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December 6, 2021

Marcus Freeman

Jack Swarbrick

John Jenkins

South Bend, Indiana, USA

Press Conference

BRADY QUINN: Good afternoon. Welcome to Notre Dame. I'm Brady Quinn, class of 2007, and a blessed member of the Notre Dame family.

Today's a historic day, following a historic week for our university, and I'm honored to be here with you to celebrate and present the present and the future of Notre Dame football. Father John Jenkins and Jack will each share a few words before we hear from Coach Marcus Freeman, and you'll have an opportunity to ask questions of Jack Swarbrick, Marcus Freeman, and several student-athletes.

First, take it away band.


JACK SWARBRICK: Welcome. What a great day to be Irish. We are pleased to have you join us today as we officially introduce Notre Dame's new head coach and his family. It's especially fitting that today's program begin with remarks from University president, Father John Jenkins.

It's Father Jenkins' leadership that ensures that Notre Dame athletics remains integrated into the educational mission of the university, as much or more so than any university in America. It is the leading characteristic of the department and ultimately defines most of the decisions we make, including hiring our head coach.

And it is Father Jenkins who, along with other key members of the university leadership, ensures that the hiring process that allows us to be here, less than one week after being notified we would have a vacancy, is free from undue influence or interference, a circumstance that is increasingly rare in college athletics.

As you would imagine, Father John and I were in frequent communication last week. However, our ability to do so was complicated by the fact that he was in Rome. I understood that that resulted in a lot of sleep deprivation for me, but I on the other hand was comforted by the fact that his location might produce the extra measure of spiritual guidance needed to make sure we got the right result.

Please welcome University of Notre Dame's 17th president, John Jenkins.


JOHN JENKINS: Thank you, Jack. Greetings to all present today as well as those watching online. On behalf of our students, our faculty, our staff here in South Bend and at our Notre Dame gateways across the globe, I extend our warmest congratulations to Marcus Freeman, to Joanna and their lovely children there. It is a great day for Notre Dame as we welcome our new head coach.

The story of Notre Dame football includes numerous National Championships, legendary coaches, All-American players, and NFL Hall of Fame alumni. Yet the heart of Notre Dame football is a set of values reflective of this educational institution. They include faith, acting with integrity, a commitment to the academic success and the personal growth of our student-athletes, a commitment to team over oneself, a commitment to service in the world. And all of those are combined with a determination to compete at the very highest level in college football.

When we undertook this search, Jack Swarbrick and I knew we needed a head coach who not only embraced but even embodied those values. We found that coach in Marcus Freeman.

Last week during our search, as Jack mentioned, I was in Rome. I wasn't consulting on the search, but I had some previously scheduled meetings. When I interviewed Coach Freeman by Zoom from my hotel room, my first question was simply why do you coach? He gave me a characteristically honest and thoughtful answer.

He said he got into coaching after his NFL career was abruptly cut short by a medical diagnosis of an enlarged heart. He loved football and wanted to stay around the excitement of the game and coaching would allow him to do that. However, as he did the job, he said he found the really gratifying part was the chance to work with young men, help them achieve their goals, and grow into mature, responsible adults who better the lives of the people around them.

Marcus Freeman is clearly someone who influences young people by showing he cares about them, winning their trust, inspiring them and challenging them to do great things. Anyone who saw the video of his introduction to the team last Friday has seen the impact he has had at Notre Dame after just one year. He lives the educational ideals that are at the heart of this program and this university.

Thank you, Marcus, for accepting the challenge to lead our team.

Another person who lives those ideals is our athletic director Jack Swarbrick, whom I have had the privilege to work with as a colleague leading our athletics department for the past almost 14 years. I thank him for his leadership of this department and for this very successful search. Thank you.


BRADY QUINN: Thank you, Father John, for your words and leadership. Now I would like to formally present to everyone Notre Dame's 12th athletics director and a 1976 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, university vice president and James E. Roar Director of Athletics, Jack Swarbrick.


JACK SWARBRICK: Thank you very much. I will be brief so we can get to the main event here. But I wanted to offer an insight into the search and thank a few key people.

First, however, I want to echo Father John's greeting to Marcus' family. They're, of course, not new to us. They've been with us for a year, but the energy and dynamism they will bring to our football family going forward is a really exciting part of this.

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. And in a way, it diminishes what Coach Freeman has achieved. In a highly competitive environment with lots of choices available to us, Marcus won the job. He won the job in 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.

Having said that, I do want to acknowledge the critically important role that our student-athletes played in this process. There are moments in this job that can be exceptionally challenging, but they are more than offset by special moments, moments of extraordinary privilege, the sort of moments that define this university.

