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For Swarbrick, Independence helps tell the Notre Dame story

Jul 31, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT

Jack Swarbrick,Kevin Plank AP

With fall right around the corner and the university beginning classes in less than a month, Notre Dame football — and all fall sports — are right around the corner. That means that summer break is over (if there was one), for athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

The man in charge of Notre Dame sports was on SiriusXM radio’s College Sports Nation with former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy and Taylor Zarzour. While there was nothing particularly news breaking, Swarbrick gave a nice rundown of the state of Notre Dame football, as the Irish enter their first year of scheduling with the ACC.

When asked to step back and look at the changes of the past few years, Swarbrick feels good about where Notre Dame ended up: Independent in football (though with an affiliation with the ACC) and a full member in all other sports.

“It was always our goal to maintain football independence, but in a world that was pretty unsettled about a year ago, to find a home for our other sports that made great sense, and the ACC certainly does that,” Swarbrick told SiriusXM. “Georgraphically, it works for us. Culturally, it’s a great fit for us… And competitively, it’s been great for our kids.”

While football has been the primary driver of all things college sports, Notre Dame’s finish in the Capital One Cup, where the men won for the first time, was impressive. Notre Dame finished third in the Director’s Cup, the highest finish in school history in the 20-sport mens and womens competition. Notre Dame’s inclusion in the ACC, a conference top-to-bottom stronger than the Big East was, was certainly a driver for achievement.

From there, Swarbrick talked a little bit about some of the big picture items that the athletic director has discussed countless times over the past few years. While nothing in his comments were particularly new, a few of the talking points were worth repeating.

(Just because you’ve heard every song the Boss sings 100 times, doesn’t make the concert any less popular…)

Here’s Swarbrick on the school’s continued push to play a national schedule and pursue and align with big-time partners (Under Armour, NBC) as Notre Dame continues to cherish its independence and national reach.

“A brilliant guy, our first full-time coach here, Jesse Harper, really set the model for us back in 1913, when he decided that Notre Dame would be the first team to schedule nationally. He really saw it as an opportunity to talk about Notre Dame, to promote the university, so that’s always been our model.

“The importance of the NBC partnership, the football independence, or Under Armour, it’s nothing to do with any direct or immediate impact, but has to do with the platform that it gives us to run the university. We couldn’t be more excited about Under Armour as a partner in that regard. They’re growing like crazy, they have a special place with the younger demographic in this country, and they help us tell the Notre Dame story.”

Here, Swarbrick talks about the continued 6-5-1 scheduling model, which allows Notre Dame to play in 12 of the 13 biggest cities in America over a five year period.

“Our model every year is to make sure we are home for six and to take one game to a neutral site, and we’ve been fortunate,” Swarbrick said. “We’re also fortunate that our opponents help us get to some of those places. Our games against Syracuse are going to be in the Meadowlands, Navy takes us all around the country. Those games are great for us. In a five year period, we will play in 12 of the 13 largest cities in the United States. And again, that’s really good for us to be able to talk about Notre Dame.”

Here’s his take on where conference realignment currently sits. With TV contracts and the playoff set for the next decade, things seem fairly stable. But that doesn’t mean Notre Dame’s going to remain independent at all costs.

“Fortunately, I think that world has settled down. I think we went through a period where there was sort of wholesale movements. I think we’re probably going to go through about a decade here… I think that’s going to produce a real period of stability. Our goal is to maintain independence. But you never say never. It’s not that we prefer to ever pursue an alternative, but you could imagine further changes down the road, as people project further consolidation of conferences. I don’t think that’s going to happen, at least not during my professional career, but that’s the only way we’d do it.

“It has nothing to do with football. We’d have a lot easier route to the national championship through a conference and  becoming a conference champion, but that just doesn’t do for the university what we’re committed to do for it. So right now, that’s the balance we strike and it works well for us.”

