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Swarbrick downplays conference uproar

Apr 8, 2010, 4:59 PM EDT

Three weeks ago, an impromptu media session with Jack Swarbrick in New York got plenty of people talking about Notre Dame and its football independence. Playing devil’s advocate, I countered some of Mike Coffey’s well-reasoned points about saying no to joining a conference.

Needless to say, it garnered quite a reaction, even eliciting a stand alone response from the guys at Her Loyal Sons, with their official reasons for Notre Dame football independence.

From Domer_mq:

  • Notre Dame must remain independent for the sake of separating ND
    from the interest of outside force, namely a conference, and
    particularly a conference that strives to affect the research and
    education mission of its member institutions.
  • Notre Dame must remain independent for the sake of ensuring that ND
    maintains its national identity, which conference membership would

Personally, I agree with the missives set by the guys, and I think most people both inside and outside the university probably do as well.

While the storm has eventually calmed, Jack Swarbrick took some time during the Final Four attempting to clarify his statements.

From USA Today:

Swarbrick says remarks he made in New York last
month were incorrectly interpreted. Asked then about staying
independent, he said a drastic shift in the college athletic landscape
could prompt him and the university’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins,
to “evaluate the landscape.”

That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal
that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big
Ten or any other league.

“The only things that could make it happen are
the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval
and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame,” he says. “You wind up
with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences.
Now, all of a sudden, it’s not three divisions in college; it’s four.
It’s the big change.

“I don’t see that happening.”

Alluding in part to a football television
contract with NBC that runs through 2015, Swarbrick says, “I really do
believe strongly that we’re sort of uniquely positioned to continue to
chart our own course.”

If we’ve seen anything in the past few years, it’s that college football’s popularity has seen the value of college football’s prestige properties — the SEC, the Big Ten — increase dramatically. With ESPN and the Big Ten Network deriving unseen revenues for universities public and private, it only makes sense that other schools will explore any option that helps their school collect some of the new found riches.

Notre Dame — regardless of how poorly they’ve played over the last 20 years — still retains its blue-chip value among college football programs, and there’s no reason to think that the Irish’s value hasn’t appreciated with the rest of college football. While Notre Dame’s TV contract with NBC runs until 2015, a football program on the rise behind Brian Kelly could be far more valuable come contract time than anything another conference could offer.

  1. Dennis - Apr 9, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    Even those who will support football independence to the death cannot deny that the economic model for college football TV contracts has raised the question of whether football independence is a viable strategy.
    The argument that we should stay independent for research/educational reasons is particularly hilarious to me considering that a move to the Big 10 would literally earn ND $20 mil more per year in TV revenue. I’d argue that ND can do more good in the research/academic arena with an extra $20mil/yr; at least enough good to outweigh the perils of shadowy Big 10 officials transforming the academic standards/mission of one of the most prestegious school’s in the nation.
    Despite the massive amount of revenue we could bring in by joining the Big 10, Swarbrick’s comments basically said that the incentive wasn’t enough UNLESS there is a seismic shift in the college football landscape. That seismic shift is clear: two (14-team) super conferences. If the Pac-10 adds Texas, Missou, Utah, and whoever and the Big 10 decides to add three teams, ND would be forced to join because 1) it would be their last chance, and 2) the economic incentive would be too great. But that’s the only way, therefore, people shouldn’t jump over Swarbrick for talking opening about the realities of today’s football economy.

  2. ugetwutuask4 - Apr 9, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Why wouldn’t ND be able to maintain it’s independance? I feel is only relevant if it pertains to “affecting us as a Natn’l Championship contender”, as B.K. stated. I know there are other forces driving this issue such as NCAA, TV deals, economic incentives and all that other b.s. that I could care less about. But at the end of the day I just want ND to remain what it’s been since I first visited South Bend for the first time back in 1991 and has always been dating back to Rockne and The Horsemen. I don’t enjoy change as much as I commend necessary improvement and strides; and what ND has done with things such as basketball conference affiliation, training table, facilities, so on and so forth I thought were great strides. That’s called making all the right moves in my opinion. It’s for the better of your student-athelete which in turn helps those who are making athletics at your university relevant whether it’s football, wrestling, fencing, etc. If ND has to make changes that would otherwise re-paint the painting B.K. has hanging in his office of the blue-collar Fighting Irish, than I think there would be seriouse cause for concern because it would be more about dollars and cents more so than anything else. I would hate having to playing strictly Big 11, Big 12, Big whatever teams only. The 7-4-1 schedule format and being able to play other teams in different conferences across the country at different sites year in year out is great for ND. No other university in the country has the gonads to do it. Whatever you do don’t sacrifice the core values, mission and or our sanctity of THE UND.
    Go Irish.

  3. TLNDMA - Apr 11, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    Something to think about, for these “super conference” proponents, is the last expansion of the ACC. How has that worked out for Miami, BC, and Va.Tech. By that I mean no matter who or how big the conference there will be one champion and only two teams playing for the championship, everyone else will be an also ran.
    If Missouri and Texas join the Big Ten, is that going to make Purdue and Indiana better teams? If Ohio St. plays Texas in the conference championship, only the winner will play for a national championship.
    There are 120 Div.1 teams, if 30 or 32 teams want to call themselves members of a super conference, they have that right. That doesn’t make it so. ND, Oklahoma, Nebraska, etc. are not going to stop playing big time football any time soon.

  4. TJH - Apr 14, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    What proponents of ND football independence need to understand is that about 25 years ago Notre Dame set itself on an aggressive course to become a “research” university. It is no longer the small, independent Catholic university of Rockne, Leahy, Ara or even Lou. To expect it to remain aloof to conference affiliation is a little like expecting it to recruit virtually all players from Catholic high schools, which was generally the case back in my student days.
    As is the case at most research universities in the Big 10 or the Ivy League, the Notre Dame graduate schools increasingly dominate the culture — and the budgets. In addition, an emphasis on various “Olympic” sports requires ever-expanding revenues from the football program. If Notre Dame decides to join a conference it will ultimately come down to money. Nostalgia for the past will give in to the reality of the present. As students we used to joke that the CSC of Fr. Ted Hesburgh,CSC stood for “come sweet cash.”

  5. terry - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:53 AM

    A few weeks ago there was an article here that stated that ND had already joined the Big 10. It was only up for a little while and then disappeared – never to be seen again.
    50 years ago Notre Dame was the place to which 1st and 2nd generation Catholic – and perhaps even non-Catholic – immigrants would send their children for a good education and a start up the ladder of success, all in a good Catholic environment. 50 years on the quality of the education remains but the ‘Catholic’ part of it is but a thin shell. The increasing secularization of the University, of which last spring’s little show was simply the latest installment, has made sure of that. And we won’t even bring up the skyrocketing tuition which effectively prevents virtually all lower to middle class students from coming.
    I personally would hate to see Notre Dame join a conference, but if she eventually does, among all the prattling about this and that reason will be the unsubtle sound of “ka-ching.”

  6. go irish 2887 - Apr 19, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    you should check out our Notre Dame facebook fan page for discussion this.

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