NOTRE DAME — Veteran NFL and college coach Brian VanGorder was officially hired as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame on Monday after spending the past season as linebacker coach for the New York Jets.
VanGorder was an assistant under Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State from 1989-91 and won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach at Georgia in 2003. He has previously served as head coach at Georgia Southern and Wayne State, his alma mater.
VanGorder replaces Bob Diaco, who left after four seasons at Notre Dame to become head coach at Connecticut. VanGorder takes over a defense that struggled at times in 2013, finishing 31st in the nation in total defense and 27th in scoring defense. A season earlier, the Fighting Irish, led by Manti Te’o, finished seventh in the nation in total defense and second in scoring defense in leading Notre Dame to the national championship game against Alabama.
VanGorder gained acclaim as defensive coordinator at Georgia from 2001-2004. He was a little known assistant when he was hired by Georgia coach Mark Richt in 2001, but a season later he was a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2002 when the Bulldogs ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 15.14 points a game and 15th in total defense at 303.5 yards a game.
The Bulldogs were even better the next season when he won the award despite the Bulldogs losing four players to the NFL and then four more starters to season-ending injuries, ranking third in the nation in points allowed, fourth in total yards and sixth in pass defense.
In 2005, he accepted a job as the linebackers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After a season there, he was hired as head coach at Georgia Southern. In his one season there, the perennial NCAA Division I-AA power went 3-8, the first losing season for the Eagles since 1996, and VanGorder quit.
He was hired as the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach by coach Bobby Petrino. After Petrino left during his first season, VanGorder accepted the job as defensive coordinator at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier. But he ended up staying with the Falcons through the 2011 after Petrino’s replacement, Mike Smith, named him as Atlanta’s defensive coordinator. He then worked a year as defensive coordinator at Auburn and a year as the Jets linebackers coach.
He also previously was defensive coordinator at Central Florida, Central Michigan and Western Illinois and was head coach at Wayne State from 1992-94. He was defensive coordinator under Kelly at Grand Valley State in 1991, and also served as linebackers coach for Kelly the previous two seasons.
VanGorder’s hiring at Notre Dame was widely reported in the media last month, but it wasn’t made official by the university on Monday.
The offensive coordinator’s job remains open at Notre Dame after Chuck Martin left to become head coach at Miami of Ohio.