(AP) — Notre Dame is working on a deal to promote defensive coordinator and former Ohio State Buckeye Marcus Freeman to head coach to replace Brian Kelly, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized, though the first piece of Notre Dame’s plan to regroup after Kelly left for LSU earlier this week had already fallen into place.
An official announcement is expected Thursday.
Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees informed Notre Dame to he would remain with the Fighting Irish instead of joining Kelly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Notre Dame released a video on Twitter of Rees telling the team he was staying put.
The next step is elevating the 35-year-old Freeman, who would become the second Black head football coach at Notre Dame after Tyrone Willingham (2002-04).
The person told The AP that Kelly also had interest in bringing Freeman to LSU.
Kelly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons and was introduced Wednesday at LSU.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who was scheduled to attend a College Football Playoff expansion meeting in Dallas, instead spent Wednesday in South Bend, Indiana, meeting with Rees and Freeman.
The 29-year-old Rees, a former Notre Dame quarterback, returned to the Irish as quarterbacks coach in 2017 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2020.
Freeman, 35, joined Kelly’s staff this year after being hired away from Cincinnati. Landing Freeman, who was also being pursued by LSU last offseason, was considered a major victory for Kelly and Notre Dame.
Freeman is considered a rising star in college coaching and in his short time with the Irish he has played a major role in assembling a recruiting class that’s ranked No. 5 in the country by 247 Sports two weeks before signing day.
Freeman was a Buckeye from 2004-08, playing in 51 games with 37 starts, including all 13 games of his senior year.
He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round in 2009 but was waived in September of that year. He was signed to the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad that same month but was released in October. Freeman’s final professional stop was with the Houston Texans, which signed him Nov. 4.
Freeman was forced to retire in May 2010 due to an enlarged heart condition.
The Fighting Irish opens its 2022 season against Ohio State.