One of those moments occurred last Tuesday at 2:15 in the afternoon. It was then that Ron Paulus and I met with the seven captains of this year's football team, who are seated in the second row up front here. It's a standard part of the process whenever I hire a head coach at Notre Dame that I spend time with the leadership of the program, the student-athletes, to get their input. These gatherings are not to solicit candidate names or evaluate candidates. It is instead to discuss the characteristics that we ought to have in a future head coach.

After I introduced this topic to the team captains, they explained they had a different agenda. They were passionate. They were articulate. They were convincing. But what they insisted I understand was that they had built the best culture in college football, that they have friends playing at other places around the country, they have a way to make that assessment, and 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. They built it. It was theirs. And their message, stating clearly and convincingly, was Jack, don't screw this up. I got the message. In short, they convinced me that I had two separate tasks in front of me. One was to select the best possible coach to lead the program. The other was to protect the culture they had built.

It was an unusual situation to be in and took me down two parallel paths. It was, for example, the protection of the culture that led me to make the unusual decision to make a commitment to our director of performance Matt Balis that, regardless of who became the head coach, he, the minister of culture, if you would, would stay in his position. It was the same motivation that caused me to begin parallel negotiations with the critical part of this team and this culture, Tom Rees, before I knew for sure who the head coach would be.

To be sure, the perspective that those seven captains offered to me put a heavy finger on the scale in favor of Coach Freeman, but that was only because they and I believe so strongly that Marcus is the perfect guardian of the very special culture you, the student-athletes, have built.

When reflecting on my time as Notre Dame's athletic director, I certainly remember the special victories and some of the agonizing defeats. But most of all, I remember the moments like those 45 minutes, spent with seven young men, extraordinary people representative of the student-athletes at this university, that I have the privilege of working with every day.

Now a few thank yous. In addition to Father John for his leadership and support throughout this process, I want to thank the other members of the university leadership who were involved, with special thanks to Tricia Bellia, our faculty athletic rep, who is always such a great source of counsel and advice during processes like this.

I want to thank the members of the war cabinet, three people who never left my side for four days despite the fact there were a lot of times I think they wanted to. That includes Ron Powlus, the associate athletics director and sport administrator for football, Jenny Borg, an adviser to me in charge of athletic strategy and culture, and Aaron Horvath, assistant athletics director for communication. Finally, Katy Lonergan, assistant director of football communications for Notre Dame, who took on a whole host of assignments during this week and did all of them exceptionally well.

They and many others brought us to this day, but what most significantly brought us to this day in such short order was that we had available to us the best possible candidate in America to lead this program and protect this culture and serve this university. Ladies and gentlemen, the 30th head coach of the University of Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman.


MARCUS FREEMAN: There's a lot of people here.


All right. To Father John and Jack Swarbrick, I am forever grateful for this opportunity to lead this football program. 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 of this program is about understanding to be successful on this journey, it's going to take others, and we're going to have to do this as a team. That's why doing it at the University of Notre Dame is so special.

It's special because of the people. The people here make this opportunity special. The people that are currently here -- the students, the faculty, the countless other people that step on this campus, the people that have come through Notre Dame and have planted themselves throughout the world, the Notre Dame network that at any moment for any reason will find you a solution.

The players. I was looking for a term to describe you, and Katie helped me come up with one that really, really exemplifies what you are. You're exceptional thinkers. You're exceptional thinkers. You never look for the easy path. You never take short -- most of you never take shortcuts.


You're tireless workers, and you're committed to excellence in everything you do. And that's what separates you.

Over the past few days, I've spoken to a lot of leaders that I respect for any advice on being a first time head coach, and the answer has all been the same. Just be you.

So who is Marcus Freeman? Well, I'm the son of a man who was in the Air Force for 26 years. I'm the son of a woman who was born in Korea that came over here in 1976, but I tell you that because that's who I am. I get my discipline, my work ethic, my honesty from my father. I get my unselfishness and other centered focus from my mother, and that's exactly how I will lead this football program.

We will be disciplined. We will be tough. We will work tirelessly. But we will do it with the understanding that no one person, no one coach is more important than another. As a team and as a family, we'll accomplish all of our goals.

I plan on leading this team with an unwavering standard. We will call it the golden standard. So what is the golden standard? Number one, it's challenge everything. This is why I'm here. Our leaders challenge normalcy. Our athletic director, our president challenge normalcy. Challenge everything is a mentality to find a better way.

Number two is unit strength. Unit strength means love. It's making a choice to love your teammates. It's what turns players into a team.

