Jack Swarbrick

Shamrock Fenway
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Swarbrick talks improvements to Shamrock Series opponents

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Notre Dame is taking 2017 off from the Shamrock Series. When it comes back, expect to see an improvement in opponents.

With the remodeled Notre Dame Stadium set to be finished in 2017, playing seven home games is a natural fit. But with the neutral-site series set to return in 2018, athletic director Jack Swarbrick has grand plans for improving the series that’s taken the Irish to some iconic venues, but has lacked much punch when it comes to high-profile opponents.

Speaking exclusively with Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated, Swarbrick laid out some grand plans for the revitalization of the game.

“When the opponent and the venue and the place all contribute to the story, that’s when it works the best,” Swarbrick told Irish Illustrated. “I still want to maintain that. The difference will be that many more of them now will be led by the opponent.

“Now it can be, ‘I got this opponent.’ Now where can we go with them that works with what we’re trying to do?”

With Notre Dame returning to San Antonio for the second time in the Shamrock Series and repeating an opponent with Army as well, it’s clear that this year’s game checked off some other boxes when it got decided. Swarbrick acknowledged some of the restrictions that have held him back, with the reboot of Notre Dame’s schedule with five ACC games and other television considerations really limiting the team’s options.

“What we’ve been able to do in the Shamrock Series to this point is limit ourselves to games we already had scheduled that we would move,” Swarbrick told Sampson. “It was a very small range of people that we could do these deals without getting into television conflicts. With more lead time we have the runway we need to make these games, the three pieces of it – geography, venue and opponent – come together a little bit more.”

Rumors of new venues aren’t new. Brian Kelly has discussed Lambeau Field before. There’s been talk of a game in Rome. And rumblings of Michigan’s return to the schedule won’t go away.

Just recently Kelly tweeted out a picture from another venue that wouldn’t be too shabby.

But there’s an opening for another step forward for the program and Swarbrick is the right man to lead the change. He’s already led the Irish athletic department through a move to the ACC and helped navigate the “seismic changes” that resulted in the College Football Playoff. With the ambitious Campus Crossroads project near complete this seems like a perfect next project for the head of Irish athletics to take on.

 

Kelly reiterates stance on staying put at Notre Dame

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In what is fast becoming an annual rite of winter, Brian Kelly has once again explained why he’s not interested in going to the NFL. Notre Dame’s head football coach, who just wrapped up his sixth season in South Bend, was asked the inevitable question about coaching at the game’s highest level.

Irish 247’s Nick Ironside caught Kelly’s comments on a Monday afternoon SportsCenter where Notre Dame’s head coach once again explained why he plans on staying in the college game.

“I really feel like I’m at the level,” Kelly said, according to Irish247. “I know the NFL gets that notoriety because it’s professional sports, but it doesn’t mean necessarily it has it right in all facets. I think college football has it right for me, because for me it’s coach centric where I control the scholarships. I control the roster. Not that I’m a control freak, but this is my 25th year as a head coach.

“So doing it for so long, I like to be able to know what’s going on in the front office. Those are my biggest concerns sometimes. There’s so much turnover in the NFL. There’s the lack of continuity. In every great business there has to be some change, but continuity is important and I’ve always liked the continuity. And at Notre Dame we’ve got great structure. Great continuity. Great athletic director. Great president. So that’s why there’s no need to go chase anything else. I’m in a great situation at Notre Dame.”

Kelly’s comments are similar to the ones he made in the lead-up to the Fiesta Bowl—and closely mirror what Urban Meyer said during the same time period when Ohio State’s head coach acknowledged receiving a phone call from an interested NFL team but said no thanks. It’s also a reflection on the realities of today’s coaching world, where the money, power and autonomy in college sports is second to none.

Kelly’s declaration won’t please everybody who still think back to the head coach’s conversations with the Philadelphia Eagles after the Irish played for the BCS title. But they do likely eliminates any questions about the relationship between Kelly and his bosses.

For as long as Notre Dame has had a head football coach, there’s been rumblings about his relationship with the athletic director or the university president. With Rev. John Jenkins engaged (and part of the ongoing battle to support the amateur model in college athletics) and Jack Swarbrick among the best in the business, Notre Dame may not have some of the advantages that come at football-first schools like Alabama, but Kelly certainly has support from above that didn’t always exist the last few decades.

Swarbrick’s not ready to talk about 13th game

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After watching TCU and Baylor get jumped by Ohio State after the Buckeyes rolled Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, Big 12 conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby openly wondered if his conference was hurt because it didn’t have a 13th game.

