New head coach breathes new life into the program
Marcus Freeman was officially appointed as the 30th Dick Corbett Head Football Coach at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, Dec. 3rd. The move come just a few days after previous head coach Brian Kelly dropped a bomb on his staff, players, and the college football world by unexpectedly departing for LSU.
The move was met with enthusiasm from around the Notre Dame community, as players, recruits, and fans alike had their wishes come true with the hire. Almost the entire Notre Dame team and hordes of recruits had tweeted in support of Freeman’s hire, many using the hashtag #FreemanEra. The moment when Freeman was introduced to the team was captured on social media, showing the new head coach fist pumping as he entered the locker room before getting mobbed by his players.
Freeman attended the Notre Dame hockey game last night and received a standing ovation, a good indication of how campus feels about his hiring. This morning he appeared on College Gameday and was interviewed by the Gameday crew. As he emphasized in his initial address of the team, Freeman talked about how his and the team’s focus was on the present moment. They want to finish this season the right way for the seniors, and to send them off with a win.
As a lifelong Notre Dame fan who attended my first game in 2011, Brian Kelly has been the only Fighting Irish head coach I have ever known. He has been a fantastic coach for most of the seasons during my lifetime, but there has become a bit of repetitive feel to Kelly’s tenure. We beat the teams we are supposed to beat in the regular season, lose most of the big games we play in, and end the season with a loss in the College Football Playoff or a win in a second-tier bowl game. And while Kelly seems to think that going elsewhere will help him get over the hump to win a national championship, I am not so certain. The issue seems to be him, not the players or the school or the recruiting restrictions.
The hiring of Freeman has already breathed a sense of excitement into the program that was never present with Kelly. I don’t think the team would have mobbed Kelly upon his entrance to the locker room as they did with Freeman yesterday, and the excitement of the players has evidently translated to the fanbase. Notre Dame fans seems united like never before, and the hype going into whatever bowl game we land in should be through the roof.
And all of this hype is for someone that has never been a head coach at the college football level. That might be concerning for some, but I for one am not super worried about Freeman’s transition from defensive coordinator to head coach. He is exactly the kind of coach any athlete wants to play for: a motivating speaker, a knowledgeable football mind, and a man focused on developing meaningful relationships with his team. He is the type of coach that can take this program over the top, both by bringing in elite recruiting classes and by putting a quality team on the field.
Freeman will get a chance to showcase his coaching prowess in the postseason when Notre Dame receives their bowl assignment on Sunday, Dec 5th. One thing is for sure, he will be leading an angry, motivated group of guys eager to show the world that Kelly made the wrong decision. Either way, they seem more excited to play for Freeman than they ever did for Kelly. The fans are on board, and Notre Dame fans are both more energized and united than I have ever seen them. The Freeman Era is off to a great start.