And number three is the competitive spirit. It's creating a winner's mindset. I believe that leaders are born but winners are created and you're created through intentional actions. As I previously stated, this standard will be unwavering, and this is the standard that will drive this football program to its 12th National Championship.

Lastly, there's a few thank yous I want to give. I want to start with my wife Joanna. My wife, my partner, thank you for your unselfishness. Thank you for always being there and your support most of the time. You can be my toughest critic, but thank you for just being there.

To my kids -- Vinny, Siena, Gino, Rocco, Capri, Nico -- I got all six? There he is. You didn't ask for this. You didn't ask to share your dad, but you have to, and I love you.

To Father Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick, thank you for challenging everything. Thank you for making a decision to believe in a 35-year-old first time head coach. And I vow to work tirelessly to never disappoint you. Dang it.



Don't be back there laughing either.

To the board of trustees and countless others that approved my hire, thank you. My current and former players, you are my why. You are my motivation. You are the reason I get up every day and work as hard as I can to see you all reach your goals. To see you all set a goal and live out a dream is what gives me my inspiration every day to do what I do.

Last but not least, my parents. I've kind of told you their story, but I just want you to know, when others say just be yourself, I am me because of you.

In closing, I am ready to get to work. My sense of urgency is for right now. It's to make sure that this team is prepared on January 1st in the Fiesta Bowl to be victorious against Oklahoma State, and that's where our focus will be.


With that, I'll turn it over to Brady.

BRADY QUINN: If members of the media would like to ask a question to Coach Freeman or Jack Swarbrick, please raise your hand, and a microphone will be brought to you. Before asking your question, please stand up, state your name and organization.

Coach Freeman, I'm going to kick this off with the first question. This is technically your fourth day. Just take us through what this past week has been like.

MARCUS FREEMAN: It's been pretty crazy. Just from the minute I knew Coach Kelly was going to go to LSU until now, it's been a whirlwind. The thing I learned now, as a head coach, you've just got to take things moment by moment by moment and not look at it as the big picture. You've got to take things moment by moment, and that's what I've been trying to do.

Q. Coach, congratulations to you and your family. You obviously convinced Jack Swarbrick and the University of Notre Dame to have confidence in you. How does a 35-year-old guy who's never been a head coach have the confidence that you can uphold the vast tradition of Notre Dame football?

MARCUS FREEMAN: You know, Tim, I've got to be myself, and that's what I told him. Here's the things that I believe we can do to raise the level, to raise the standard, but I'm going to do it the only way I know how, and that's being myself. That's doing it as a teammate. That's doing it with others. We're going to achieve greatness as a group, as a team.

They accepted it. They accepted it. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to do this thing together as a team.

Q. You may have already touched upon this, but what adjustments will you make within your program to put your stamp on it?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I think it starts with we're going to recruit at the highest level and we're going to recruit the best football players in the country that fit Notre Dame. And you're not going to change the standards of Notre Dame, but there are certain players out there that fit Notre Dame and they might not know. So our job as a coaching staff is to be able to communicate with these young people what Notre Dame can do for your life, and that's what I plan on doing.

Q. If I can ask a short term question for the bowl. Procedurally, how will you handle the moving pieces for the bowl game? Have you made a decision on defensive coordinator in 2022?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Not yet. No, I have not. My focus right now is just for this upcoming bowl game. We will not name a defensive coordinator for next year until after the bowl game.

All the coaches, we all plan to go as we've gotten here. We'll go to work. We're not making changes. We're going to coach the way we've coached that's gotten us to this point.

Q. Coach, just to follow up on Tim, are you planning on calling the plays in the Fiesta Bowl?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I have not decided that. I have not made that decision. I think this week when I'm on the road, I'm ready to get recruiting, and I'll kind of figure out what's going to be the best for our staff, where I can put my attention to. Because what I won't do is I won't cheat those players. If I can't give them my full attention, if I can't make sure they're prepared, then I'll have somebody else call the plays.

Q. What's your philosophy on hiring assistant coaches? What attributes are you looking for to fill out your staff moving forward?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Number one, you have to be a leader of young men. You have to treat these guys the way I believe you have to treat young people. Number two, you've got to be a relentless recruiter. If you can't recruit, you probably aren't going to be the best for our university and our team.

Q. First question, how would you describe your offensive philosophy?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Well, it's what you've seen on the field, right? It's what you've seen Tommy do. When I talked to Jack Swarbrick about the opportunity to keep Tommy Rees, that was without question. What you see from our offense that side of the ball is a group that from the beginning of the season until now has just played better and better and better.

