Sept. 12, 2012
An Interview With: Jack Swarbrick
Jack Swarbrick: I hope you don’t mind foregoing an opening statement but I’m getting tired of hearing myself talk today, and you’ve probably heard them already, but we are enormously pleased with the events of the day and what they represent and so I’m happy to be here.
Q. Can you speak to the timing of this – why now?
Jack Swarbrick: It related to the timing of the already scheduled ACC presidents meeting. They have been meeting the past two days and it was a long, calendared meeting, and for some time, we had pointed toward this day, knowing that they had the meeting schedule.
So probably for the past eight weeks or so, we were focused towards driving towards the conclusion of this period of time.
Q. What does this mean for future schedules?
Jack Swarbrick: Keep in mind, we are coming off a couple of years where we played four ACC teams inaudible Syracuse, Pittsburgh Boston College, all future ACC opponents, and we have a few years scheduled in the future where we have four ACC games already booked. So we had the nice building blocks for it. I’m not here to tell you there won’t be any schedule changes; there will.
But I don’t necessarily think that they will be of the magnitude of what some people are predicting they will be. We are going to keep that and we are going to keep some traditional rivals and we are going to get around the country.
We are still going to be in California every year and we are still going to find ways to get into southwest. And of course, this gives us a great East Coast footprint and we want to make sure we keep a Midwest presence, too. So we will meet our mission of making sure Notre Dame is playing everywhere in the country.
Q. Does this make a basketball practice facility more of a priority?
Jack Swarbrick: We certainly believe that across the board, this represents a heightened challenge that all of our sports are going to face a new and energizing competitive challenge. In the case of basketball, we do have to make sure we equip those teams with everything they need to succeed and I hope a practice facility is part of that solution.
It was already a priority. Today it becomes even a little bit more of a priority.
Q. You mentioned you wanted to get into the southwest. What’s the possibility of Texas also joining the ACC in a similar vein as a pseudo independent member?
Jack Swarbrick: I would never pretend to answer anything for my friends in Texas. I think they are very happy where they are. We are thrilled to have some games scheduled with them in the future, but you’d have to ask them questions about their future. But my sense is they couldn’t be happier with their current circumstances.
Q. Can you talk about the time frame in which you hope this will happen, both for football and for non football sports?
Jack Swarbrick: Football is easier. We are going to be getting the schedule for 2014 and we will work towards that goal. And I think we’ll be able to do it. You know, the way we are going to do this is we’ll make the date available to the conference. In year one, it’s three Notre Dame home games, two home games; and the next year, two Notre Dame home games, three away games.
So we’ll identify the available dates and it will be for the conference to fill those, by whatever mechanism they choose. I can’t make any predictions to how they will do it. I think they are committed to trying to get all of the members scheduled with Notre Dame in a relatively short period of time. So football will be 2014.
For other sports, we are going to meet our obligations with the Big East. We will work closely with them and figure what works best, but we will fulfill all obligations to the conference.
Q. Does that or does that not include with Syracuse or Pittsburgh?
Jack Swarbrick: Every situation is different and I don’t want to comment specifically on what our contractual obligations are for the Big East. However those are defined, we will meet them fully.
Q. Just following up about why now, were you waiting for the BCS playoff resolution, or why this year
Jack Swarbrick: Absolutely, that is the answer. And we have been very deliberate about it with a lot of other things that are going on around us. And we thought there were several critical dynamics here and the biggest one of all was to understand what the BCS resolution would be.
With the BCS resolution in place, we demand the deliberate process of considering our options, and worked with Father Jenkins on that and communicated to third parties that we were engaged and wanted people to know that we were thinking about that, trying to evaluate it. And that’s when the process began, and we worked pretty consistently on it from the time we got the BCS resolution to today.
Q. In your ideal world, will Notre Dame be joining the ACC in the 13 14 season, along with Syracuse and Pittsburgh? Is that what you hope to achieve?
Jack Swarbrick: I don’t want to pick a year. I mean, my own philosophy is, it’s in everybody’s interests to do it sooner rather than later.
I think ones you’ve made this decision, it’s helpful. My view was once Pittsburgh and Syracuse made their decision, was you didn’t win a conference championship, because they weren’t going to be there anymore, and I guess that’s the Big East would feel way as we would of a conference championship. I think we will work closely with them, but I think it’s in everybody’s interests to try to move it along.
Q. Can you provide a time line as to the roots of how this played, the conversations where they began to where you got to today?
Jack Swarbrick: It was pretty ongoing. It was a natural result, if you will, of the time we are spending together with the commissioners through the BCS process.
So somewhere towards the end of that process, we started having some preliminary conversations about, what if, so we stayed in regular contact. I would say it got pretty earnest about the end of July, probably mid, third week in July or so, where it came to us in a different light.
