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Defensive Coordinator Al Golden Agrees to Contract Extension

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in South Bend through 2027.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in South Bend through 2027. That is welcome news to the Irish faithful as Golden has developed Notre Dame’s defense into one of the best units in the nation.

Golden’s contract extension is reportedly aligned with the four-year $9 million deal that brought former LSU offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock back to Notre Dame. Golden’s extension gives the Irish one of the highest-paid coordinator duos in college football. Denbrock was a finalist for the Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant coach last season. Golden was also among the nominees for the award. Golden arrived in South Bend in 2022 following six seasons in the NFL. In just two years under Golden, the Irish have developed into one of the best defensive units in the country. In addition to Golden’s extension and the hiring of Denbrock, the Irish have named veteran running backs coach Deland McCullough associate head coach. McCullough is no stranger to the position. He served in that capacity at Indiana in 2021.

Notre Dame’s Gold Standard

Despite a challenging schedule in 2023, Notre Dame had its best defensive season since 2012. The Irish ranked seventh in the nation in scoring defense, fifth in total defense, and fifth in fewest yards allowed per play. The unit was third in pass defense, third in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt, second in lowest completion percentage, and 10th in interceptions. Notre Dame led the nation in passer rating and tied with Michigan for the fewest touchdown passes allowed all season. The Irish defense ranked second nationally in red zone defense and third in red zone touchdown defense.

A former college tight end at Penn State, Golden began his coaching journey as a high school offensive coordinator. During a span of 10 years, he served as a college head coach, first at Temple from 2006 to 2010. That was followed by a stint at Miami from 2011 to 2015. He transitioned to the NFL for six seasons after that, concluding in 2021 coaching linebackers for the Cincinnati Bengals. Shortly after the 2021 season, he assumed the role of defensive coordinator for the Irish under head coach Marcus Freeman, who served as the Irish’s defensive coordinator in 2021 under Brian Kelly and was subsequently promoted to head coach.

After originally hiring Al Golden, Freeman told Sports Illustrated, “I was looking for a guy with head coaching experience. That was something that we did not have on our staff that I thought was going to be extremely valuable. He has that, but also a guy that has intelligence. The more we met, the more we talked, I learned right away this person understands football, he understands scheme.”

The Future Looks Bright

In the upcoming season, Notre Dame should maintain its defensive strength. Six starters returning from the 2023 season should solidify the Irish’s position as one of the top defenses in the nation once again. The return of graduates Howard Cross III at nose guard, Riley Mills at defensive tackle, Jack Kiser at linebacker, and Xavier Watts at safety, suggests that Notre Dame’s defense might even see an improvement in 2024. Watts, who secured unanimous All-America honors in 2023, became the first Irish safety to achieve this accolade. Cross, while not a first-teamer, earned a spot on every major All-America team. All-America cornerback Benjamin Morrison is also a key returnee.

Bottom Line

Notre Dame’s Golden Years on defense can be counted on to continue well into the near future. In underscoring the program’s dedication to retaining crucial coaching staff by offering a substantial salary increase to Al Golden, elevating job titles, and bringing in new hires, Notre Dame is laying the groundwork for the upcoming season’s preparations. Notre Dame’s spring practices are set to begin on March 7. The Irish will wrap up on April 20 with the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium.




Photo courtesy: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports


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