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He Coaches Where Now? Keeping Tabs on Former ND Staff

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Written by Craig James|Contributor|Twitter/X: @CraigJamesIT



For well over a century, Notre Dame has been a premier program to be a coach and has continuously turned assistants into head coaches for other programs. If you have success at a place like Notre Dame, where the competition level is at the top, programs will be eager to make you their head coach. Notre Dame gives opportunity to their assistants unlike most universities. Nationally televised games every Saturday, critics waiting to pounce on you when you slip up, glory when you are successful, top recruits in the country, if a coach can make the most of those opportunities there is no doubt they will be give the chance to be a head coach at a higher level. A university like Notre Dame teaches you how to run a high level program, you are surrounded by the best coaches in the country to learn from every single day, and you learn to deal with adversity on the national level. Notre Dame is an opportunity that can change the whole landscape of your career if done correctly. There are countless coaches who are rising through the ranks who have used their success at Notre Dame to climb closer to their ultimate goal of being a head coach. A few have already started their head coaching careers and have Notre Dame to thank for a lot of their success. Mike Elko with Duke, Clark Lea with Vanderbilt and Matt LaFluer with the Packers to name a few have been some of the recent successes of Notre Dame assistants.


Matt LaFleur

Photo by David Eulitt / Getty Images

Matt LaFleur - who is now the head coach of the Green Bay Packers was once a quarterback coach for Notre Dame under Brian Kelly. While he was only in South Bend for one year, he was able to propel himself back into the NFL. He took the Atlanta Falcons quarterback coaching job the following year before making two more stops in consecutive years as the offensive coordinator for the Rams and then the Titans, before ultimately becoming the Packers head coach in 2019. LaFleur entered the program the year after Everett Golson was declared academically ineligible, and Golson was his choice to start over sophomore Malik Zaire. Golson became only the fourth Irish quarterback to eclipse 3,445 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air. The Irish started off 5-0 and were torching teams through the air until they played Florida State and lost on a last second penalty that negated a touchdown for the Irish that would have given them the win. The Irish went on a 1-4 skid following the Florida State loss and finished the season at a depressing 8-5 record. The Irish would go on to the Music City Bowl and name Malik Zaire the starter in a shared role at quarterback in the game. The Irish would win 31-28. LaFleur has led the Packers to a 49-21 record over 4 full seasons and 4 games into the current season.


Mike Elko

Photo by Matt Cashore


Mike Elko, who many Irish fans acknowledge when they think of turning the page for Notre Dame, is now the head coach for the Duke Blue Devils. Elko made his way to becoming the Notre Dame defensive coordinator after many stops, and his most recent being two years at Wake Forest as the defensive coordinator. He is known for changing the entire scheme and philosophy of the Irish defense. He wanted to dictate the game with defense, something the Irish had struggled to do during the Brian VanGorder years. He completely turned the Irish defense around in one season, and eventually left for the same job under Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. In 2022 he was named the head coach for Duke and took over a program coming off a 9 loss season. He quickly turned the Blue Devils program around with a 9 win season in his first campaign. Now in 2023, his only loss has come at the hands of Notre Dame on a final drive. He has revitalized the Duke program like never before. Now he is being circled as one of the favorites to fill the Michigan State coaching vacancy after they have fired Mel Tucker.


Clark Lea

Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

Clark Lea started his coaching career at UCLA as a graduate assistant and worked his way through the ranks as a linebacker coach for several programs before becoming the defensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish in 2018. In 2017, when Mike Elko left Wake Forest for the Notre Dame defensive coordinator job, he brought Lea with him to serve as the linebacker coach. When Elko left the following season for the same job at Texas A&M, Lea saw his first big time opportunity come about, as he was named the defensive coordinator for Notre Dame. Lea built off of what Elko started, he kept the 4-2-5 defense intact and hit the recruiting trails to finish the rehaul that Elko began. Lea served as the defensive coordinator until after the 2020 season, when Vanderbilt, coming off a 0-9 covid shortened season, hired him to take over the program as the head coach. Lea did not get off to the same hot start as Elko did and finished his first season at a lousy 2-10. The 2022 season showed the improvement Lea desperately needed, as Vanderbilt finished with a 5-7 record. The 2023 season came with high hopes for improvement, as Vanderbilt extended Lea 3 more years through the 2029 season, and many believed they could compete to be in the top 3 of the Eastern division of the SEC. Although the Commodores are sitting at 2-2 early in the season, there is plenty of excitement about the future of Vanderbilt football.


Chuck Martin

AP Photo/Michael Clubb

Chuck Martin, who many remember from the 2012 undefeated season, has been the head coach for the Miami University RedHawks since the 2014 season. Before he accepted his job in Oxford, he was helping lead one of the most premier college programs to an undefeated season and a BCS National Championship berth. Martin was with Notre Dame from 2010-2013 serving multiple jobs and learning under both Charlie Weis and Brian Kelly. In December of 2013, Martin accepted the Miami job and has been there ever since. He has been successful there, and brought a conference title to Oxford in 2019. He has taken Miami to 4 bowl games over the 9 full seasons he has been there, and has won one of them - recently in 2021. Martin has consistently kept the RedHawks in the top 3 in the Mid- American Conference. Martin seems to be happy and looks to continue to grow both his legacy and the Miami program for the foreseeable future.


Photo via Getty Images


While there are many other coaches in the country who have ties to Notre Dame, the coaches mentioned are only the tip of the Iceberg. Another assistant, turned head coach, is Notre Dame's own Marcus Freeman. Freeman was the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati until he came to Notre Dame for the same job and the rest is history. I don't need to tell you about the winningest head coach in Notre Dame history is now the head coach for LSU. But any Irish fans can thank Kelly for putting Notre Dame back on the map and leaving the program in good hands with Marcus Freeman at the helm. For the rest of the country, they can thank Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Football program for filtering out successful coaches that will in turn, turn programs around.


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