Marcus Freeman clarified his recent comments about academics at Notre Dame and his alma mater, Ohio State, saying his remarks were more about the different sizes of the schools than the academic rigors.
The first-year coach of the Fighting Irish told CBS Sports, in a story published Friday, that players "can't cheat academics at Notre Dame," and outlined differences between Notre Dame, Ohio State and Cincinnati, where he worked as an assistant from 2017 to 2020.
"If you don't go to class [at places like that], OK, take some online classes, show up for your appointments," Freeman was quoted in the CBS Sports story. "At Notre Dame, you're forced every day to go to class."
Speaking Wednesday to WBNS radio in Columbus, Ohio, Freeman said he would "never discredit the quality of education" at Ohio State, where he earned two degrees and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 2010. Freeman was an All-Big Ten linebacker for the Buckeyes and will make his regular-season debut as Notre Dame's coach on Sept. 3 when the Fighting Irish visit Ohio State.
"When Marcus Freeman says, 'You don't go to class at a place like that,' it changes the entire narrative," Freeman told WBNS. "When you really look, 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, OK, you can take online classes. We can't. The majority of our kids cannot take online classes here because it's a smaller school and you're forced to have in-class attendance. That's what I wanted to get cleared up."
Freeman was speaking to WBNS hosts Brandon Beam and Bobby Carpenter, another former Ohio State star linebacker.
"I would never disrespect Ohio State, I would never say you don't go to class," Freeman said. "I went to class, I'm sure you [Carpenter] did. We certainly went to class."
Freeman said Notre Dame graduate assistant James Laurinaitis, an All-America linebacker at Ohio State and his former teammate, first informed him of the attention generated by his initial comments.
Freeman has emphasized Notre Dame's academic reputation as a selling point, not a drawback, in recruiting for the school. ESPN rates Notre Dame's 2023 recruiting class at No. 1 in the country, while Ohio State ranks No. 3.
"We address it head-on and just say, 'This is different,'" Freeman said of Notre Dame's experience for athletes. "You're not going to be able to stay in all-athletic dorm or apartment complex and you're going to be forced to have a roommate, [who] could just be a normal student, but that roommate also could be a CEO on Wall Street. That roommate could also be somebody that you'll be forever connected with.
"And so we have to sell it as a positive, because we're not going to be able to change that. We don't want to change it."