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Did Andy Ludwig Choose to Stay at Utah?

By: Joe Dickerson ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter: @_joedickerson_

Original Photo by: Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune - Modified by The Irish Tribune

It would be an understatement to say that Notre Dame's search for the next offensive coordinator has been eventful. On February 2nd, a plane from the University of Alabama landed on the tarmac in South Bend, IN. By the next day, Notre Dame alum Tommy Rees was the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Notre Dame's search eventually landed on one name, Andy Ludwig. His offenses at Utah helped guide the team to back-to-back PAC 12 championships and Rose Bowl berths. Last season, the Utes played USC twice, and Ludwig's offense put up 43 and 47 points in those contests. Andy Ludwig's resume seemed almost too good to be true, could Notre Dame upgrade at OC after Rees' departure? Last Friday when Ludwig attended the Irish hockey game alongside Head Coach Marcus Freeman it seemed that would be the case.

Unfortunately, sources indicated on Monday night that Ludwig was staying at Utah. Many reports have stated that Ludwig wanted the job at Notre Dame, but the university was not willing to pay his buyout. Heather Dinich of ESPN spoke on the Paul Finebaum Show and said that the buyout cost was not what prevented Ludwig from becoming the next Irish play-caller. Dinich reported,

"My sources at Notre Dame told me that they were willing to pay the buyout, but by the time it all got figured out, Ludwig got cold feet and apparently, he's got a great deal at Utah, and that's where that stood."

Based on everything that has been swirling around the internet over the past few days this report seems to take some of the pressure off of the Notre Dame athletics department. Dinich went on to say,

"I do sense a lot of public backlash, and there’s been a lot on my Twitter account in response to some of the things that have been reported and the way the search has gone... but at the same time, I know through reporting that Notre Dame has done its due diligence on this process."

If it is true that Ludwig had the opportunity to come to the Irish but choose to stay in Salt Lake, there are two important questions to answer. First, why would Ludwig want to stay with the Utes? Second, why did Ludwig not want to come to Notre Dame?

First, I would like to address why Ludwig would desire to stay at Utah. Ludwig is from Ogden, UT, which is just under 40 miles north of Salt Lake. He played wide receiver at Snow College in Utah before transferring to Portland State. Following his playing career Ludwig coached football from 1987 to 2012 at 10 different schools and they all had one thing in common, they were west of the Mississippi river. From 2014 to 2018, Ludwig coached at Wisconsin and Vanderbilt but eventually returned to his home state of Utah and his west coast roots. This wasn't Ludwig's first stint with the Utes, he served as the OC from 2005 to 2008 and was a part of the 2008 Utah team that went 13-0 en route to a Sugar Bowl victory over a Nick Saban-led Alabama and a #2 finish in the AP Poll. Since returning to Utah in 2019 the Utes have gone 34-14 overall and 26-6 in PAC 12 play. The Ute's star Quarterback Cam Rising is rehabbing a torn ACL, but, barring a setback in his recovery, he should be ready to suit up when Utah takes on the Florida Gators in the season opener. The PAC 12 has several contenders entering 2023 (USC, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, etc.) but the Utes are right in the thick of it. Ludwig is going to return with the roster in place to win a 3rd straight PAC 12 title and possibly break through the barrier and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. You can't blame him for staying in a place where he is comfortable and presumably happy.

Photo Credit: Fighting Irish Wire

Now, why would Ludwig not want to come to Notre Dame? It is entirely possible that the Irish did nothing wrong and that Ludwig decided it was best to stay in a place he was happy. Or, it's entirely possible that Notre Dame botched the hiring process. I don't think we will ever truly know the answer to this question but at the very least Notre Dame must learn from the process. An extremely prominent Notre Dame booster commented on this situation earlier today. Tom Mendoza is a successful businessman, a Notre Dame alum, and the namesake of Notre Dame's business school (Mendoza College of Business). Mendoza tweeted,

"Many have asked my thoughts. To be clear, I have not been involved & this (is) simply my opinion as a fan. In business, when a critical decision had resulted in a poor outcome, we first focused on the process. If it was flawed we fixed it. In this case, it was clearly flawed... The only thing that will change that is a great hire. After the Eagles' devastating loss, Jalen Hurts impressed all by saying “You either win or learn.” Knowing Marcus as I do I am sure he agrees. The only thing that matters now (and sure his focus) is what happens next."

I could not possibly agree more with Mr. Mendoza's comments. Marcus Freeman is a lot of things but one thing I know for certain is that he is a leader of men. Good leaders learn from successes and mistakes. Maybe you are furious that Notre Dame failed to hire Andy Ludwig. Maybe you are pleased with the combination of Gerad Parker (promoted from TE's coach) and Gino Guidugli (Wisconsin Passing game coordinator and QB's coach) as reported by Scott Roussel of FootballScoop and Pete Thamel of ESPN respectively. Whatever your opinion is, you can know that Marcus Freeman will grow as a head coach from this experience. Freeman is young, charismatic, and incredibly adaptable. Those characteristics will pay dividends in his career. Let's just hope that happens sooner rather than later.



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