Swarbrick’s belief in the College Football Playoff is strong. As someone whose fingerprints are all over it, that’s not surprising. He also believes in the selection committee, and understands that for Notre Dame to make the four-team playoff, they need to play an elite schedule.

“I have great faith in the selection process that’s been set up. It’s an extraordinary committee. Having been part of the management committee for the College Football Playoff, I’ve gotten to help shape that process and have enormous confidence in it. But it’s incumbent on me the AD, that our schedule, if we navigate it, ensures that we’re in that discussion. Not having the conference championship game, having one less game, places a premium on making our schedule as challenging as we can.”

Lastly, it wouldn’t be an interview without a Brian Kelly to the NFL question. Here’s where Swarbrick came out on that. A healthy response to be sure.

“We couldn’t be happier with Brian. Brian had a special challenge when he came here. Our program was broken. So it wasn’t about just bringing in another coach who ran a different offense, we had to rebuild it from the ground up. Strength and conditioning, nutrition, recruiting. And he has built that. So now we’re operating off a much more stable platform as a really good program. There’s a much bigger problem than having a coach who attracts interest from the NFL, it’s having a coach who doesn’t attract interest from the NFL. So I’ll take that success problem every day.”

Good stuff from Zarzour and McElroy, who professed a great appreciation of Notre Dame football, attending a game as a youngster and loving the movie Rudy. (Of course he does…)


  1. irishinmich - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    Yeah johngaltistrolling, we know Swarbrick couldn’t cut it in the SEC. We also remember Bama rolling two years ago in The Title Game. Now go do something productive with all that time I just saved you.

    • rayalarayala - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      I am so excited to see all these Notre Dame fans. This is like paradise. Go Irish!!!!! You are the best!!!!

  2. subalum - Jul 31, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Johngalt can now go upstairs and make his mom meatloaf instead of her making it for him. His mother thanks you.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 31, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      “Mom, the meatloaf. I never know what she’s doing back there.”

  3. dickasman - Jul 31, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    I like everything swarbrick has done but I wish we hadn’t cut a deal w low class brand such as dirty underweararmor.

    • rayalarayala - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      I just saw the latest Notre Dame sports memorabilia catalog with the spiffy new UA apparel and it is AAAWWWWEsome!!!!!

  4. johngaltisspeaking - Jul 31, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    The mighty SEC wins even without Swarbrick… How can that be ?

  5. irishlad19 - Jul 31, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Love his comment about wanting a coach who attracts NFL interest rather than one who doesn’t.
    Swarbrick has done a really outstanding job as ND’s AD.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 31, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      Agree, it’s really a first world type of problem to have.

      • irishlad19 - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:03 PM

        Bk will probably stay at ND until he wins big, consistently, and wants another challenge–or, like Lou Holtz, he crosses swords with a new AD.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 31, 2014 at 8:32 PM

        Thats funny I think he is gone after this year…

      • rayalarayala - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Notre Dame is THE biggest stage in the world, so I think personnel and players stay as long as possible. Don’t leave without your diploma, knowledge, and experiences. It’s like a framily.

  6. fnc111 - Jul 31, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    I don’t get the so called NFL interest. Stanford owns Kelly and he can’t even beat crappy michigan teams. I think one team showed interest(Eagles) a couple of years ago because their first choice, Chip Kelly, seemed at the time to be staying in the college ranks and the miracle 12-1 season had Brian Kelly in the news.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:27 AM

      Ucla and Stanford both own notre Dame. Brian k is no better than kiffen or hoke.

      • 31sorin - Aug 1, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        UCLA? Really?

  7. ndlol - Aug 9, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    The only thing ND has in common with the east coast is the time zone. But this tool from yonkers explains why the only two conferences they considered was the big east and acc. Northwestern is NDs equal acedemic wise and competes, but the legends of the past, notre dame, is afraid to play against the competition in their back yard. Enjoy the acc….btw rumor is FSU was trying to gain the same education level status that nebraska has to gain access to the big ten. Ill bet nd only wins 6 games this year, arrogance doesnt translate to wins.

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