DURHAM, N.H.— New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell announced his retirement Wednesday after leading the Wildcats for 23 years.

“It’s time for a new face, new ideas and a new way of doing things around here,” McDonnell said in a statement. “I can’t begin to say thank you enough for the opportunities the University of New Hampshire has given to me: as a student, as an assistant coach and then as its head football coach. This has been the honor of a lifetime.”

McDonnell’s 157 career wins rank second in UNH history behind Bill Bowes’ at 175, his former head coach and National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Famer.

The Wildcats had a 14-year run of NCAA playoff berths and 14 playoff victories from 2004-2017, including three conference championships.

McDonnell was a defensive back for the Wildcats from 1975-1978 and served eight seasons as an assistant coach at UNH, including five years as offensive coordinator.

NOTRE DAME: Notre Dame is working on a deal to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach to replace Brian Kelly, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized, though the first piece of Notre Dame’s plan to regroup after Kelly left for LSU earlier this week had already fallen into place.

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees informed Notre Dame he would remain with the Fighting Irish instead of joining Kelly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Notre Dame released a video on Twitter of Rees telling the team he was staying put.

The next step is elevating the 35-year-old Freeman, who would become the second Black head football coach at Notre Dame after Tyrone Willingham (2002-04).

The person told AP that Kelly also had interest in bringing Freeman to LSU. Kelly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons and with the Fighting Irish still in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff. He was introduced Wednesday as the Tigers’ coach.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who was scheduled to attend a CFP expansion meeting in Dallas, instead spent Wednesday in South Bend, Indiana, meeting with Rees and Freeman.

The 29-year-old Rees, a former Notre Dame quarterback, returned to the Irish as quarterbacks coach in 2017 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2020.

Freeman, 35, joined Kelly’s staff this year after being hired away from Cincinnati. Landing Freeman, who was also being pursued by LSU last offseason, was considered a major victory for Kelly and Notre Dame.

Freeman, a former Ohio State linebacker, is considered a rising star in college coaching and in his short time with the Irish he has played a major role in assembling a recruiting class that’s ranked No. 5 in the country by 247 Sports with two weeks to go before signing day.

On the field, Freeman and Rees have helped the Irish go 11-1 in what was expected to be a rebuilding year after last season’s playoff appearance. Notre Dame is sixth in the CFP rankings.

Freeman spent four seasons at Cincinnati as defensive coordinator for Luke Fickell, helping the Bearcats become a playoff contender.

The Bearcats are fourth in the CFP rankings heading into the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday and have a chance to become the first team from outside the Power Five conferences to reach the playoff.

ARIZONA: Arizona has hired UCLA defensive line coach Johnny Nansen as its defensive coordinator.

Nansen replaces Don Brown, who left to become the head coach at Massachusetts.

Nansen spent the past two seasons coaching the Bruins’ defensive line and has coached in the Pac-12 since 2009. He previously spent six seasons as an assistant at Southern California, serving as assistant head coach while working with the linebackers and recruiting efforts from 2016-18.

Nansen served in a variety of roles at Washington from 2009-13, including a stint as assistant head coach. He also worked at Idaho from 2004-08 after playing three seasons at Washington State.

PLAYOFF EXPANSION: The latest meeting on expanding the College Football Playoff wrapped up without an announcement as the people involved agreed to keep talking.

CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said there remains a strong consensus to expand the four-team field among the management committee, comprised of the 10 major college football conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director.

But how and when? A proposed 12-team model remains at the heart of the discussions and there is still hope it can be implemented for the 2024 season. How teams would qualify and be selected are topics still under discussion.

There is no firm date for the next meeting, but there is one scheduled for January around the College Football Playoff championship game in Indianapolis.

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