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Swarbrick pumps brakes on Big 12 talks

Jun 20, 2012, 8:33 PM EDT

Jack Swarbrick

With news that the conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick plan to present a four-team playoff plan to universities presidents in the coming days, a new rumor surfaced earlier today from’s Chip Brown that is once again is connecting Notre Dame with the Big 12.

In Brown’s latest (and not the first time Brown has tried connecting Notre Dame with the conference) he reports growing speculation that the Irish might move their Olympic sports (read: Not football) to the Big 12, in exchange for a seasonal slate of football games.

Here’s the juicy bit from the article:

Speculation is growing among those sources that an announcement could come from South Bend before the end of the summer.

As part of such a move, Notre Dame, which has a contract with NBC to televise its home football games through the 2015 season, would agree to play up to six football games against Big 12 competition (but most likely three or so to start with), sources tell

Notre Dame would maintain its independence in football … for now. If the Irish ever felt compelled to join a conference in football, the Big 12 would be ready and waiting for them. The trusted relationship between Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick can not be underestimated if such a move transpires.

Notre Dame’s explanation to the Big East would be that the Big East is no longer the conference the Irish joined as a non-football member back in 1995, the sources said. Since the Irish joined, the Big East has seen Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College leave with Syracuse and Pittsburgh planning to join the ACC in two years.

Swarbrick, who has had a busy few days between college football meetings in Chicago and extending basketball coach Mike Brey to a new ten-year deal, was quick to refute any new developments between Notre Dame and the Big 12, a conference where he’s got plenty of allies with new commission Bob Bowlsby and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds.

Thankfully, the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton was on the spot and asked Swarbrick about the situation. His response was pretty clear:

“I have no idea what prompted that,” Swarbrick said. “It is not based on any discusson, any meeting we have done…

“I can’t imagine what triggered the account, because I did see it. There was no conversation, no ‘something’ that would cause it to be written.”

Swarbrick said that could be considered an official denial that there would be, say, a news conference about conference affiliation in coming months. As always, though, there was some wiggle room left should the Big East disintegrate.

“I’ve said all along that there were three important factors for us,” Swarbrick said. “One was the resolution of postseason football, which we are closer to. One is a resolution of our media relationship, which we are in the homestretch of.

“The third is related to the stability of the Big East, which we get more information on eveyr day. In that sense, pieces of that are starting to fall into place, and that will put us in a time and place where we probbaly take a look at it and decide what we’re doing.”

I’ve purposely steered clear of most conference realignment talk because so much of what’s out there is strictly posturing or a smoke screen. Swarbrick, who has been put in charge of a pretty unenviable situation, has done an amazing job cutting through the rumors and holding strong with Notre Dame’s preference for independence in football.

From the looks of it, he’s accomplished what he set out to do with these playoff discussions: Keep Notre Dame in the running for a championship and also keep them independent in football.


  1. crturner84 - Jun 20, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    If the irish do join a conference hopefully its the big 10. I would hate to see the rivalries we have go to every other year or completely scratched.

  2. gtizzo - Jun 20, 2012 at 9:25 PM

    Keith I think your making a mistake,

    I would be very interested to read your thoughts on ND and conference realignment as a whole. Mostly because you thoughts carry more weight with me personally then most other sports writers or media people. I would be willing to go out on a limb and bet most people who visit this site feel the same.
    My thoughts on conference realignment this thing is a total shame. Conference realignment is a BCS fix. Consider: If there are 4-16 team super conferences the BCS would only need minor modification. First it would eliminate the ND rule which most media outlets (not including Keith Arnold) would love. Second a third team from each conference would have to be allowed into the BCS (I’ll explain) along with 2 more additional at large bids. Third with 16 teams in a conference TV would require a 10 game conference schedule which would eliminate out of conference games. Making strength of schedule much easier to assign a value. Let me explain the second reason with 4 super conference there would 4 winners and 4 second place teams (team that won and lost the conference title games). The first two conference winners would play in the BCS title game (determined by BCS standing). The second two conference champs would play in the rose bowl (Big Ten and Pac-10 would give up there current rights to the rose bowl for more lucrative bowl bids overall). The next three would be given to the highest ranked conference teams and highest ranked among the championship game losers to the BCS. The additional at large bids and and third team would cover any strange situation that my arise. This would eliminate most debate because conference play would handle most of the problem. “BCS busters” wouldn’t even be a worry because they wouldn’t exist. As long as the two teams playing in the title game are conference winners, fans would have very little to complain about. BCS Fixed.