That worry—and the fact that the Big 12 is now likely pursuing legislation that would allow such an event to take place—has Notre Dame fans wondering about their place in the postseason, if the Irish get into a beauty pageant for one of the final spots in the four-team playoff.

Some Irish fans wonder if the lack of championship game means Notre Dame will eventually become full members in the ACC. Some are campaigning for an annual faceoff with Hawaii (sign me up).

And Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has heard all the concerns. He spoke with ESPN’s Heather Dinich about the situation, not exactly worried about the future implications.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of letters I get from fans with proposals on how to get a 13th game,” Swarbrick told ESPN from the College Football Playoff spring meetings. “It’s just crazy. All of them have one common feature about them: There’s not a chance in hell the other school or conference would be willing to do it. Honest to goodness, I get the most creative letters on this topic; it’s crazy.”

At a time of year where little topics have no choice but to become big stories, the worry of exclusion is now the topic de jour, finding a root in Irish fans deepest worry—being stuck on the outside looking in if Notre Dame happens to have one less victory than other CFB Playoff contenders.

Not surprisingly, Swarbrick takes the long view on the subject. It’s no surprise that one of the principal architects of the CFB Playoff isn’t ready to jump to any conclusions after the first season of the wildly successful format.

“It’s not that there’s a 13th game,” Swarbrick explained. “It’s always going to be against a really good opponent. It’s the conference championship game. It’s not the aggregate number, it’s who you’re playing.

“There are going to be years where a team looks like they’re going to get in and gets upset in their conference championship game and they don’t get in. Did the 13th game help them? No. I’m not saying that’s a reason to do it or not do it, I’m just saying one year’s worth of experience with this system is way too small to draw any conclusions about how it will play out over time.”

 

Both Swarbrick and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talk about scheduling often, acknowledging Irish independence as a major reason why Notre Dame doesn’t hide from playing one of the most challenging schedules in the nation. So while Big 12 fans point to the last weekend of the season, they should be just as likely to question some of the cupcake non-conference games both teams scheduled.

With playoff hopes sky high for Notre Dame in 2015, a schedule that features an opening stretch against Texas, Virginia and Georgia Tech, and also has the Irish facing off with Clemson, USC and Stanford shouldn’t be much of a worry.

As Swarbrick is all but saying, win the football games and the rest will take care of itself.

Kelly hits the recruiting trail to bring back Stanley and Day

Notre Dame v Syracuse
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Say this for Brian Kelly. He learns from his mistakes.

And after losing Stephon Tuitt and Troy Niklas after just three seasons in South Bend, Notre Dame’s head coach made sure he had a final say before Ronnie Stanley and Sheldon Day made their stay-or-go decision.

Kelly hit the road over winter break to make sure his best two seniors understood how badly the Irish coaching staff wanted them to return next season, and — just as important — how it would be in their best interest to do so.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman has more, including quotes from Kelly on the recruiting trips the Irish head coach — and a caravan including assistant coaches and athletic director Jack Swarbrick — took to both Stanley and Day’s homes.

“I’ve had great success keeping Michael Floyd here, keeping Tyler Eifert here, keeping Manti Te’o here and then last year I was disappointed about one of our players not staying,” Kelly told Fox Sports. “I was not going to leave it up to fate anymore that somebody would understand from my perspective that you should stay for these reasons. I was gonna get on the road and make sure we did this.”

For Stanley, that meant bringing Harry Hiestand to Las Vegas and connecting the junior offensive tackle with Dallas Cowboys All-Pro rookie Zack Martin. It also meant bringing an academic advisor along to help better understand the timing of things like OTAs and an academic plan that’ll have him ready for graduation after next season.

For Day, it meant a visit from Mike Elston and Paul Longo. It also meant an apples to apples comparison with former Pitt star Aaron Donald, who Irish fans have already deemed the optimal prototype for the undersized defensive tackle.

“Our strength coach was with us on that one because we wanted to look at some numbers from the Combine that we wanted to make him aware of,” said Kelly. “We felt like we wanted to get him into (former Pitt All-American) Aaron Donald’s numbers. It was, ‘Right now let’s say four teams really like you. If you start hitting these physical numbers, we think 20 teams are gonna really like you, and that’s the net benefit for you.'”

More important than any sales pitch was another option Notre Dame was offering. An insurance policy the university would pay for that would cover any loss of value, a commitment that Swarbrick himself gave to both players.

At a school that’s promoting a 40-year decision, adding success stories like Stanley and Day is crucial to the recruiting message to other elite prospects hoping to have the chance to play at the next level. Adding an All-American like Stanley to the “Notre Dame graduate” list continues to separate the Irish from other programs that look more like football factories.

