Notre Dame finished its regular season with a strong 11-1 record. It won its last seven games after losing to Cincinnati and logged double-digit wins in each of its final six games.
Because of their strong play and record, the Fighting Irish are a top-10 team. They entered the final week of the regular season at No. 6 overall in the College Football Playoff rankings, but they may move up after Ohio State (No. 2) suffered its second loss of the season. If so, Notre Dame will find itself on the cusp of making the CFP.
There’s just one problem with that. They don’t yet know who will coach them if they get there.
Brian Kelly is leaving the program to take the head coaching job at LSU. That left the Notre Dame coaching job vacant for the first time since Charlie Weis was fired exactly 12 years ago to the day on Nov. 30, 2009.
Still, Notre Dame is in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot or one of the best New Year’s Six bowl games out there. But will Kelly be able to coach them ahead of that game? Or will the Fighting Irish have someone else take the reins? Here’s what we know about Notre Dame’s coaching situation as they prepare for postseason action.
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Will Brian Kelly coach Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff?
Brian Kelly will not coach Notre Dame this postseason, even if it makes the College Football Playoff. The school’s athletic director Jack Swarbrick made the announcement at a news conference on Nov. 30, the day that Kelly was officially announced as the next coach at LSU.
“We will have our current coaching staff, I hope, largely intact and we’ll designate the person who has to make the jump ball calls, like how to use timeouts and the coin flip,” Swarbrick said. “But we’ve got a great staff. We’ve got great coordinators, so I’ve every confidence that we will be fully prepared for what I hope is the CFP game — but if not, I’m certain will be a great New Year Six game — and Brian will not be part of that for us.”
That will give Notre Dame’s interim coach a chance to lead the team to a key postseason victory. And if they make the College Football Playoff, the interim coach will have a chance to win the Fighting Irish to an unlikely championship, much like Steve Fischer did for the Michigan basketball team after he took over from Bill Frieder ahead of the 1989 NCAA Tournament.
Swarbrick didn’t name an interim coach at Tuesday’s press conference, but he will certainly do it soon to ensure his team has ample time to adjust to the change in leadership.
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Who will be Notre Dame’s interim coach?
Swarbrick has yet to announce Notre Dame’s interim coach. However, he did confirm that whoever is tapped to be the interim will not garner consideration as the Fighting Irish’s next full-time head coach.
Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was seen as an interim coaching candidate, and he was also viewed as a potential full-time replacement for Kelly. However, it would seem that he could only operate in one of those roles now, and he might not be in either spot.
According to Pete Sampson of The Athletic, Kelly wants the 35-year-old Freeman to come with him to LSU and is willing to make him one of the highest-paid defensive coordinators in the country to do so.
Source: LSU head coach Brian Kelly reached out to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman on Monday in an effort to bring him to Baton Rouge. Kelly would intend to make Freeman the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football.
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 30, 2021
If that happens, the Fighting Irish will have to consider some other interim coaching options. Special teams coordinator Brian Polian and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees represent the two highest-ranking assistants aside from Freeman on the Notre Dame coaching staff.
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