy Rees, who ran the Irish offense the past three seasons, left for the same role at Alabama on Feb. 3. Parker was announced as Rees’ replacement 15 days later.

“(Freeman) ran a great process” Swarbrick said. “Screened three candidates, and I love where we wound up. That’s not to say the other two (Collin Klein of Kansas State and Andy Ludwig of Utah) weren’t highly qualified and would not have been good fits at Notre Dame. That’s not the case.

“As (Freeman) said in his (Monday) press conference, they made decisions for personal reasons and we honor that and have no issue at all with that. That this took us to coach Parker is for many of us a really great result.”

Parker, 42, had limited play-calling experience in two years as the nominal offensive coordinator at West Virginia, but the longtime Freeman associate, dating to their four-year run at Purdue (2013-16), was a popular selection after joining Notre Dame last February.

“He understands the program,” Swarbrick said. “It results in us being able to move forward with the same terminology, an issue which is really big in terms of implementing game plans and offensive and defensive schemes. He understands the personnel.

“He is so well-liked and so well-regarded in the building, and he’s got a great relationship with Marcus. I think all of that gives us an opportunity to be able to look back on this process and his selection and feel great about it.”

Gerad Parker speaks to media Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, after being named Notre Dame’s new offensive coordinator for the football team by Irish Head Coach Marcus Freeman.

Swarbrick also expressed confidence that the search for a new offensive line coach to follow Harry Hiestand, who went back into retirement on Feb. 12, would conclude soon after three “first-tier candidates” have been identified.

According to trade publication Football Scoop, Matt Luke, former Ole Miss head coach and Georgia offensive line coach, was among the leading candidates as of Wednesday evening.

“We’ll see how that process goes but really encouraged by the quality of those candidates,” Swarbrick said. “That’s a process that I think will move fairly quickly.”

'Great progress' in basketball coaching search

Swarbrick also addressed the ongoing search for Mike Brey’s successor after 23 seasons atop the men’s basketball program.

“I’m in the middle of it right now,” Swarbrick said. “It’s a little challenging to be engaged in the search during the season, so I’m careful not to be distracting other coaches. I’m talking to agents principally or friends of these coaches we have an interest in. Takes a little more time when you’re doing it in this window, but we’ve made great progress.”

Swarbrick, making his first men’s basketball hire at Notre Dame, brought women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey back from the NBA to replace the retiring Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw in 2020.

“We can absolutely attract a great coach,” Swarbrick said. “We have great facilities. I think our practice facility is the best in the country. We have a perfect arena. The ACC is a great conference, a great basketball conference, and I think a conference with some potential opportunity.”

Citing the retirements in recent years of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Swarbrick alluded to “eventually some other coaches in that conference” nearing retirement decisions as well. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (78), Miami’s Jim Larranaga (73) and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton (74) could all be nearing the end of their storied coaching runs as well.

 “I think there’s a chance to build your position in the ACC,” Swarbrick said. “And, of course, the school (Notre Dame) represents everything that a lot of coaches are looking for. I am absolutely certain we’re going to be able to attract a really good coach and we’ll need one because we’re replacing the winningest coach in Notre Dame basketball history and a guy I have loved working with through my time here.”

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