  3. gtizzo - Jun 20, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    I think I”m over by 1 on my at large bids but the point is still valid.

    • nudeman - Jun 20, 2012 at 10:34 PM

      And you’re under by about 5 on the “paragraph” concept

      Dude … come on. Make it readable

      • gtizzo - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:20 AM

        Consider one unreadable paragraph keeping it low key. I could right a 2,000 word essay with quotes from BCS officals that prove this “playoff” is nothing more then a joke.

    • nudeman - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      “I could right a 2,000 word essay … ”

      Please don’t.


      • 1historian - Jun 23, 2012 at 8:22 AM

        “I could right a 2,000 word essay.”

        Ain’t gonna happen.

        You might be able to WRITE a 2,000 word essay, though.

        Didn’t they teach you proper english?

  4. 9irish - Jun 20, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    I don’t know. Very complicated as far as ND regards football and everything else in two different veins. And I don’t follow all this conference realignment very diligently…what a madhouse, powergrab. The biggest risk is that ND could effectively be “locked out” if these power conferences ever came to be (doesn’t seem to be going so well, however).

    Football wise, I don’t ever want to see the Irish part of a conference, until they HAVE to, for whatever reason. I think that the Big Ten has always been the most logical place to go if it ever came to that. Conferences, back in the day, were REGIONAL, and that’s where ND fits in….always 3 or 4 games in the Big Ten already anyway. Not advocating that, but it would seem best if it had to be done.

    • 9irish - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      eh…I knew I would draw flak over that one! Need to get back in the NC race all the time, everything will become a moot point. Point I was making, the thought of ND joining a conference is appalling, joining one that is far out in the hinterland is ridiculous.

    • 1historian - Jun 23, 2012 at 8:18 AM

      “ND regards football and everything else in 2 different veins.”

      Precisely the point, and it is worth pointing out that we DO because we are the only ones who CAN.

      Whether we be poor, mediocre or terrific, there is only one Notre Dame, and EVERYBODY knows it. I agree with you that the thought of ND joining a FB conference is appalling – It makes no sense at all.

      • nudeman - Jun 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM

        Yes, but it might ultimately be a reality someday. If you look at the trend:
        – 15 years ago you’d have said no way. In fact there was zero discussion of it.
        – ~8-10 years ago they almost joined the Big 10 (supposedly)
        – Now, all you hear is blather about 4 16 team mega-conferences.

        Everything seems to be trending that way. I’m like you and hope it never happens. And if it does happen, it would be better if they could from their own conference of academic-elite schools. But there aren’t enough of them to go around who 1) have big time football programs; and 2) would be willing to leave where they’re at

        So if I had to guess, I’d say within the next 5-10 years their hand will be forced. ACC, Big 12, Other? Don’t know. But that’s where this is all headed.

  5. cgunnip - Jun 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Swarbrick for POTUS

  6. bearcatirishfan - Jun 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    Only problem is the big 10 stinks at football now in my opinion. I mean really who did Michigan actually beat last year that was any good ND included. OSU was even way down.

  7. 25kgold - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    Notre Dame will NEVER need to join a conference! It’s the other conferences that are gold struck over ND… All real fans know this. The fact of the matter is college football needs this institution to stand alone. The Dome represents independence and legacy! Go Irish!!!!

