Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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60 JANUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE BY JIM LEFEBVRE A t 35, Marcus Freeman becomes the youngest head football coach at Notre Dame since freshman coach Terry Brennan was elevated to the top spot in 1954 at the tender age of 26, re- placing the retiring Frank Leahy. There's another trait that Freeman shares with Brennan, which has been virtually absent among Notre Dame head coaches in the decades since — both were championship players at the major college level. Freeman came out of Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, in 2005, choosing Ohio State over Notre Dame. He became a 37-game starter at line- backer for the Buckeyes, earning sec- ond-team All-Big Ten honors in his fi- nal two seasons, 2007 and 2008. OSU won the Big Ten championship in 2006 and 2007 and tied for the top spot in 2008. And on Jan. 8, 2008, Freeman and the Buckeyes played on the largest stage possible — the BCS national champi- onship game — falling to the LSU Tigers, 38-24. Freeman's close friend and teammate at linebacker was James Laurinaitis, three-time consensus All-American and two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, who went on to an eight- year NFL career. Said Laurinaitis in 2008: "Marcus is a tremendous athlete and he's constantly making me work hard. I'm forever grateful to have the opportunity to play with him. There's trust among each other, which helps myself and the team play better." Under Leahy, Brennan had been a standout halfback for the Irish, lead- ing two national championship teams in receiving, catching 10 passes for 154 yards in 1946 and 16 for 191 yards in 1947, while finishing second in rush- ing both years, with 329 and 404 yards, respectively. Brennan began his coaching ca- reer with four seasons as head coach at Chicago's Mt. Carmel High School, winning three city championships, be- fore returning to Notre Dame to serve as freshman coach in 1953. Brennan's first two Notre Dame teams, consisting largely of a roster assembled by Leahy, posted records of 9-1 (1954) and 8-2 (1955). But he was 15-15 over the next three seasons and stepped aside. Notre Dame then went in an entirely different direction, in terms of coach- ing experience. Former Irish lineman Joe Kuharich, who had spent the previ- ous 11 seasons as an NFL head coach, with San Francisco, the Chicago Cardi- nals and Washington, brought his pro- game mindset to South Bend. But the results were dismal, a 17-23 record over the next four years, before Hugh Devore stepped in and delivered a 2-7 record in 1963. Since then, here's what Notre Dame head coaches have brought, in terms of their experience as a college player and head coach: ARA PARSEGHIAN (1964-74) Age when hired by ND: 40 Previous HC experience: Miami (Ohio) (1951‑55), Northwestern (1956‑63) College: Miami (Ohio), HB, 1946‑47 While serving in the military, Parseghian was on a service team coached by Hall of Famer Paul Brown. After the war, Ara's two years playing halfback at Brennan was elevated from freshman coach to head coach at Notre Dame at the age of 26 in 1954, still the youngest head coach in Irish history. He played halfback on the Irish's national championship teams of 1946 and 1947. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Like Terry Brennan, Marcus Freeman Combines Youth And Experience With A Championship Pedigree

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