It's not unique or interesting at all when a coach takes a veiled swipe at a rival, particularly in regards to academics.
But when the coach in question is an alum of the school he's criticizing? You don't see that every day.
In an interview with Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said this:
"I'm not saying from top to bottom, but the majority of our kids, they -- I want to say this the right way -- are pushed to learn and their study habits are formulated every day. You can't cheat academics at Notre Dame."
To make his point, Freeman brought up the two most significant football stops in this career before coming to Notre Dame in 2021. At Ohio State, Freeman played defensive back for Tressel, eventually becoming a fifth-round NFL Draft choice of the Chicago Bears. At Cincinnati, he earned a reputation as one of the nation's best defensive coordinators.
"You don't go to class [at places like that]?" Freeman said rhetorically. "OK, take some online classes, show up for your appointments. At Notre Dame, you're forced every day to go to class."
An official transcript of the interview reflects that the actual, full quote was as follows:
"Their study habits are formulated every day. You can’t cheat academics at Notre Dame. IF I didn’t go to class at Ohio State, 60,000 students. Cincinnati, another big public school. There are 40,000 students. If you don’t go to class, OK. Take some online classes. Show up for your final. At Notre Dame you are forced every day to go to class, but to me it formulates this work capacity, this learning capacity."
Freeman could be referring to the 2019 revelation that Justin Fields took only online classes while playing for Ohio State. “From what I have seen, the campus is beautiful," Fields said.
Freeman could also be referring to, you know, his own experience as an Ohio State Buckeye from 2004-08. A 4-star linebacker out of Dayton, Freeman started 37 games on teams that reached back-to-back BCS title games. He was a fifth-round pick that was forced out a year later due to an enlarged heart, then began his professional career as a GA on Jim Tressel's Ohio State staff.
He also referred to picking Ohio State over Notre Dame as a recruit as "the wrong decision."
All that would be spicy enough on its own. Now consider that Freeman's first game leading his own Notre Dame team will come at Ohio Stadium, in a GameDay/Saturday Night Football primetime game, in the most anticipated non-conference game of the 2022 season.
As if it were even possible, the most anticipated game of September just became even more anticipated.
Update: Freeman cleaned up his comments in a radio interview on Wednesday morning.