On the field, bringing back this duo is just as critical. After seeing holes in the depth chart after early departures ripped some key building blocks off the 2014 roster, hitting the road and protecting his own roster is just as key to building the 2015 team as finishing the recruiting class strong.

Do yourself a favor and read Feldman’s complete story here.

Future ACC schedules come into focus

Jack Swarbrick
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With Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement in place with the ACC, Jack Swarbrick and the Irish athletic department can find some certainty in their future slates. That certainty was announced Tuesday, with dates for five ACC games in place through 2019 and matchups set through 2025.

While we already knew the 2014-16 schedule, locking into place matchups through 2025 allows Notre Dame’s athletic department to begin hunting down new opponents — and hopefully bringing back some old ones — as scheduling in the playoff era takes shape.

“Nine additional seasons of games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents again adds both variety and quality to future University of Notre Dame football schedules,” Swarbrick said in a statement.

The Irish will average five ACC games over these years, with four games played in 2014, 2022 and 2024 and six games in 2015, 2019 and 2023. Four programs that have never played in Notre Dame Stadium will visit, with Louisville set for later this year, North Carolina State visiting in 2017, Virginia in 2018 and Virginia Tech in 2016. The Irish will also make their first visits to those campuses, and return to Clemson, Duke and Wake Forest, places they’ve only played once.

In 2015, Notre Dame’s new scheduling arrangement will be the first year in a century to not have a Big Ten team on the slate, with the conference reappearing in 2016 against Michigan State. The Irish will instead welcome Texas to the schedule in back to back seasons, followed by a two-game series in 2017 and 2019 with Georgia.

Here are the ACC dates moving forward:

 

2014

  1. Notre Dame vs. Syracuse at MetLife Stadium (Sept. 27) *
  2. North Carolina at Notre Dame (Oct. 11)
  3. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)
  4. Louisville at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)

2015

  1. Notre Dame at Virginia (Sept. 12)
  2. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame (Sept. 19)
  3. Notre Dame at Clemson (Oct. 3)
  4. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Nov. 7)
  5. Wake Forest at Notre Dame (Nov. 14)
  6. Notre Dame vs. Boston College at Fenway Park (Nov. 21) @

2016

  1. Duke at Notre Dame (Sept. 24)
  2. Notre Dame vs. Syracuse at MetLife Stadium (Oct. 1) *
  3. Notre Dame at North Carolina State (Oct. 8)
  4. Miami at Notre Dame (Oct. 29)
  5. Virginia Tech at Notre Dame (Nov. 19)

2017

  1. Notre Dame at Boston College (Sept. 16)
  2. Notre Dame at North Carolina (Oct. 7)
  3. North Carolina State at Notre Dame (Oct. 28)
  4. Wake Forest at Notre Dame (Nov. 4)
  5. Notre Dame at Miami (Nov. 11)

2018

  1. Syracuse at Notre Dame (Sept. 22)
  2. Notre Dame at Virginia Tech (Oct. 13)
  3. Pittsburgh at Notre Dame (Oct. 20)
  4. Florida State at Notre Dame (Nov. 10)
  5. Notre Dame at Wake Forest (Nov. 17)

2019

  1. Notre Dame at Louisville (Sept. 2/Labor Day)
  2. Virginia at Notre Dame (Sept. 28)
  3. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech (Oct. 19)
  4. Virginia Tech at Notre Dame (Nov. 2)
  5. Notre Dame at Duke (Nov. 9)
  6. Boston College at Notre Dame (Nov. 23) 

2020

  1. Notre Dame at Wake Forest
  2. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh
  3. Duke at Notre Dame
  4. Clemson at Notre Dame
  5. Louisville at Notre Dame

2021

  1. Notre Dame at Florida State (Sept. 6/Labor Day)
  2. Notre Dame at Virginia Tech
  3. North Carolina at Notre Dame
  4. Notre Dame at Virginia
  5. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

2022

  1. Notre Dame at North Carolina
  2. Notre Dame at Syracuse
  3. Boston College at Notre Dame
  4. Clemson at Notre Dame

2023

  1. Notre Dame at North Carolina State
  2. Notre Dame at Duke
  3. Notre Dame at Louisville
  4. Wake Forest at Notre Dame
  5. Notre Dame at Clemson
  6. Pittsburgh at Notre Dame

2024

  1. Miami at Notre Dame
  2. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
  3. Florida State at Notre Dame
  4. Virginia at Notre Dame

2025

  1. Notre Dame at Miami
  2. North Carolina State at Notre Dame
  3. Notre Dame at Boston College
  4. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh
  5. Syracuse at Notre Dame