Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

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

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4 MARCH 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED O utside of the hardiest of diehard Notre Dame recruiting junkies, many residents of ND Nation likely have never even heard the name Chad Bowden. This Irish football assistant doesn't wear a whistle during practice. He doesn't draw up X's and O's during game week, and he doesn't teach any on-field fundamentals or techniques to the Fighting Irish players. But make no mistake, despite his sometimes invisible role, the Notre Dame recruiting director might still be considered the most valuable member on the entire Irish football staff under head coach Marcus Freeman. A pioneer and a hot commodity in recruiting circles, Bowden recently turned down a lucrative offer to leave Notre Dame for Michigan. Multiple reports suggest that first- year Wolverines head coach Sherrone Moore offered Bowden more money, more staff and more control to trade the blue and gold for the maize and blue. Presumably tempted but undeterred, Bowden, 29, didn't take his talents to the reigning national champions and instead stayed put to continue his in- novative and impactful work at Notre Dame. "We're glad to have him back!" ex- claimed Irish freshman wide receiver Cam Williams, the second-highest- rated recruit in the 2024 class and an outspoken Chad Bowden fan. For background, Bowden came to Notre Dame from Cincinnati in 2021 — along with Freeman — and took a low- level defensive recruiting coordinator job. One year later — when Freeman be- came the Irish head coach — Bowden was promoted to director of recruiting for the entire Notre Dame program. And in the three full recruiting cycles (2022-24) since Bowden's promotion, the Irish haven't finished with a class ranked outside the top 11, according to the On3 Industry Ranking. It's the best three-year recruiting run for Notre Dame since 2006-08 when it landed three consecutive top-5 classes. "[Bowden] is elite at what he does and he's one of the hardest workers I know," Freeman explained last December on "Wake Up The Echoes," a video pod- cast produced by Fighting Irish Media. "There are times when I'm actually like envious of the relationships he has with our recruits." Freeman also shared a story from his Cincinnati days when he and Bowden were recruiting a defensive lineman named Anthony "Tank" Booker. Looking to make a loud recruiting bang, Bowden convinced Freeman to wear full military gear — helmet and all — for an in-home visit with Booker and his family. "Those are the ideas that he brings," Freeman added. "He is innovative. There are no boundaries for where his mind goes." Maryland ultimately won out on Tank's recruitment. And from that point, Freeman vowed to let Bowden handle all the creative antics and meth- ods that go into modern-day recruiting. Bowden is Notre Dame's recruiting front man and a constant companion on recruiting trips and in-home visits alongside the on-field Irish coaches. CONNECTIVITY MATTERS With 15 of the 23 members of Notre Dame's 2024 recruiting class already enrolled and on campus since January, Bowden still stays engaged and con- tinues to dutifully check on his former recruits to make sure their transition from high school is going smoothly. Video gaming, text messaging, a quick phone call, or just a goofy prac- tical joke to put a smile on a fresh- man's face, Bowden knows how to connect. And it's that connectivity that makes Bowden so valuable to Free- man's staff and the primary reason why Notre Dame already has 14 verbal commits — the most in the country — in a 2025 recruiting class that is ranked No. 5 nationally as of Feb. 9. "Chad goes out of the way to talk to family and things like that," said fresh- man offensive lineman Styles Prescod. "When someone has a good vibe, it just makes the place more fun. The energy he brings to Notre Dame and the recruiting staff is great." And so is the substantive message Bowden brings to the Notre Dame re- cruits beyond gimmicky recruiting ploys. When freshman offensive lineman Anthonie Knapp made a recruiting visit to campus last March, Bowden's office was his first stop. "The first three hours of my visit, I didn't hear any football and I didn't meet any coaches. It was all about school," recalled Knapp, who verbally committed five days after his visit. "Af- ter visiting all of these schools, that was something that sticks out to me. It was a reality check almost. This place is more than just football. Chad brought that to my eyes." Bowden may still remain anony- mous within much of the Notre Dame fan base. But given the glowing reviews the Irish recruits share, and the tireless hours and creative work this one man does to lift the Irish roster to an elite level, Chad Bowden needs to become a household name. ✦ Chad Bowden, Notre Dame's director of recruiting, recently spurned an offer from Michigan to stay with the Fighting Irish. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER The Secret's Out On Irish's Secret Weapon 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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