According to SI’s Pat Forde, Jack Swarbrick’s swift but thorough coaching search last week that no one ever imagined he would have to conduct reportedly included at least three external candidates. Swarbrick quickly realized that Marcus Freeman was his man, delighting Notre Dame players and fans near-universally, but it’s an interesting insight into the details behind Swarbrick’s warp-speed process.
Sources familiar with the quick search said Notre Dame had eight current head coaches on its initial list. Two declined to participate, one had timing issues, two others were eliminated by the school. The list was quickly whittled to three head coaches and Freeman. As previously mentioned, the player input was significant in pushing Freeman to the forefront.Notre Dame embraces Marcus Freeman with Unanimous Excitement After Transformative Week, SI.com
For a guy who said he didn’t keep a list of potential head coaching candidates on the ready like most ADs, it sure seems like Swarbrick had at least a pretty good idea of his list pretty quickly. Remember, Notre Dame only found out that Kelly was leaving late Monday night. By Wednesday evening, reports surfaced that Marcus Freeman was the guy, and most of the staff was staying with him.
The only head coach linked to Notre Dame by the national media was Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. He was mentioned several times by national media as a possible candidate. The other name that popped up a lot was Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, but if Forde’s report is accurate, you almost have to assume he would have been the one with a timing issue.
Who the other head coaches are that were viable are fun to speculate about. Was former Notre Dame assistant Chuck Martin one of those coaches? He’s been a head coach at Miami of Ohio, the cradle of coaches, with some mixed success the last few years. Last week, I threw his name out on the podcast as someone that might have been worth a call if it wasn’t Freeman.
It would also be fascinating to know who the two were that declined to participate. Did Jack swing for the fences and reach out to some of the big boys just to see if there was any interest? You would hope so just so you could say you tried, right? Hell, that’s how USC ended up with Lincoln Riley, and LSU ended up with Brian Kelly.
We will likely never know who all was involved in the search. Swarbrick moved so fast that there wasn’t time for too many leaks. I wrote last week that Notre Dame coaching searches tended to be filled with rumors, but that never materialized this time around since Notre Dame was reportedly finalizing details with Freeman within 48 hours.
Regardless of who the other candidates were, Notre Dame got the hire right with Freeman. The amount of positivity and energy within the program right now is palpable, and Freeman only amplified that yesterday with his grand slam presser.
Still, it would be fascinating to know the inner workings of everything that happened last week and the timeline Swarbrick was working with. It very much felt like Notre Dame was on tilt there for a little while only to come out with the winning hand. I guess we’ll need to wait for the 30 for 30 to be produced eventually.
What if I told you the winningest coach in program history left for another program, and it energized a fanbase?