College football: Notre Dame officially elevates Marcus Freeman to head coach

Dec. 3 (UPI) — The University of Notre Dame has officially promoted defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head football coach.

The school announced the decision Friday morning. Freeman will be introduced Monday during a 2 p.m. EST news conference and will coach the Fighting Irish in their upcoming bowl game.

Freeman was in his first season as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. He replaces Brian Kelly, who left the Irish to become LSU’s head coach earlier this week.

“It is an honor to be named the head coach of Notre Dame football,” Freeman said in a statement. “I am eternally grateful to both Father [John] Jenkins and [athletic director] Jack Swarbrick for giving me the opportunity to lead the exceptional men who make this program what it is.

“Notre Dame is a very special place and I look forward to pursuing a national championship with the most outstanding student-athletes, coaches and staff in college football.”

Notre Dame posted a video on social media of Freeman being introduced to the team during a morning workout for the first time as their head coach.

Freeman played linebacker at Ohio State and served as an assistant coach with Kent State and Purdue before joining Luke Fickell’s coaching staff at Cincinnati as defensive coordinator. Freeman spent four seasons with the Bearcats, helping develop the team into a playoff contender.

In his first season at Notre Dame, Freeman has transformed the Irish on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame ranks sixth nationally in interceptions (15) and defensive touchdowns (four), seventh in total sacks (40) and 11th in turnovers gained (23) and scoring defense (18.2).

The Irish’s 40 team sacks are one shy of the program record of 41 established during the 1996 season.

“Marcus’ ability to connect with people, his fit at Notre Dame and the way he coaches young men set him apart as we went through our search process,” Swarbrick said in a news release. “I can’t wait to see how the culture created by these remarkable student-athletes continues to grow under the tutelage of Marcus and his staff.”

Notre Dame (11-1) sits No. 6 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The independent Irish are idle this week heading into conference championship weekend, with an outside shot to be selected for the playoff.

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