Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

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16 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA M arcus Freeman has seen the light bulb go off in recruits' heads. He's seen the moment in which prospects realize maybe it isn't about six figures. Or six-figure sports cars. Maybe it's about playing at a pro- gram like Notre Dame, a place with as much prestige and pedigree as any, a place that can work wonders for football and post-playing careers. Maybe it's not all about name, image and likeness (NIL). It wouldn't have been for Freeman 16 years ago, anyway, who was a bustling Buckeye linebacker at Ohio State at that time. He chose to play there because of the value of the program, not how valuable he'd be as a student-athlete there. Back then, recruits didn't have price tags. They had a vision. A dream. NIL has blurred the lines. "I think there is still a misunder- standing of what's real and what's not," Freeman told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "I am still learning to this day about all these numbers and guarantees. What I do know, and what a 20-year-old Mar- cus Freeman would know, is that the better football player you are, the more in demand you're going to be. "So, focus on being a great football player, and those opportunities that hinge on name, image and likeness will come." Freeman has a point. Nobody really knows the truth. Four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada committed to Miami in June. On3 re- ported he left millions in potential NIL earnings on the table by choosing the Hurricanes over Florida and Texas A&M, and that's with Rashada report- edly in line to make $9.5 million at Mi- ami. Miami booster John Ruiz told The Miami Herald that number was "grossly inaccurate." Rashada issued a statement using the same word: "inaccurate." Rashada's family lawyer, Michael Caspino, said The Gator Collective of- fered Rashada "a lot of money" to play at Florida. A Gator Collective represen- tative said it never offered a dollar. Talk about a misunderstanding of what's real and what's not. The fact of the matter is that very few parties actually know what's be- ing tossed around behind closed doors. But one thing is already clear; Rashada's public perception has been altered by the ongoing saga. He's not just a high school football player anymore. He is a controversial public figure in the spot- light of college athletics' greatest circus, whether that's his fault or not. People aren't talking about how good he is or how good he might be. They're talking about the sideshow. It's Freeman's goal to avoid such con- troversies and sideshows. As of July 25, Notre Dame had the No. 1 recruiting class of 2023 per the On3 Consensus Football Team Recruiting Rankings, and the program also sits No. 1 in the very early edition of the 2024 list. There hasn't been a foul word spoken about the way Freeman has gotten Notre Dame there. And that's the way he wants it to be. "I think you have to be up front and honest with [recruits] from the begin- STAYING THE COURSE Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is more concerned with who prospects are as players, not as NIL puppets Freeman was all business on the field during his days as a linebacker at Ohio State from 2004-08. PHOTO COURTESY OHIO STATE ATHLETICS "I think you have to be up front and honest with [recruits] from the beginning and then show them why we make the decisions that we do. Yeah, I've seen them go, 'OK. That makes sense.' And they decide to commit to this place and the way we're doing things." FREEMAN

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