Dec. 20, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Indiana – Mike Elko, widely considered one of college football’s brightest defensive minds, has been named defensive coordinator for the University of Notre Dame.
“Mike has consistently coordinated defenses that keep the points down, negate big plays, create negative plays, excel in the red zone and, quite simply, force opposing offenses to execute at an extremely high level to move the football,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “This rare combination of consistent success in those facets of defense, along with a proven ability to develop talent and fit it into his system, really places Mike in a class by himself among defensive coordinators across the country.
“As importantly, Mike’s commitment to helping young men reach their full potential in the classroom and in the community make him a perfect fit for Notre Dame.”
“I’m excited to join a program with the prestige of Notre Dame that can recruit the nation’s highest caliber of student-athlete and compete for a national championship,” said Elko. “We hope to dictate the pace of the game with an attacking and aggressive style of defense, mix physicality and toughness with exceptional fundamentals and, lastly, play with great effort at all times. I can’t wait to dive in and help these players achieve the standard of success necessary to win at the highest level.
“It was extremely hard to walk away from everything we built at Wake Forest, especially with those players, and I’m so appreciative of everything that Dave (Clawson) and Ron (Wellman) did for me and my family.”
Elko is one of only two defensive coordinators in the nation to have a unit rank in the top-40 of the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense over the last five years (2014-16 at Wake Forest and 2012-13 at Bowling Green).
Elko just completed his third season as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator. In 2016, the Demon Deacons’ defense ranked in the top-20 of the Football Bowl Subdivision in fumbles recovered (third), turnovers forced (10th), sacks (12th), defensive TDs (17th), red zone defense (17th) and scoring defense (20th).
Wake Forest was one of four schools in the FBS to rank in the top-20 in turnovers forced, sacks and scoring defense in 2016. The other three schools — Alabama, Clemson and Washington — qualified for the College Football Playoff.
In addition to his role as defensive coordinator, Elko coached the Demon Deacon safeties. He was instrumental in the development of All-ACC strong safety Jessie Bates III this season. Bates III finished the year with 93 tackles and five interceptions, including two that were returned for TDs. The ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up, Bates III was also named a freshman All-American by USA Today.
In 2015, Wake Forest ranked 38th in the FBS in total defense, allowing just 363.8 yards per game. The Deacons also ranked among the national leaders in fewest first downs allowed (10th), red zone defense (31st), pass defense (32nd) and third-down conversion percentage (36th). Wake Forest’s shutout of Boston College was the first by the Deacons in nine years.
In 2014, Elko’s defense proved to be one of the strengths of the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest finished 12th nationally in passing yards allowed, 24th in fewest first downs allowed and 40th in total defense. Wake Forest had five defensive players earn All-ACC honors.
Elko spent five seasons as Bowling Green’s defensive coordinator. The Falcons’ defense led the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense and pass defense in each of his last two seasons. In 2013, four BGSU defensive players were named to the All-MAC first or second team.
Elko’s Bowling Green defense excelled at forcing turnovers and stopping opponents on third down. Over his five seasons as defensive coordinator, the Falcons forced 106 turnovers or 1.7 per game. Bowling Green held opponents to just 35.9 percent third down conversions over those five seasons. In both 2012 and 2013, the Falcons ranked in the top 10 in the nation in both total defense and scoring defense.
The 2012 season was a banner year for the BGSU defense, finishing the season ranked sixth in the country in total defense (296.6) and 10th in scoring (16.7). The Falcons held the opposition to under 100 yards rushing in nine contests as BGSU had six different players earn All-MAC Honors, including three first-team members (Chris Jones, Gabe Martin, BooBoo Gates). Jones would go on to be named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
The 2012 defense would finish as the fourth-best third down defense in the nation, allowing a first down just 28.1 percent of the time. The Falcons’ fourth down defense was just as good, finishing fifth in the country at 26.3 percent. They would end the season ranked 11th in sacks (38), 12th in rushing defense (106.5), 13th in pass defense (190.1) and fifth in first downs allowed (15.1). All of this was accomplished with just two senior starters.
Prior to Bowling Green, Elko was the defensive coordinator at Hofstra for three seasons (2006-08). He coached the No. 1 passing defense in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2007, holding opponents to just 136.8 yards per game. Hofstra’s defense ranked 11th in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing defense and 15th in total defense in 2007.
Elko came to Hofstra after two seasons as recruiting coordinator, linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Richmond (2004-05). In 2005, the Spiders went 9-4, captured an Atlantic 10 Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. Elko helped Richmond rank 12th in the FCS in scoring defense (17.7 points per game) and 22nd in rushing defense (120.1 yards per game).
Elko served as the Fordham linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator for two years (2002-03). He coached a defense in 2002 that led the Patriot League in scoring defense (14th in the FCS). In 2003, the Rams led the league in pass defense.
Elko’s coaching experience includes time at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where he served as defensive coordinator and at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, directing the secondary. He began his coaching career at Stony Brook in 1999 where he guided the linebackers in the fall and the defensive backs in the spring.
Elko is a 1999 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in history. As a safety, he helped the Quakers to the 1998 Ivy League title.
Mike and his wife Michelle, have three children, Michael, Andrew and Kaitlyn.
|The Elko File|
|College||Pennsylvania (History, 1999)|
|Children||Michael, Andrew and Kaitlyn|
|1999||Stony Brook Graduate Assistant/Inside Linebackers|
|2000||Pennsylvania Assistant Defensive Backs|
|2001||US Merchant Marine Academy Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs|
|2003||Fordham Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2004||Richmond Recruiting Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2005||Richmond Special Teams Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator|
|2006||Hofstra Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs|
|2007||Hofstra Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2008||Hofstra Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/ Linebackers|
|2009||Bowling Green Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2010||Bowling Green Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2011||Bowling Green Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2012||Bowling Green Defensive Coordinator/Safeties|
|2013||Bowling Green Defensive Coordinator/Safeties|
|2014||Wake Forest Defensive Coordinator/Safeties|
|2015||Wake Forest Defensive Coordinator/Safeties|
|2016||Wake Forest Defensive Coordinator/Safeties|
|2002||NCAA Division I-AA Quarterfinals|
|2005||NCAA Division I-AA Quarterfinals|
|2013||Little Caesars Pizza Bowl|
Michael Bertsch, director of football media relations at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2006. An Akron, Ohio, native, he graduated from Walsh University (Ohio) in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and also received his master’s degree in health and physical education with an emphasis in sports administration from Marshall University in 2001.
— ND —