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Notre Dame Football

Three Things

February 16, 2023

ISD’s Jamie Uyeyama owns Thursday with his weekly column and I would highly suggest you read his latest as the former Idaho State star brought up some fine points. (6 Thoughts on Thursday)

Here are a few more bonus thoughts for you.

1. The process of how Notre Dame handled the offensive coordinator search has been horrific. Notre Dame, Utah, Marcus Freeman, Jack Swarbrick, Andy Ludwig and others involved have yet to say anything publicly, but the national narrative isn’t a great one. If you’re reading this, you are fully aware of the perception of the program and the words cheap shouldn’t ever be something uttered with Notre Dame - much less Notre Dame football. 

Yet, it’s what the program has been known for over the years. Quite frankly, it’s why Notre Dame needed a younger head coach with motivation and energy to attack every day while not having the advantages of other blue bloods or rising programs. 

Sure, Notre Dame isn’t the worst, but the program should always have the best coaches, support staff, facilities and training/recovery if it’s going to tie one hand behind its back with the construction of its roster, especially when it comes to life in the NIL and Transfer Portal era. (And no, I don’t think Notre Dame needs to lower admission standards, but you can always improve and that’s what Freeman is doing by challenging the administration in several areas.) 

That said, Notre Dame absolutely needs to make sure its head coaches know they have the full support of the university. Did Brian Kelly feel that? Clearly not. Did Mike Brey and Muffet McGraw feel that when they were practicing in The Pit for years? Probably not. Link Jarrett? Absolutely not. 

It’s easy to sit here and suggest the school spend millions of dollars like it’s a video game and obviously it’s more complicated than that. Yet, Notre Dame has people that care when it comes to alumni and donors who can make it happen. And talking with more than a few over the last week, it’s very clear they were willing to help in the Ludwig situation. 

The last week has been a black mark, but long-term, it could be a positive as several people had their eyes opened. Will that spark change? That’s the million-dollar question. 

2. As mentioned, the process to get to Gerad Parker was wild. Gerad Parker himself, the college football world isn’t laughing at Notre Dame or Marcus Freeman for hiring him. Some will harp on him not being Notre Dame’s first choice and one standing college football coach brought up a great point on Wednesday evening. 

“Do people believe most coaches get their first choice on this stuff,” stated the coach. “You have a dream scenario and that rarely happens. The second guy has no interest in moving his family for the fourth time in six years. No. 3 often doesn’t provide stability. Four and five are high risk, high reward. Then you get to a group you make the hire from.” 

Tommy Rees isn’t at Alabama without people telling Nick Saban no. Mike Bobo wasn’t Kirby Smart’s first choice as that process would go in line with what the coach outlined above. 

Notre Dame’s issue was the fiasco that turned so public. It’s the perception that Jack Swarbrick and Ron Powlus were at the hockey game with Freeman, Ludwig and Parker on Friday night. It would have been very easy to go to dinner and then head to a private setting for drinks, but that wasn’t the case. 

Another coach acknowledged the fact Parker is inexperienced as a play-caller, but he didn’t necessarily feel it was something fans should get stuck on. 

“He has been a coach for almost 20 years,” stated the coach. “That matters and he’s a guy who grinds. He’s learned a lot through the years. Is this guy going to change college football like Lincoln Riley? No. But he can certainly be better than the guy who left for Alabama.” 

3. Parker's greatest strength is Freeman knows what he has and knows he can trust him. This isn’t a relationship where they coached on the same team a few times. This is a brother-type of relationship. Is that enough to be comfortable with the hire if you’re spending money on season tickets? Probably not. 

But it’s what Freeman needs right now. He gets one shot at winning at Notre Dame. Freeman now has a foxhole guy. And because of that relationship, Parker is going to do everything in his power to make Freeman look like the smartest coach in the country. That’s priceless especially when you compare it to Rees, who was a fine offensive coordinator, but also had one foot out of the door under Freeman. 

On the recruiting front, coaches have raved about Parker. One coach called him a “War Daddy” on the recruiting trail after having more than a few interactions with him. And while I was asked not to tell the stories from recruitments, I can assure you they should ease any concerns about him as a recruiter. He’s a guy that cares and knows how to make a powerful impression that stays with recruits for years. 

The addition of Gino Guidugli is in the same boat in terms of a guy willing to work his tail off for Freeman. Is Notre Dame a better job than Cincinnati and Wisconsin? Sure, but it’s not for everyone, especially when you’re working for Luke Fickell and having success. 

Perhaps the most telling piece of this whole puzzle is coaches who have worked with Freeman want to do it again. 

Overall, it will be interesting to see what Parker can bring to the table on the field and on the recruiting trail. There is a lot to like and regardless of who was going to be the offensive coordinator, the fall is the measuring stick. 

There is no question Freeman, his staff and players are giving everything they have and now it’s time for Notre Dame to invest in them. 

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