I'm not looking for a certain scheme. I'm looking for a group that's productive and does the job necessary to win.

Q. As a father of six myself, I'm curious, how do you balance the immense responsibility of being the head coach of the University of Notre Dame with the immense responsibility of being a father and a husband?

MARCUS FREEMAN: It starts with having an unselfish wife and understanding that there's going to be certain things you miss. There's going to be certain times that you miss things because of what this job entails. There have to be people around you who tell you, hey, go home, go spend time with your family.

That's what I plan on doing. We will build a trust amongst our football support staff, our coaching staff that we're all going to be able to remind ourselves what really matters here.

Q. Trust me, she will tell you that.


Q. In the locker room, you talked about how things are not going to change but you want to enhance. So what do you want to enhance? What comes to mind first?

MARCUS FREEMAN: When I say that, the goal is to win. The goal is to win it all. The goal is to win the National Championship. That's the ultimate goal. But how you get there, it's going to take a process. 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 an organization and find a better way to do it. That goes back to challenging 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.

Q. There are some head coaches that delegate with recruiting, and there are some head coaches that see themselves as head coach of recruiting. How do you sort of see the division of labor, so to speak, with that part of the job?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I'd better be the number one recruiter. I'd better be the lead recruiter in every kid that we recruit, and I plan on doing it. We obviously have to depend on our staff, and I will depend on our staff to make sure we know who and what and why we're recruiting every individual. If I'm not the lead recruiter, then we're cheating.

Q. You also talked about how Notre Dame has changed you, if you let it. In what ways? How have you sort of changed as a person over the last 11 months?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I think coming in from -- being an outsider coming in, there's times you think you can come to Notre Dame and say, I'm going to change who can come in here. I'm going to change who can have success here. You won't. You have to embrace this place. You have to embrace the things that make us different. You have to embrace the people here that are different. You have to embrace the competitive thinkers, the individuals that are on this football team.

If you embrace everything that comes with the University of Notre Dame, you're going to be better because of it. And it's better -- you can put a line there. Better person, better football player, better student, better mother, father. But if you embrace this place, you're going to be better because of it.

Q. Marcus, first question I wanted to ask you was about National Championship aspirations not too high for you, but I think you were a toddler when Notre Dame won its last one. At three different junctures, I wonder how these kind of align with your belief in Notre Dame's ability to win a National Championship. When you were a recruit when Tyrone Willingham was trying to get you here, as an outsider before you started coaching here, and then today.

MARCUS FREEMAN: As a recruit, that's 2002 or 2003, they hadn't won one, but you still know the history and tradition behind Notre Dame and probably every year that Notre Dame had a chance to win it.

As an outsider before I got here, Notre Dame was in the playoffs two of the past three years before I got here. So if you're making the playoffs, you have a chance to win it all.

Now that I'm here, we're close. We're close. We're not there yet, but we're close. It can be done right away. We're not talking about a future long term plan. This is talking about the urgency I said for now to finish this season off, and then next year we have to have intentional efforts to make sure we're doing whatever it takes to put this team in position to win a National Championship.

Q. When you came in recruiting, right out of the gate you had very high expectations of the kinds of players you could go get. What clicked with you that you felt like maybe Notre Dame needed to aim higher in recruiting?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Well, I think it's the ability to communicate with the best players in the country that this place is special, and that's what -- people keep saying what's the difference? What do you understand about this place now that you're here? It's just that whatever these -- maybe at 16 or 17, when I was a recruit, I was looking for, hey, where can I go win a National Championship? If that's all you're looking for, you can look right here at Notre Dame because we've been in the playoffs two of the last three years.

But it's the ability to show these young people, get their minds to think past football. Get their minds to think whatever that point is, as these guys will tell you, whatever that point is when you're done playing -- it could be after your senior year. It could be one year in the NFL. It could be ten years in the NFL. The minute you're done playing, that's to me where the value of Notre Dame really shows itself.

And that's what we've got to be able to do is to get these young people that are the best players in the country that fit Notre Dame to understand there is no better option for you.

Q. My last question is a bowl question. Do you know yet whether Kyle Hamilton will be able to be a part of your bowl experience?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I knew at some point that was going to come up. No, I've communicated clearly with Kyle. His health is the number one importance for any decision we make. And whatever is best for him and whatever is best for his health, I am going to support. So we have not had that conversation. We have not made a decision. He has not made a decision.

He knows he has the full support of his head coach. Whatever is best for Kyle Hamilton, I'm in full support of.

