The 2003 Irish defense ranked 33rd nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 340.2 yards per contest. Notre Dame ranked 29th in the nation against the rush, surrendering only 127.2 yards per game, was among the nation's top 50 in pass defense (213.0 ypg). The Irish forced 28 opponent turnovers in 2003 (15 fumbles, 13 interceptions) and have forced a combined total of 61 opponent turnovers over Baer's first two seasons leading the Notre Dame defense.
In Baer's first season at Notre Dame, the 2002 Irish finished ninth in scoring defense (16.69), 10th in the nation in pass efficiency (98.24) and rushing defense (95.23), 13th in total defense (300.00) and 46th in passing defense (204.77).
Baer was also instrumental in coaching three All-Americans and two major award finalists in 2002. Cornerback Shane Walton was named a unanimous first-team All-American (the first since 1993 for the Irish) and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the nation's outstanding defensive player. Linebacker Courtney Watson was named a first-team All-American by ESPN.com and was a finalist for the Butkus Award given to the country's best linebacker. Cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press.
For his efforts, Baer was named a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation's most outstanding assistant coach, for the first time in his career.
Baer, who also coached the linebackers while at Stanford, came to the Cardinal in 1995 after serving as a defensive coordinator for 12 seasons at Arizona State, California and Utah State. In 2001, Baer's Cardinal defense led the Pac-10 in rushing defense for only the second time in school history. The Cardinal only gave up 109.6 yards per game on the ground that season.
While at Stanford, Baer coached some of the finest defensive players in school history, including recent graduates Riall Johnson, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals, and Willie Howard, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. Johnson, an outside linebacker, became the first player in Pac-10 history to lead the league in sacks in back-to-back seasons (1999-2000), while Howard, a defensive end, became only the fourth defensive lineman in school history to earn first-team all-Pac-10 honors in consecutive seasons. Other defensive greats who have played under Baer are inside linebacker Chris Draft, currently with the Atlanta Falcons, and DE Kailee Wong, a member of the Houston Texans.
Baer, who was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Arizona State for three seasons (1992-94) prior to coming to Stanford, is a 30-year veteran of the coaching ranks. He has coached at the University of California (1987-91), University of Idaho (1986), Utah State University (1977-85) and with the Yokosuka Seahawks (a United States Navy team) from 1973-76.
Baer coached for 14 years in the college ranks before joining Willingham's staff at Stanford; six at Utah State, five at California and three at Arizona State. His 1992 Sun Devils defense allowed just 268.8 yards per game and was ranked seventh in the nation. All-Americans Shante Carver, Craig Newsome and Brett Wallerstedt were all mainstays on Baer's Arizona State defense.
Prior to Arizona State, Baer was Cal's defensive coordinator for five seasons. He was part of a staff that led the Bears to a 17-6-1 record in 1990-91 with victories in the Copper Bowl (1990) and Citrus Bowl (1991). Baer helped lead Cal to a 10-2 record and a No. 8 national ranking in 1991.
In his one season at Idaho, Baer was the defensive coordinator for a Vandals team that went 8-4 and earned a berth in the NCAA Division 1-AA playoffs as part of a staff that included current Notre Dame offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.
At Utah State, Baer coached outside linebackers for six seasons (1977-82) before becoming the defensive coordinator and secondary coach for three years (1983-85). In two of his three years as defensive coordinator, the Aggies led the conference in total defense. Baer also brings an international coaching flavor to Notre Dame, having served as the head coach of the Yokosuka Seahawks (United States Navy) team in Japan for four years (1973-76) before returning to Utah State. While coaching in Japan, he was the athletics and recreation director for the entire United States Navy there, including the Seventh Fleet, with over 100 employees working under him. For the past 15 years, Baer has coached and coordinated the New Era Bowl in Nishinomiya, Japan. The game features two of the best Japanese college football teams from the Osaka area and 12 college players from the United States. Each team receives six players and two coaches from an American college team.
Baer was a standout linebacker at Utah State (1969-72), where he lettered four straight seasons. He broke the school record for tackles with 116 in 1972, a mark that stood for 10 years. He graduated in 1973 with a degree in physical education and recreation. Baer enjoyed a fine prep career at Sky View High School in Smithfield, Utah.
A native of Logan, Utah, Baer was born May 2, 1951. He has three sons: Brian, who was a graduate assistant coach at Stanford, Aaron James (A.J.) and Steven Blake. Brian received his master's degree in engineering in June of 2002. He and his wife, Kristen, and their daughter, one-year-old Alexandra, live in Logan, Utah.