Marcus Freeman

When Marcus Freeman became the second Black head coach at Notre Dame last year, there was a lot of fanfare, praise for the school, and comments that this represented a great step forward for both college football and Black head coaches. 

But now, with Freeman beginning his second year, the optimism has faded, the doubts have set in, and as ridiculous at it may seem, there have already been a series of columns written speculating that Freeman may well be in trouble despite the fact he was the consensus  choice of the players to replace Brian Kelley after he left for LSU.

Things didn’t get off to a smooth start last season for Freeman, who took over for Kelley in the team’s bowl game. They lost that one, then began the season with two straight losses.  Immediately the columns surfaced that Freeman might already be in trouble. The Fighting Irish did finish the season at 9-5, while also winning their bowl game. But losses to teams like Stanford and Marshall didn’t sit well with much of the Notre Dame fan base and media.

The questions about Freeman have resurfaced in the off-season as he was unable to get his first choice for a new offensive coordinator hired, and more criticism has been leveled regarding how the matter was handled.

No one, least of all Freeman, has attributed any of the criticism to racial bias. He knows better than anyone that he occupies one of the most high profile and closely monitored jobs in college football. Notre Dame not only has its own network in NBC, it is also the only independent school in the sport given a shot each year st challenging for a national title

Notre Dame coaches are always under a microscope, and it doesn’t matter whether the criticism is fair or accurate. The school is also unafraid to fire  coaches in the middle of long term deals, and have done it to both his  white and Black predecessors.

Marcus Freeman is fully aware what would be a fine season elsewhere doesn’t cut it at Notre Dame. They want at the minimum for the team to be in title contention every year, and to blow out any non Power 5 school on the schedule.

That makes the first visit by Tennessee State to South Bend in September even more intriguing. It’s the first time the Irish have played an HBCU institution and the result will be yet another indicator for many Notre Dame fans of whether Marcus Freeman should be their coach for the long term.