Notre Dame found itself in a stunning position this week, as head coach Brian Kelly left for the LSU job, the second such shocking poaching in college football this week — USC swiped Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma on Sunday.
In the aftermath, there was plenty of speculation about who the Irish would look to as a replacement. Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, a midwestern Catholic, was long suspected as a top target of Notre Dame whenever Brian Kelly left, but with his Bearcats on the precipice of becoming the fist Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff, the timing of the Irish job coming open couldn’t be much worse. Iowa State’s Matt Campbell is another prominent Catholic coach in the midwest who many figured would be interested, but with the Cyclones falling a bit short of expectations this season, timing, likewise, wasn’t on his side.
Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was the other expected top candidate, as Notre Dame could look to promote from within in an effort to continue what has been a pretty tremendous run in recent years. Freeman has been considered one of the fastest risers in college football in terms of assistants to watch for head coaching openings, with Kelly even saying earlier in the year that he was going to be a head coach sooner than later. On Wednesday night, numerous reports started to emerge that Freeman was indeed the selection.
I can now confirm through multiple sources that Marcus Freeman will become the next Head Coach at the University of Notre Dame.
All eyes now turn to Tommy Rees who is deciding between LSU and Notre Dame. #PayTommyRees
— Mick Assaf (@mickassaf) December 1, 2021
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) December 2, 2021
Notre Dame DC Marcus Freeman is expected to become the next head coach at ND, per source. The move was first reported by @mickassaf.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 2, 2021
Along with Freeman being elevated to head coach, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees will also be sticking in South Bend despite a massive offer from LSU to join Kelly in Baton Rouge, as he told the team on Wednesday night.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 2, 2021
Rees sticking around was apparently part of what needed to happen for Freeman to become the head coach, as the Irish clearly wanted to keep as much in place as possible after five straight 10-win seasons.
All week sources indicated to The Athletic that Notre Dame retaining Tommy Rees as offensive coordinator would be critical to promoting Marcus Freeman to head coach. Box one has been checked, per @Matt_Fortuna
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) December 2, 2021
With Freeman being promoted and Rees sticking around, there’s one fewer major head coaching opening, but two high profile coordinator jobs still to be filled in LSU, where they will be looking to pay big money to lead their offense and defense.