Q. For whatever reason there were thoughts that it either has to be everything or you can’t join, including football. Does that
Jack Swarbrick: I can’t speak to them as to what their view was. It was always, you know, in an accomplished transaction like this, you don’t get very far if you deal in absolutes. So it was very collegial conversations of various options about what might work and what might not, and it brought us to this point.
Q. The fact that you are still able to maintain the NBC Sports contract, is there any part of the membership revenue sharing?
Jack Swarbrick: No. And that’s one of the important elements of independent schools. There are different ways to evaluate independence. One way to do it is to count football games.
But our independence is served because we do have our own media arrangement to highlight the program and send those powerful messages about the University, in the what would you fight for spots that we show that. Our independence is served because we will be all around the country and we can do that. Our independence is served because we can preserve rivalries.
So I feel very strongly that this works very well for both parties, precisely because the things that were important to of us, in our case, that ability to maintain independence; in the ACC’s case, their ability to increase the value of their football assets by including Notre Dame in parts of it.
Q. Just to go back, the first year in 2014, it would be three away games, two home
Jack Swarbrick: No, three home.
Q. I think may be asked you before in one of the other 35 press conferences, but the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry, a big deal, how do you envision that?
Jack Swarbrick: We have not gotten to that level of detail yet. It’s obvious that we will not be able to maintain every rivalry every year, and I think it may be you who correctly said as a result of a conversation with somebody, that getting to California each year is very important to us. So Stanford and USC rivalries will be retained, and of course our history is Navy is unique. And after that, we are going to work to maintain as many of our traditional games as we can.
Q. I guess basketball is obviously the highest profile part of this, seeing Notre Dame basketball where it’s been the last few years and moving into a conference
Jack Swarbrick: You know, the great thing about that, and both our basketball coaches are here today, is it’s such an easy transition, because of where both those coaches got in the program; bringing the women’s program into the strongest conference, it played for the National Championship for two consecutive years. Bringing a men’s program in that just set our record for Big East victories in a season.
So we take these programs and point toward a new conference with them, in the best possible circumstance, because our coaches have gotten those programs in such a great position.
Q. As conferences expand and there’s talk about more conference games, what role did the difficulty of scheduling games play in this negotiation?
Jack Swarbrick: None at all. It really goes to this it’s the flipside of the other question, right; how do you fit everybody in.
I know people have speculated about that. We have never seen any evidence of that problem. We have more people we have had more people asking to play us in recent years than we could accommodate.
And so of all the things that were factors here, some sensed that, boy, if we have some group of games with a single conference, it will help our scheduling, was never a part of it made my life easier, but it wasn’t because we needed games.
Q. Having entry to those Bowl games, I think this year and next year, how important was that to the school?
Jack Swarbrick: Critical. We had to solve the challenge of what post season football would be for us below the BCS level.
And that was one of the things that was very important to us in this. And so again, I think this relationship worked so well because important needs like that were served, but to the benefit of both parties. We believe that our inclusion will help the ACC get better Bowls. It already has a great Bowl package, but we think it can enhance it even more.
For us, being part of that gives us an assurance we can’t find in the Bowl world as it is structured now without some partner, some conference partner, to help you do it. I can only promise the Bowl that I’ll be there when I’m available; it’s hard to build a Bowl around that. And so any solution we came to had to solve that problem.
And at the end of the day, you know, we feel very good. We have finished in the Top 4, we know where we are going to be; if we finish slightly below that, we are going to have an opportunity in the Orange Bowl or one of the other BCS host Bowls and below that, we are going to be in the ACC package. That’s what we needed. We needed a soup to nuts solution for post season and we have achieved it.
Q. Just wait and see what happens with games like Boston College and Pittsburgh; will the ACC deciding that?
Jack Swarbrick: Yes.
Q. So in other words, you’re not going to schedule five ACC games and a BCS?
Jack Swarbrick: No. They will have the dates available and they will work with their members on what the best allocation is.
Q. Following up on submitting the five dates to the ACC, will you have any input in, okay, this year you’re going to play Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Georgia Tech.
Jack Swarbrick: It’s funny, Brian (Kelly) asked that same question. You know, I think the nature of the partnership is that we don’t need to have that discussion. I think they are going to want to balance it. I think they are going to want geographic balance. But they also have, you know, they will have those dates and they may only have four schools that are available.
So at least in the early years, I think the scheduling is almost going to solve itself based on availabilities. There will be a lot more flexibility in the out years to set it up however we want.
Q. Following up on the question about the Bowls, how will it exactly work? Will you be treated like any other ACC team, there are no restrictions on how many wins relative to ACC teams how will the whole Orange Bowl situation be?
Jack Swarbrick: The Orange Bowl is separate from this and has not been announced yet. But we will and John alluded to this today, we are on track to participate in the other side of the Orange Bowl along with the SEC and the Big Ten. The details will follow. So that’s separate.
