Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2023

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

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6 APRIL 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED M a rc u s Fre e m a n se l d o m steps out of character in a press conference setting. The 36-year-old Notre Dame head coach is usually composed and self-assured. Calculated yet still enlightening. Even after he became the first head coach in Notre Dame history to start with a record of 0-3, he put on a brave face and faced the mu- sic — as dreary and melancholic as it was. Sure, he was visibly and audi- bly more dejected in the immedi- ate aftermath of the loss to Mar- shall and even two days later in his weekly Monday address. But he still took it all in stride as best any anyone could considering the circumstances. We saw a different Freeman on Feb. 20. Like Brian Kelly did so many times in his 12-year Notre Dame tenure, Freeman cut a reporter's question off in an attempt to em- phatically set the record straight. He clearly wanted to shape a nar- rative with his own agenda. No longer could he let the prevailing per- ception run rampant. This was in relation to why Notre Dame put Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig out in public before the two parties had officially struck a deal to make him the Fighting Irish's succes- sor to Tommy Rees as offensive coordi- nator. Ludwig was seen with Freeman and Irish tight ends coach Gerad Parker at a Notre Dame hockey game Feb. 10. Social media warlords and message board warriors jumped to the conclu- sion that Ludwig to Notre Dame was signed, sealed and delivered. It wasn't. ESPN's Pete Thamel reported three days later that Ludwig would remain at Utah, and Notre Dame having an is- sue with paying his buyout was a major reason why. Uh oh. Why would you publicly parade around with a candidate who hadn't al- ready signed on the dotted line? What good does it do to show your hand af- ter you fold? Those were the thoughts spewed by Notre Dame diehards. Freeman didn't see it like them. "We bring our top recruits into this place, and guess what we did with them on junior day? We took them to the hockey game because Coach [Jeff] Jackson does an excellent job, and that is a great environment," Freeman said. "We're not hiding the point of that — we brought a guy in that we wanted. We took him to the hockey game. He ended up not coming here. That's OK. I don't want to hide because somebody might think that this guy turned us down. No. He made a decision that is best for him. "I don't want to hide the fact of what makes Notre Dame great. If we are going to bring our top recruits to the hockey game, then why not bring an offensive co- ordinator candidate to the hockey game? "Because if we don't get him, people are going to say you tried and you lost? That's life. He decided to make a de- cision that is best for him. I wouldn't change that if I had to. We're try- ing to put our best foot forward." Notice how Freeman put to rest the idea that Ludwig remained at Utah because Notre Dame wouldn't pay his buyout in the same answer as reasoning with reporters why Ludwig appeared at Compton Fam- ily Ice Arena in the first place. Freeman had already made clear in his opening statement that Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick "has never shied out of paying a buyout." He didn't need to say that again in those ex- act words; that would have come off as forced and ungenuine. Instead, he subtly alluded to that point by saying Ludwig made his own decision not to join his staff. And Freeman also suggested that he made his own decision in in- viting Ludwig to the hockey game where camera lenses of varying magnification capabilities were bound to catch them in the act. Like Freeman said — so what? Does a guy have to take a girl on their first date to his mother's basement just so nobody knows that he was a suitor in case a second date isn't agreed upon? No. Take her to that fancy restaurant and shoot the shot. That's what Freeman did with Ludwig. He missed. Even Stephen Curry has a lifetime three-point percentage of 42.7. The greatest shooter of all time misses more than he makes. Nick Saban reportedly courted Wash- ington's offensive coordinator and Ak- ron's head coach to be his OC at Ala- bama before he nabbed Rees from Notre Dame. The greatest coach of all time shot some blanks. It happens. He doesn't have to apolo- gize for that, and neither does Freeman. But if either of them wanted to clarify the circumstances, they're entitled. Freeman did. Pure and unfiltered. And he nailed it. ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at Head coach Marcus Freeman is showing more personality on the job with each passing press conference. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Freeman's Passionate Response Speaks Volumes

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