Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

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

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8 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL M arcus Freeman has to learn on the job. Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick accepted that when he named the then-35-year-old Freeman head coach in December with no prior experience running a football program. Freeman understood from the start he knows what he doesn't know — and it's on him to learn it. Freeman has been proactive in find- ing people to help him. He has spoken to every living former Notre Dame head coach. On a spring trip to Tampa, he sought out Tony Dungy to discuss lead- ership. He met weekly with former Irish running back Jerome Bettis while Bettis was back at Notre Dame finishing his degree this spring. One reason he hired Al Golden as defensive coordinator was to bring a former head coach on staff as a sounding board. It's all part of his effort to grow com- fortable in his job as quickly as he can. He has, though, discovered some things take time to learn. Or rather, take time to grasp. Freeman understood early on he can't be as immersed in every position or every facet of Notre Dame football as he was with the defense and lineback- ers the past 10 seasons as a coach. He knows he must trust his assistants to handle their jobs. It's one thing to acknowledge. It's an- other to believe every single day with nary a second-guess. Asked in late June what part of his job he thinks will take him the most time to learn, he brought up that idea of belief in his colleagues. Not because he considers himself con- trolling and cautious in giving trust, but because it's a mentality that's not cre- ated in a day. Or even a month. "It's a constant ability to let those around you do their jobs and not mi- cromanage — to let the people you hire truly do the job you hired them for," Freeman told Blue & Gold Illustrated. Jim Tressel — Freeman's coach at Ohio State from 2004-08 and a close confi- dant — understands that's a real adjust- ment for any first-time coach. Freeman was a hands-on teacher as a linebackers coach the last 10 years. He was the lead- ing voice in every defensive decision as the Irish's coordinator last year and at Cincinnati for four seasons before that. Being a head coach requires involve- ment in every area, but not over-in- volvement. It means putting faith in a large group of people to execute the plan you set without holding each person's hand. "The hard part about any new situa- tion is not only are you taking on a new UNDER THE DOME LOOSENING THE REINS Marcus Freeman has found that being hands-off with his staff is his biggest adjustment as a head coach Freeman understands and acknowledges that he can't over-involve himself in every facet of Notre Dame football as head coach. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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