Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2024

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

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4 FEBRUARY 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T he news was surprising when it broke on Dec. 22 — Mike Denbrock was leaving his post as offensive coordinator at LSU to take the same job at Notre Dame. In Baton Rouge, Denbrock worked under LSU head coach Brian Kelly, a longtime friend and a comfortable col- league. The two worked off and on to- gether all the way back to 1987 when they were graduate assistants and roommates together at Grand Valley State. In Baton Rouge, La., Denbrock quickly built the top offense in the country this season in both total yardage (547.8) and points (46.4) per game. And it was at LSU where Denbrock helped make quarterback Jayden Dan- iels the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner at a school that seemingly provided the veteran coach everything an assistant could ever desire, including big money. Denbrock was reportedly set to make $1.5 million in 2024, then $1.8 million annually beginning in 2025 through a contract extension that he never signed. So with those prices, what gives? Perhaps Notre Dame under Jack Swarbrick with the collaboration of in- coming director of athletics Pete Bev- acqua realizes that it couldn't botch this hire, and it spilled the coffers instead of bickering over buyouts and following the traditional Notre Dame way of un- derpaying its assistant coaches. Official terms of Denbrock's deal weren't released when his hire was made official Dec. 27. But industry web- site, reported that Denbrock, 59, was pulled away from LSU with a four-year contract worth about $9 million — more than $2 million a year — not including bowl appearance bonuses, performance benchmarks and other incentives. If true, this contract would make Denbrock one of the highest-paid co- ordinators in the country, and it would mark the longest and biggest contract Notre Dame has ever given to an assis- tant coach. More importantly, it would finally show a firmer financial commitment to the program that wasn't consis- tently provided by previous athletic administrations. This will be Denbrock's third coach- ing stint at Notre Dame. He worked here from 2002-04 as the Irish offensive tackles/tight ends coach under Tyrone Willingham. Denbrock also held a variety of roles from 2010-16 under Kelly, including one year as of- fensive coordinator in 2014. Denbrock will become the third Notre Dame offensive coordinator in the last three years, after Tommy Rees took the same job at Alabama in 2022 and Gerad Parker landed the head coaching job at Troy in December. TIME FOR A TWEAK An insanely busy month of Decem- ber finally wrapped up for the Notre Dame coaches after they had to juggle the demands of the early signing period for 2024 high school recruits Dec. 20, a search for a new offensive coordinator and practice and prep for the Sun Bowl Dec. 29. All of this while endlessly monitoring the transfer portal for player comings and goings. This intense month made it clear that something needs tweaked with the NCAA football calendar to help coach- ing staffs better balance the demands of roster maintenance, high school re- cruiting and bowl prep. First, the early signing period for high school recruits needs to be moved up from December to July or August before their senior prep seasons even begin. This would allow college programs to know exactly where they stand with their incoming freshmen — for the most part — and ease some of the added pro- tection duties that coaches perform every year to guard against late player poaching. An earlier signing period would also give programs the necessary time each December to re-recruit the players they want to keep out of the transfer por- tal, and better pinpoint their incoming transfer needs. Secondly, tighten up the transfer por- tal window. The 30-day opening from Dec. 4, 2023, through Jan. 2, 2024, was way too long. Coaches shouldn't be asked to spend more than four weeks watching and worrying about portal doings when most are simultaneously prepping for bowl games. The Monday immediately after the c o n fe re n c e c h a m p i o n s h i p ga m e s through the start of the bowl season about two weeks later provides more than enough time for these player re- locations and would barely interrupt bowl prep. And finally, college football — espe- cially at the Power Five level — needs a full-time commissioner. A leader that would provide a chance to bring everybody together under one central- ized voice, rather than it getting yanked in 100 different directions by special and individual interests in the way the NCAA handles its business now. ✦ Denbrock takes over as offensive coordinator for the Irish after directing an LSU attack that led the nation in yards (547.8) and points (46.4) per game this past season. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND Notre Dame Spills Its Coffers For Mike Denbrock UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

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