Marcus Freeman clarifies comments comparing academics at Ohio State, Cincinnati and Notre Dame

Notre Dame head football coach Marcus Freeman speaks during a media availability Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. Of all the new responsibilities Marcus Freeman now has as the new coach at Notre Dame, hiring assistant coaches might have been the most challenging so far. The 10-person staff was officially completed with the announcement of the hiring of Al Golden as defensive coordinator. (Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)

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Notre Dame head football coach Marcus Freeman speaks during a media availability Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. Of all the new responsibilities Marcus Freeman now has as the new coach at Notre Dame, hiring assistant coaches might have been the most challenging so far. The 10-person staff was officially completed with the announcement of the hiring of Al Golden as defensive coordinator. (Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)

Marcus Freeman’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish face Ohio State on the football field in September.

He has already run afoul of the Buckeyes twice since being named head coach at ND in December, though.

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First the Wayne High School graduate described opting to play at Ohio State over Notre Dame when he was a recruit as a mistake.

“We all know there’s something different about Notre Dame,” he wrote in an “open letter” to Notre Dame fans for The Players Tribune on Dec. 7, four days after he was named head coach of the Fighting Irish. “We all know it’s something special. And I just thank God that I didn’t make the wrong decision twice.”

This week another incident occurred when a profile of Freeman at CBSSports.com appeared to have him at least implying kids who attend Ohio State and Cincinnati — his previous coaching stop before going to Notre Dame as defensive coordinator prior to last season — have an easier time academically than Notre Dame students.

“If you don’t go to class [at places like that], OK, take some online classes, show up for your appointments. At Notre Dame, you’re forced every day to go to class,” Freeman said according to long-time CFB scribe Dennis Dodd.

That story was published Tuesday, and by Wednesday morning Freeman was calling into a Columbus radio station to set the record straight.

He told Bobby Carpenter, who shared the linebacker room at Ohio State with Freeman in 2004 and ‘05 and is the co-host of the morning show on WBNS radio, that Dodd left out some important words.

“It was important for me to reach out to you specifically because I wanted to set the record straight in that I was misquoted by Dennis Dodd in this article,” Freeman said. “Key words and context were missing from this quote that upset a lot of people that I care about. I’m very proud of my two degrees from Ohio State. I would never discredit the quality of the education those degrees represent.”

He explained he was specifically talking about the academic difficulty at Notre Dame, which is frequently cited as a factor in the Fighting Irish failing to win a national championship in nearly 35 years.

His point involved fewer online class options being available in South Bend compared to other schools with larger student bodies.

“When I was first made aware of this quote making rounds yesterday in a negative way, I was surprised because I walked away from that interview with Dennis Dodd and had no sense of anything that I said would offend anybody,” he said.

After getting the audio of the interview from Dodd, Freeman said his exact quote was, “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’s 40,000 students — if you don’t go to class, okay, take some online classes, show up at your final. At Notre Dame, you’re forced every day to go to class, but it formulates this work capacity, this learning capacity.”

Freeman said the word “if” was left out of the first version of Dodd’s story, which also misidentified him as a defensive back at Ohio State, and indicated he feels that makes a big difference in how it is interpreted.

“When you see a quote that says, Marcus Freeman says, ‘You don’t go to class at places like that,’ that changes the entire narrative, right? When you really look at what exactly I said, I was talking about if you don’t go to class at these big schools that have 60,000, 40,000 students, okay, can take online classes. The majority of our kids can’t take online classes here because it’s a smaller school and you’re forced to have in-class attendance.”

He concluded by saying he would never disrespect Ohio State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 2007 and a master’s in sports management four years later.

“I would never say you don’t go to class,” Freeman told Carpenter. “I went to class, I’m sure you did. We had classes. We made sure we went to class. So I would never say that and never disrespect my alma mater.”

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