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From South Bend to Baton Rouge - An update on Notre Dame and Brian Kelly's staff

Notre Dame staffers Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees have plenty of options

Jack Swarbrick emphasized he was not surprised – and he likewise said Brian Kelly never gave him the option to counter a nearly $100-million-proposal.

Notre Dame's athletics director, during a lengthy press conference Wednesday morning inside the school's fabled football stadium, said Kelly had made multiple “Freudian slips” that indicated that Kelly might be looking to bolt South Bend, Indiana.

Additionally, Swarbrick emphasized Kelly did not apprise him of Kelly's conversations with other programs – which multiple sources told FootballScoop included talks first with University of Southern California officials and culminated Monday with Kelly's discussions that led to his new post atop the LSU football program.

“Brian did not come to me with some opportunity to match the offer,” Swarbrick said. “We talked (late Monday night), he indicated he was resigning to take another position. He thanked me for the opportunity and for my friendship. I wished him all the best.”

Swarbrick drove home the point that Kelly had not asked him for anything prior to Kelly's abrupt departure, just 48 hours after Notre Dame wrapped up an 11-1 regular season and sat poised on the cusp of a potential College Football Playoff berth.

Rather, Swarbrick said that Kelly neither asked for facilities improvements nor any additional salary for Kelly's Notre Dame deal, which sources on campus and in college football told FootballScoop paid Kelly between $7-7.5 million annually. The Irish, as a private, Catholic institution, do not have to make public their coaches' contracts.

Swarbrick's stance that Kelly had not recently asked for any specific facilities improvements countered a narrative that emerged Monday from multiple Notre Dame sources and people close to Kelly, whom they said had decried the Irish's lack of amenities – dedicated nutrition centers/snack bars, state-of-the-art players' lounges – compared to the teams the Irish must beat on the recruiting trail and on the football field to win a national title.

Swarbrick also revealed he intended to deploy a bit of an unusual approach – at least for now – in team operations in the wake of Kelly's departure.

Notre Dame's athletics director since July 2008, Swarbrick has elected to not name an interim head coach in his second search for an Irish football coach; he hired Kelly in December 2009 after he had fired Charlie Weis following that season.

“This staff is so well-structured and the responsibilities are so well-understood, I feel less of a need to have a designated interim,” Swarbrick said.

“But as the search progresses, if we feel a need to put somebody in that position, they would not be a candidate for the job.”

In-house, it is believed that both offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman could have a bevy of options – either to be considered as Kelly's permanent replacement atop the program, or to accompany Kelly to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Additionally, earlier this fall, sources indicated to FootballScoop that Rees could have potential NFL opportunities at the coordinator position and also had begun to emerge as a potential head-coaching candidate – if Rees elected to pursue a departure from his alma mater.

A year after being college football's most in-demand defensive play-caller, Freeman has emerged as a potentially in-demand head coach. Duke University is expected to interview Freeman for its vacancy, multiple sources this week told FootballScoop.

Should the Irish focus their search on current Cincinnati skipper Luke Fickell, Freeman would be the prohibitive favorite to replace Fickell atop the Bearcats' program – where Fickell and Freeman together turned Cincinnati into a CFP contender through four seasons from 2017-2020.

Neither Freeman nor Rees has been a head coach, but Swarbrick declined to say if that was a requisite trait in this search.

“First and foremost, it's getting the right leader,” Swarbrick said. “I recognize the external factors, if you will, the recruiting calendar (NCAA early signing begins Dec. 15) and Transfer Portal, but none of that is a reason not to make sure that we run a process that gets the very best person to lead this program forward, so that will be our focus. …

“It's about the right candidate. When we find the person we think is the right one to lead this program and have the right conversations with him, that's all that matters. If that happens tomorrow or weeks from now, that's fine. This is about getting the right person.”

Freeman and Rees are not the only Irish staff members with potential options. Kelly hired nationally regarded strength coach Matt Balis after the 2016 season when Kelly overhauled almost his entire staff after a 4-8 campaign. It's believed Balis could have an opportunity to join Kelly's LSU staff.

A lot is to be determined once Kelly gets his feet on the ground in Baton Rouge later today. 

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.