Freeman introduced as Notre Dame football coach

Wayne grad’s first game as coach of the Irish will be in Fiesta Bowl

Marcus Freeman probably wanted to make it through his introductory press conference as head coach at Notre Dame without tearing up.

He did not.

ExploreWayne grad officially named Notre Dame head coach

The Huber Heights native had to pause a minute toward the end of his opening remarks to compose himself.

“Damn,” he muttered under his breath before looking up from his notes to warn his new players about laughing.

There was laughter, but it was quickly drowned out by applause.

“I am forever grateful for this opportunity to lead this football program,” he said after remarks from university president Father John I. Jenkins and athletic director Jack Swarbrick. “I’m ready. I’m ready for this challenge, and I’m ready to lead this program to the greatest heights. The chance to lead the football program at the University of Notre Dame is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I would never take that for granted. Being this leader of this program, it isn’t about one person and it never will be. Being the leader this program is about understanding to be successful on this journey is going to take others and we’re going to have to do this as a team.”

Freeman was hired Friday to replace Brian Kelly, who left to become the head coach at LSU earlier in the week.

He invited Freeman, who was his defensive coordinator last season, to join him, but the Wayne High School graduate told him he needed to talk to his wife, Joanna, first.

“And from that moment, it’s been a whirlwind,” Freeman said. “Just the conversations you have, the people you have to talk to, the conversations you have with players. I mean, it’s all crazy. I don’t want to get into the details of what those next 48 hours or 72 hours were like, but it was it was pretty hectic. Not a lot of sleep, but the result of it is you’re the head coach at Notre Dame. So we’ll take it anytime.”

Before giving Freeman the floor, Swarbrick pushed back at the notion Freeman was hired at the behest of the players.

“Much has been written in the past few days, suggesting that the members of our football team selected their head coach — that’s not true,” Swarbrick said. “And in a way it diminishes what Coach Freeman has achieved in a highly competitive environment. With lots of excellent choices available to us, Marcus won the job. He won the job with the way he prepared himself through each of his coaching experiences. He won it during the past year, when I was able to observe him as a colleague, coach, mentor and educator. And he won it in his interviews with me, Father Jenkins, and the others who participated in that process.”

ExplorePHOTOS: Marcus Freeman through the years

Choosing Freeman did serve a major priority of the players, though, and that was to maintain the culture already established in South Bend.

“They were confident that this culture in this program was the best in the country, but they also wanted me to know that they owned that culture,” Swarbrick said. “They built it. It was there’s, and their message stated clearly and convincingly was, ‘Jack don’t screw this up.’ I got the message.”

Freeman, who was a linebacker at Ohio State from 2004-08 and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Jim Tressel in 2010, said his goal is to bring Notre Dame its 12th national championship, citing the Fighting Irish’s playoff appearances in 2018 and ‘20 as proof they are close.

He plans to take the last step by elevating the program in every way necessary, including recruiting.

“It’s going to take a process,” he said. “It’s going to take enhancing whatever we’ve done to get to this point. It’s going to take looking at every single thing we do as a football organization and finding a better way to do it. It goes back to, ‘challenge everything.’ We have to find a better way to do everything we do. We have to coach better, we have to teach better, we have to recruit better, we have to perform better. Everything we do, we’ve got to find a better way to do it.”

He broke down momentarily after thanking his wife and their six children -- Vinny, Siena, Gino, Nico, Capri and Rocco -- for their support.

“You didn’t ask for this,” he said. “You didn’t ask to share your dad, but you have to, and I love you.”

Freeman’s tenure will begin Jan. 1 when the Fighting Irish take on Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

His first regular season game will be in Columbus when Notre Dame takes on Ohio State to start next season.

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