  8. brazilianirish - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    Years ago, Big 10 was more palatable… Now, with the Legends and Leaders divisions – oh thing – that would be agonizing. We must defend our independence.

  9. don74 - Jun 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Come Saturday’s in the fall, regardless of the year, ND will have 11 guys on the field playing college football. I know I will be watching regardless of the opponent or the stakes. The fun of CFB has always been the regional, alumni and student quirkiness. Manufacturing conferences as a money grab is a reflection of our economic system, nothing more.

    Will an 8 team playoff be more interesting than a 4 team playoff? Personally I do not care. I watch the NFL with playoff system and what I see is the team playing best in January has the best chance to win. CFB is the only sport that has left value in the season. September’s Navy and Purdue game are as important as November’s SC game. A case could be made that a loss to either in September would be worse than a close loss to the expected NC in November.

    Swarbrick is a smart guy as are most of the other conference leaders and AD’s. As much as they want a playoff whatever they do will be less than what most of the fans think should be done. Rather than ask the AD’s about the direction of CFB ask T Bone Pickens, Phil Knight and other benefactors of major programs about their desires. That’s where the real control lies.

  10. tpdsdomer - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Kudos to Jack Swarbrick for keeping Notre Dame football independent! With him in the forefront in announcing the new college football playoff system and giving it his blessing, that tells me that the new system will allow for Notre Dame to keep its cherished football independence, be eligible to play in a national championship game if worthy (someday, I hope…) and keep its television contract with NBC.

    Congratulations, Mr. Swarbrick for doing an amazing job of protecting Notre Dame’s interests!! GO IRISH!!!

  11. 25kgold - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Two things that will save our butts from having to join a conference:

    1)Keep the schedule tough! (Like this year; the tougher the better)

    2)Get better, quick!!!!! Winning is the secret sauce!

    They’ll always be top tier schools that will love to schedule ND for a non-conference game. BK has us on track to be back where we were in the Holtz days…Actually, I believe we’ll be better than those days when he gets all “his players” in. If we have the toughest schedule on the planet and we’re winning again, everyone can shut their mouths at that point! If we don’t win, these walls known as the FBS will close in on us fast. The pieces of the puzzle are set for 2012, we have to make this year count!

    • 9irish - Jun 21, 2012 at 8:57 PM

      You hit the nail on the head with #2. Our special status comes from years of winning. Don’t want to have to fall in with the rank and file.

  12. klownboy - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    My hunch is the Irish will join the ACC. ND is an east coast-minded school (just ask the alumni), and is big on academics. Plus ND knows they have a better shot of winning the ACC than any other football conference…

  13. centereligible - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    If the FCS can run an ever expanding playoff now at 24 teams, it is ridiculous the 1A schools can not manage a bowl/playoff system starting with 16 teams.

    Simply put: 4 regions of about 30 teams. Top 4 teams in each region by some ranking. 1’s vs 4’s, 2′ vs 3’s with 1’s and 2’s getting first round home games or bowls located in the region of the higher seeds, whatever. Get some of those Southern schools playing an early December game in the North.

    Avoid intra-regional matchups as much as possible in future rounds.

    Avoid the Alabama (conqueror of Kent State, Ga. Southern, Ole Miss and North Texas last fall) versus LSU based on some mystery formula. If they win 3 games to play each other in the final, so be it.

    By the way, FCS Champ ND State beat Ga. Southern by a wider margin than did Alabama.

  14. martyks55 - Jun 22, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    I love the idea of Notre Dame joining the Big Twelve in Olympic sports instead of the Big Ten and playing a number of football games against Big Twelve teams. Imagine the Notre Dame vs Texas football game happening regularly. Now also imagine ND playing other Texas teams much more often. What do you think that would do for recruiting out of that state?
    Playing Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. in basketball would be awesome too. This means ND would have a chance to come to Allen Field House, the mecca of college basketball arenas. No reason to stop playing Big Ten teams anyway. They are not looking for ND to join them in the conference and would, I would think, not have any problem continuing to play ND in any sport should ND affiliate themselves with the Big Twelve. This is all win/win. I hope ND maintains its independence in football. This is a perfect way to do that.

