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Swarbrick readies Notre Dame for the future
SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Jack Swarbrick’s comfortable and spacious office is flush with many reminders of Notre Dame’s long history of athletic endeavors and excellence. For one, there’s the picture of that 1913 team captained by an end named Knute Rockne.
That was the season the Irish unleashed a potent passing game to upset heavily favored Army, a victory that signified Notre Dame’s emergence as a force in college football.
Now in his third year as director of athletics at his alma mater, Swarbrick oversees a department featuring 26 varsity teams. And football still rules center stage on campus and for the school whose fan base spans the country.
“I think the passion is very similar, but it manifests itself differently because of the Internet,” Swarbrick said, contrasting his student days of more than 30 years ago to the ever-changing technological landscape of today.
“People have a level of engagement that is very different. That’s what you see the most. You could argue that the passion is pretty similar. People feel like they know so much about these young men. … For us, my generation, they were just classmates. What we read about them, we read in the newspaper.”
Swarbrick’s been busier than ever. There’s a new hockey building going up, and the school has announced future football series with Miami and Texas. And, oh yeah, eight months ago he helped hire a new coach in Brian Kelly who’s expected to lead the Irish back to the forefront of the college football landscape.
The talk of conferences expanding and realigning enveloped athletics earlier this year. And although the additions and subtractions turned out to be mild compared to some projections _ Nebraska to the Big Ten being one of the biggest _ Swarbrick reiterated that Notre Dame wants to maintain its football independence.
“Our goals remain the same for reasons I tried to articulate,” Swarbrick said.
Notre Dame is comfortable with its television contract with NBC, a partnership that began in 1991 and has been extended through 2015. It brings a reported $15 million per year for football, a figure that is under the $22 million Big Ten members reportedly get with the league’s own TV network doing so well.
“It has zero to do with finances,” Swarbrick said of the desire to stay independent. “It was all about the identity of this place and its tradition and heritage.”
While realignment was making all the headlines and Notre Dame’s status was discussed daily, Swarbrick heard from both sides about which avenue would be best _ should it have the option.
“Other than winning all our games every year there is never a consensus,” he said. “Clearly the sizable majority prefers independence, but there have been a fair number of thoughtful letters from people” who thought joining a conference was a preferable alternative.
He said those opinions came in e-mail, regular correspondence and “people buttonholing you at the baggage carousel at the airport. I heard from a lot of folks.”
By Tammy Bruce
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