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Swarbrick discusses Campus Crossroads, athlete pay

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With Notre Dame’s ambitious Campus Crossroads project still in process, the transformation of the House that Rockne Built will be ready to display come 2017. Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick talked about the endeavor with CBS Sports’ Jon Solomon, with his comments interestingly positioned considering the landscape of college athletics.

When announced, the Campus Crossroads project was considered the school’s most ambitious—and expensive—with a price tag estimated at $400 million. While that number certainly made certain alums bristle, the idea to utilize Notre Dame Stadium for more than just six football games a year was paramount. More to that point, in the school’s announcement video, they stated the “audacious goal of bringing academic, athletics and student life together.”

Swarbrick talked about that mission this week, especially in an era where major universities continue the trend of building sports-only dorms, athlete-only facilities with lazy rivers and other lavish perks that fly in the face of amateurism and the stated goal of the NCAA.

“Given the current debate in the country of what college athletics should be, we think this is a pretty powerful symbol of what we think it should be,” Swarbrick said. “You can combine the two, you can combine them every day of the week, and it works.”

Swarbrick also gave some additional details on the progress of the stadium, discussing some interesting updates on the addition of another entrance to the field as well as some added room in the notoriously “cozy” bench seats. (Yes, he confirmed the Jumbotron, too.) He also talked about a potential price drop for some tickets, as the stadium recalibrates pricing as they add thousands of premium seats.

“We’re giving America’s increasing girth a little more room in the seats so we’re effectively taking a seat out of each row to make it a little better,” Swarbrick said. “We’re going to cut a second way for players to get on the field instead of both teams going through one tunnel so we’ll lose some seats that way.”

Notre Dame plans to add 3,000 to 4,000 premium seats — something the school has never had. The loge level’s seating areas will consist of rolling back chairs, counter-style tables, in-seat wait service and personal tablets for every two seats. The club level offers an outdoor heated overhang, cushioned seats, an indoor club space, and all-inclusive food and drinks.

“Some seats (throughout the stadium) will reduce in price because we’ve never done location-based pricing at Notre Dame,” Swarbrick said. “Every seat is the same price no matter where you sit at the stadium. We’ll probably take an opportunity to adjust that a little so there will probably be some cheaper seats.”

Lastly, Swarbrick expanded on previous thoughts about paying college athletes for the licensing rights to their  names, images and likeness (NIL). Swarbrick, himself a very accomplished attorney, takes a fairly progressive view on the subject, one that he’s stated before.

Here were his comments to Solomon.

“You can argue in order to capture your name, image and likeness, you ought to be able to sell your autograph,” Swarbrick said. “What you can’t have is some booster paying somebody $50,000 for their autograph. If it’s not a real market transaction, you haven’t really sold your autograph. So you need a mechanism that ensures its true value and not a bogus value, and I think some sort of group licensing, managed by a third party, is the way to do it. It’s what they do in the professional leagues, of course. … For me (group licensing) doesn’t do violence to the notion that they’re still students. The music student can gain some benefit from their talents. We’re not paying them to play in the band.”

Swarbrick believes an agreement on NIL will be the next piece of legislation that Power Five conferences tackle, along with regulating agent relationships.