  15. poppyitis - Jun 22, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    When an article like this appears and they use the word ‘sources’, you know right away that it carries no authority as to being ‘TRUE’. News must be slow now to have sport’s writers dream up or should I say ‘stir up’ articles. NO TRUTH IN THE ARTICLE…. ND ‘WILL NOT, I SAY WILL NOT ‘ join any of the PRESENT conference configurations. PERIOD. Gtizzo is on the right track. Conferences are still in FLUX . Under the present conference arrangements there is no way to have a ‘honest’ play off’. TOO MUCH FAVORITISM AND PREJUDICES AND RESENTMENT as to how the teams are selected. We are headed, right or wrong,. into some sort of configuration that parallels the present NFL and AFL arrangement.

  16. harleyspoon - Jun 22, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    The ACC offers nothing signficant to Notre Dame–even as an associate member (non-football member) given that Florida State and Clemson (and maybe even Miami and Georgia Tech) will–much more than likely–be leaving for greener pastures. All this business about “regional” and “best fit” has nothing to do with reality of the current situation, especially given that Notre Dame will remain in football independent status as long as possible and feasible.

    The Big10 doesn’t offer ND much either. ND fills stadiums no matter who they are playing or where they are playing and all Catholic eyes are always on them in their dens, beer joints & bingo parlors…There should be a song similar to the “Eyes of Texas Are Upon You”…Maybe “THE EYES OF CATHOLICS ARE UPON YOU, ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY..THE EYES OF CATHOLICS ARE UPON YOU…YOU CANNOT GET AWAY…DO NOT THINK YOU CAN ESCAPE THEM FROM DAWN TIL EARLY IN THE MORN, THE EYES OF CATHOLICS ARE UPON YOU TIL GABRIEL BLOWS HIS HORN”…to the tune of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad”…

    Several years ago I went to San Antonio to watch Notre Dame and Washington State play in the AlamoDome…Here were two schools from halfway across the US away from San Antone (one team from the Great Northwest and the other team from the Midewest tundra) but the AlamoDone was crammed full and the crowd was raucous…

    Notre Dame is the only true “national” college football program. That won’t change regardless of what ND does with football regarding independence or conference alignment. What does have a major bearing on the issue is that the BIG12 and the SEC will soon have a “partnership” similar to what the PAC and the Big10 have…and they already have a SEC-BIG12 Championship Bowl settled. That is an alignment of the best two football conferences in college football today…Affiliating with the BIG12 now has a much bigger meaning…even if ND remains FB independent.

    There will come a time when football fans are going to demand a real national championship playoff amongst four, six or eight conference champs so that such things as the replay of LSU-Alabama won’t occur…Have you seen the audience ratings for that game? They were the lowest since the BCS became the means to determining a national champ!

    Regarding 12 or 14 teams in a conference and scheduling, the SEC has determined that each school will play all the teams in their division and only two or three (?) teams in the other division (on a seasonal rotating basis)…That is so that they can have a fair number of non-conference teams on their 12 game regular season schedule. That refutes the argument that a team in a 12 or 14 team conference won’t be able to play a representative non-conference schedule…ND (as a football member) could still play SC or Navy or Michigan, Stanford, etc., every year or every other year or once every three years…whatever…

  17. 25kgold - Jun 22, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Interesting thought for food:

  18. thefiesty1 - Jun 23, 2012 at 11:51 PM

    Why is DeLost Dodds the kingpin in all the expansion and playoff discussion? He’s just an AD, not even a conference commissioner. Who cares what he thinks or does? Let’s get to people who matter in these discussions.

  19. barneysbullet - Jun 24, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    “Hello? Keith…? Anyone home?”

    (shrug shoulders as I walk off of Keith’s virtual front porch)

    “It’s been four days since the last post…” πŸ˜‰

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