Q. Congratulations, first and foremost. Secondly here, I think it was almost 11 months to the day, January 4th, that you were here on a Monday interviewing for the defensive coordinator position. Now you stand here today as Notre Dame's head football coach. How do you reconcile with yourself what the last 11 months have been like for you? And maybe what are some of the moments along the way that let you know not only that you wanted to be a head coach but you wanted to be a head coach at Notre Dame?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I wish I could point out every moment that led to this point, but you just look and you think about -- I told the defensive unit in a meeting towards the end of the year, the ability to love a group of guys in 11 months, that's to me what shows you the power of Notre Dame. The ability to be around a group of guys and to fall in love and trust them -- and that's what -- I want to make sure everybody understands.

I've been asked this question a couple times. Your players were really happy. They're really excited. That doesn't mean it's all warm and fuzzy. They understand the expectation. They understand to achieve anything it's going to be really hard and they're going to be pushed. They're going to be pushed real hard. But they've got a leader and they have leaders around them that care about them and have their best interests at heart.

And that's how we're going to create success here. We're going to push each other, but they know their leaders trust them, they know their leaders love them. That, to me, is what has gotten us to this point? It's that over 11 months you feel that way about a group of guys, and I hope the feeling's mutual most of the time.

The other part of that question, did I ever think I'd be the head coach of Notre Dame in 11 months? No, that's not realistic. Well, I guess it is now.


I guess now it is. But it is, it is a dream come true, and every once in a while, I sit back and say, whoa, you are the head coach of University of Notre Dame. Once that second goes up, it's about get back to work, get back to work.

Q. Last one from me. Your candor shows that it resonates. I wonder if you would provide us a glimpse into maybe the 72 to 96-hour window from last Sunday through Wednesday and what that was like for you, how much you leaned on your wife, and how late some of those nights might have stretched for you?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, we haven't got a whole bunch of sleep. Again, when Coach Kelly calls and says, hey, I'm going to LSU. He says, will you go as my defensive coordinator? I said, yeah, I need a job, but can I talk to my wife? That's all I said, can I talk to my wife? He said yeah.

From that moment, it's been a whirlwind. Just the conversations you have, the people you have to talk to, the conversation you have with players, it's all crazy. I don't want to get into the details of what the next 48 hours or 72 hours were like, it was pretty hectic, not a lot of sleep, but the end result is you're the head coach of Notre Dame. So I will take it any time.

Q. One thing I want to ask you about, you've mentioned this, but what were your goals and dreams from a football standpoint when you were growing up?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Just to be the best at what you do. It was to be the best at what you do. I didn't care about -- when I was in high school, I wanted to be the best football player I could be. I got to college, I wanted to be the best football player I could be and be part of the best team I could be. When I got drafted into the NFL, be the best NFL player I could be.

Then I had a moment where I had to make a decision. What's next for me? I got into coaching -- and I've told this story before, but I got into coaching because I was like, man, I want to stay around football. I want to stay around the game. I want to be on the sidelines. I love it.

Then you realize very quickly that the satisfaction and gratification you get is seeing young people reach their goals. So the minute I realized that, I said, I'm going to be the best football coach I can be.

I never said I want to be the head coach. I just want to be the best football coach, the best leader for this group of young men that I can be. That's how I'll continue to attack the rest of my life.

Q. You mentioned preparing them for life after, not just football, but beyond football. How do you go about doing that?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I think back to the lessons I learned, and maybe not as much as the things people said, but the actions they did. How am I going to help influence this group of young men? It's not going to be always what I say. It's going to be my actions.

I want them to see me as a husband. I want them to see me as a father. I want them to see me as a leader, as a friend, as a colleague. I want them to see physically with their eyes my actions because that's, to me, what's going to be the most lasting impact they're going to have.

Q. Last question for me. You and I actually spoke about this yesterday, but what example does your hiring set at a school like Notre Dame when we do see the trends in college football when it comes to hiring coaches of color, specifically black coaches. What does this example set for the future?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I think it's you can do whatever you want, right? You can be whoever you want. You just got to do it the right way. You've got to treat people with respect. If you work hard and you do the right things, the opportunities are endless. Hopefully, it shows that there can be representation of all colors. There can be representation of anyone, any ethnicity, any background. If you're the right leader and you can make others better, that you can be in a position of leadership.

BRADY QUINN: That's it for our Q&A, Coach. Thank you so much. Jack, Father Jenkins, thank you. Thank you to everyone for coming out. The players will be available for media at the south gate. Keep in mind they have a 3:00 p.m. team meeting. Keep that in mind when you're asking your questions.

Thank you and go Irish.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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