And relative to the rest of the ACC Bowls, as commissioner Swofford explained today, we are eligible to be selected in any instance in which we are ranked higher than another ACC team that might go, and those rankings will be on the new BCS selection committees. Or, our record is better than equal to or within one game of, the ACC team.
Q. With regards to your off site or neutral site games you’ve been working on, is that still in the plan and could an ACC game be part of your off site game in the future?
Jack Swarbrick: Yes, yes, yes. It’s certainly a strong preference of ours to continue those. We continue to be very pleased with what that does for the University program foremost; and secondly, yes, I think it could be an opportunity to fill some of the scheduling with the ACC. I think there will be some places we will go where it would be very logical.
Q. You said you’re still in negotiations, does that change in terms of negotiations with NBC? How far along are you guys?
Jack Swarbrick: No. So much of and I have myself to blame for sort of phrasing it as negotiations.
So much of it has been built around expanding elements of the relationship and so that’s the focus. We have a new digital media center doing things that are part of working with NBC; the NBC app we are now using that gives our fans a better opportunity to follow what’s going on, all of that. We are doing some things campus wide with NBC.
So that’s been the focus of our discussion with them. We are still talking about whether to extend the agreement now or wait but neither of us feels any particular pressure to do that one way or another.
Q. Where do you think the deal ranks in the big picture terms of college athletic?
Jack Swarbrick: You know, I must say, I was gratified by the reaction today. I got e mails as people wrote about it as people talked about it on television. It’s an awful lot of attention for a school that’s not relevant anymore. And so that was very nice to see.
Most significantly, I think, the pairing of this development with the other announcement the ACC made about their withdrawal, I think gives us a real chance that we are going to have a period ahead of us now in college athletics which is going to be pretty stable.
That would be one of the nicest possible legacies if five years from now we look back on this deal and say, you know what, that ushered in a period of where we focused on what was going on on the field and not what was going on in the AD’s office in college sports, and I think it will.
Q. Wanted to know, something you said earlier today, make sure I understood it correctly about your independence. You said our intention is to remain independent and central to the discussion there was a drastic change and I don’t know what that would be, I would expect this, the ACC, to be our home did I understand that correctly?
Jack Swarbrick: Yeah, I think I was there, I sort of remember it. I think that’s an accurate quote. I think it reflects the level of our commitment to the conference. This is going to be our home. We fully plan to maintain football independence. I don’t see that changing. But if it ever did, the ACC is our home and we would like to them to provide a solution.
Q. Do you expect the Big East to be shutout of the Orange Bowl and other BCS Bowls after 2013 and how much did that factor into your decision to leave the conference?
Jack Swarbrick: Well, I’m not privy to exactly what conversations the BCS may have been having with some Bowls, so it’s hard for me to fully evaluate that. But implicit in your question is something I did that was a factor for us. I concluded that our Bowl options would be significantly better in an affiliation with the ACC than they would like be in an affiliation with the Big East.
Q. You said in the wake of the BCS decision and all that, what specifically about the new, changed format kind of made you think, okay, well, if they are going to do that, let’s go to a new conference.
Jack Swarbrick: It was less about any specific of what it was than knowing what it was. As long as it was uncertain; as long as it could be anything along a pretty broad range of possibilities, you were missing a real critical piece of information. And so it was just getting certainty with regard to that, understanding it.
There were different models that we evaluated in that process that would have made finding a conference related post season solution more or less important. Where we came out on it, with a four team playoff and a six game model, made it pretty important. And so in that sense, it gave us a piece of information we needed to have to begin the process.
Q. I guess the other question would be, folks not from Notre Dame country so to speak; so if the ACC is so wonderful, why not just go ahead and join football, as well?
Jack Swarbrick: Because people from Notre Dame country are from the entire country. It’s really important for us to be able to use football in a way this institution always has: To promote the school. Opening the season in Dublin was really a remarkable experience for our university; the experience we had in New York we had at Yankee Stadium and we’ll have this year in Chicago, traveling to California every year; those are not incidental to us. So that’s why notwithstanding my view of all of the great assets of the ACC, football independence was important to us.
I just want to reiterate one thing I said down in Carolina and to add to it here: This is a complex transaction. It played out over a long period of time. For something like this to work, you have to have really good partners, and I just have to say something about the support I get from this institution.
Father Jenkins is just the best possible partner in this as we evaluated options, made decisions. He played such a direct role; it’s one thing for me to be up here answering questions, but his level of engagement, especially in the past month, is very significant.
And the other is when you do this, you have to have the confidence in and the support of your coaches and student athletes, and I have been so gratified by the extent to which our remarkable coaches and I think one of the things we bring is the best coaches in the country and our student athletes; and in the past eight hours or whatever it’s been, they have been so supportive.
And I think the comments of our coaches, I know on our website, reflect that. So thanks to both the administration for giving me all of the support I could possibly want in this, and to our coaches and student athletes for embracing this opportunity. Thank you all very much.
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