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Notre Dame Football

Freeman discusses hiring - and keeping - his Notre Dame staff together

February 16, 2022

Finally, slightly, Marcus Freeman exhaled.

As Notre Dame’s 36-year-old, first-time head coach strode to the podium Wednesday afternoon inside the media room hunkered beneath Notre Dame Stadium, Freeman at last had a full coaching staff.

He simply had needed to wait on the Cincinnati Bengals’ run to conclude – ending just short of a Lombardi Trophy in Sunday’s Super Bowl XVI – and likewise had to fend off suitors for both new hires – running backs coach Deland McCullough – and crucial holdovers – offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.

Freeman shed insight on that process.

"Ultimately, the selling point is (asking), ‘Do you want to be at Notre Dame? Do you believe in what Notre Dame can do for your future?’,” Freeman said of his approach in those situations. “We're not looking to match (salaries), we're not looking to do anything, we're trying to say, ‘Hey, here's the position, do you believe this is what's best for your career?’.”

Though he did not specifically say Miami, Freeman acknowledged intense pursuit within the past two weeks for the offensive play-calling services of Rees, as well as an opportunity for McCullough to return to the NFL.

“I had to fight guys for our offensive coordinator,” Freeman said. “Obviously, I know it's out there that there were a lot of teams and a certain team that wanted him a couple weeks ago. Ultimately my conversation with Tommy Rees is, ‘Do you want to be here man? Is this where you want to be and do you see yourself getting to your ultimate goals from Notre Dame?’

“Obviously, we were able to fight a lot of people to get him [to remain at Notre Dame]. Same thing with Deland McCullough and the same thing with Al Golden. When you're at Notre Dame, people want your guys. It's a part of it.”

Though Freeman retained McCullough and Rees, he emphasized a desire to see the coaches within his Fighting Irish program have future opportunities to grow their careers.

“When you have success, people want a part of that staff, and so ultimately my job is to continue to lift as I rise,” he said. “The head coach at Notre Dame, it doesn't get any better than that. But I think we have a staff full of people that have goals and aspirations and my job as the head coach is to try to continue to do what's best for our players here, but also help these coaches and individuals get to their ultimate goal."


Freeman, once again, put the recruiting onus on himself to be a key cog in the Irish machine.

Likewise, he emphasized the need for Notre Dame’s entire coaching staff to embrace the demands of recruiting to the prestigious, private Catholic institution while also challenging college football’s national powers – Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State among them – for the top recruits nationwide.

Freeman shared what, to him, constitutes a good recruiter – regardless of age.

"It starts with work ethic,” he said. “I think you have to be a relentless worker to be relentless recruiter. There's times that we all as coaches don't feel like having this conversation with a kid. But you have to. You have to. It's about putting in the effort, getting on the phone and making sure that you're developing a relationship with the kid, with the parents, with the coaches and anybody that has an impact on this kid. That to me is what makes a really good recruiter.

“Someone that's willing to work at it and be very intentional about the relationships he's trying to build with that person.”

Additionally, while those relationships are the bedrock, Freeman also knows coaches must know what they’re seeing on film in prospects and what they envision for their respective position groups.

“Also it's the evaluation; it’s the ability to evaluate,” Freeman said. “We all can look at the different ratings and websites and say, okay, we're going to recruit X, Y, and Z because they have offers, they have high ratings, but to truly evaluate and figure out if that kid is talent-wise the best player for this program, and then develop the relationship and see if he as a person is the right fit for Notre Dame. Not every kid is.

“That to me is what we're looking for in relentless recruiters."

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