Nov. 30, 2009
JACK SWARBRICK: Good evening. Thank you all very much for joining us here this evening. As indicated by a press release that we issued earlier today, last night I made a recommendation to Father Jenkins that we take our football program in a different direction by replacing our head coach. Father Jenkins accepted that recommendation, and so effective December 1st, we will move forward in that way.
For many of you who may have thought that was a foregone conclusion, I would say to you that the decision was harder than you might have thought, principally because of the man it involved. Those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Coach Weis or play for him couldn’t help but develop a great affinity for him.
I’ve said often in recent days that I’ve never met anyone for whom there was a bigger gulf between perception and reality, and I think that is true of our departing coach. I hope we can find somebody who loves this University as much as he did, does, and who cared as much about his student athletes as he does.
He made many contributions to the University, important things which serve us in good stead going forward. He demonstrated that he can bring the very best student athletes to this campus and attract them to come here to play football for Notre Dame, and he demonstrated that once they’re here, they can have the full success we expect from student athletes.
You know, Charlie did win a National Championship; he won a National Championship when his football program finished first in graduation success rate this year, and that is an important contribution and one which we value very highly.
It’s probably a measure of our relationship and how he’s approaching this; I had a call from him this morning; he wanted to know how I was doing.
He will go on to have great success. He’ll add some Super Bowl rings, no doubt, to the ones he already has as a successful coordinator in the NFL, and we will miss him. But for us it’s time to move forward. It’s time to move forward because it is critical to this program and to its place in this University and college football that we compete at the highest level, that we compete for National Championships.
And as we go out now and begin our search, that is our focus, in finding the right individual to lead Notre Dame back to a place of prominence in college football. The University is better when we do that, college football is better when we do that, and the student athletes who call this place home are better when we do that.
To move down that path, I have asked Rob Ianello to step in and take over the program during this period of time. Rob is a skilled coach and has already played a central role in coordinating our recruiting and I know will provide us with the leadership we need going forward between this period of time and when we have a new coach in place.
The search for a new coach has effectively begun. I have been reaching out to a number of people to get their counsel, their advice, talking to people familiar with this University about the characteristics they think I should focus on in a new coach, and also reaching out to people in the industry, the collegiate football industry and the professional football industry, to get their assessment of coaches who are working today.
The result of all of that has led me to conclude that this is a job in which there is great interest. It is a job in which people understand the potential that is here to return Notre Dame to a position of prominence in college football, and I am excited to embark full bore on the process of finding the right next successor to the legacy of Rockne and Leahy and Parseghian and Holtz.
With that, I am happy to take your questions.
Q. For years now more often than not it seems that the program has been mired in mediocrity. How would you describe Notre Dame’s stature in the national landscape?
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I think Notre Dame remains a critical piece of the college football landscape. There is no denying our recent struggles, but that doesn’t change the equity of the brand or the importance of Notre Dame being able to succeed.
We need to prove, as I was quoted as saying recently, that universities who are committed to integrating the student athlete, first and foremost, into the university of students, can also have them achieve optimal football success as athletes. It’s important for the entire industry that we be able to do that. We have the background and I believe the equity to do it, and we now have the foundation laid and the improvements made in the program in recent years to put us in a position to do that.
Q. Timetable or open ended timetable? How quickly would you like to get the search done?
JACK SWARBRICK: You know, it is open ended. It’ll have its own pace. We’ll begin immediately and move as expeditiously as we can. There is always the possibility that Bowl commitments or other things play a role for some of the people we’re interested in, but we’ll go full bore and close it as fast as we possibly can.
Q. Would you or anyone representing the University in any way talk to someone who hasn’t finished their season yet?
JACK SWARBRICK: It’s possible, depending upon the reaction of the university itself and the coach involved. It’s possible that we would do that.
Q. Can you describe what — you’re a data guy, you’ve crunched the numbers. What’s important to you in the next guy, football philosophy wise?
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I won’t go into the specific criteria. We have developed a list of criteria to help us shape the search. But I think I will say that it is important to us to look first and foremost at people who have demonstrated an ability to build and sustain a Division I college football program.
Q. In terms of as you’re trying to get all the search going and so forth, has there been a decision made about the possibility of Notre Dame going to a Bowl game?
JACK SWARBRICK: No, there has not.
Q. And do you anticipate that happening here soon?
JACK SWARBRICK: Yeah, I think we need to understand our options better. I should probably have said in my remarks that we held a series of meetings today. We met first with the coaching staff. We then met with the leadership council of the team, and then we met with the team itself. In the course of the meeting with the leadership council, we took the opportunity to touch on the Bowl issue, and we’ll visit with them again on it once we have a better feel for what our actual options are.
Q. And then one last follow up, you mentioned that the decision was a lot harder than a lot of people might have thought. What ultimately pushed you to the other side?
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I don’t know if it was so much being pushed to the other side. As you look at the entire course of the season, it led you to the conclusion that you couldn’t have enough confidence that a jump up was imminent, that you could know with sufficient certainty that next year’s results would be significantly different. And so I think that was probably the tipping point.
Q. Can you clarify when you informed Charlie? How it was done, when, where, the time frame?
JACK SWARBRICK: Yeah. Charlie and I met regularly and talked regularly throughout this period, so I think in fairness it was a bit of an evolution over time. He knew in advance of the recommendation that I made on Sunday that I was going to make that recommendation. We confirmed it on Saturday after the Stanford game, and so he knew it then.
Q. And can you just — this is the third head coach that’s had difficulty getting the program back to glory, so to speak. Why do you think it’s been so difficult?
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I think for some of this period of time, there may have been some foundational issues, were the facilities good enough, could you demonstrate the ability to bring in the student athletes you need to win at this level. I frankly think all of those have been addressed in various ways in recent years, and so I think the whole key is leadership. I believe our ability to take the next step and return to a level of prominence is all about bringing the right individual in here.
Q. Have any potential candidates been approached in any way, shape or form?
JACK SWARBRICK: Absolutely not.
Q. So as of right now, no contact has been made in any way?
JACK SWARBRICK: None.
Q. Given the defensive struggles this year, is there any priority given to a coach that tends to have experience on one side of the ball or the other?
JACK SWARBRICK: I don’t think you can afford to be that narrow in your approach to candidates. My personal view is that given where we play and who we play, we need to be able to play good defense. And if you look at the defensive rankings of the leading teams this year, there’s a correlation between BCS standings and defensive abilities, and so it’s important to us, but it’s not a limiter in terms of the background of the coach.
Q. Is one of the things you really need to run a program like Notre Dame experience running a program like that at the Division I level?
JACK SWARBRICK: It certainly helps to have the evidence that someone has been able to do it, that they have succeeded in building and sustaining a Division I program. So yeah, that’s important.
Q. You said you made the recommendation Saturday. Was that right after the game or the flight back, or when was the discussion with him?
JACK SWARBRICK: It was an ongoing discussion. We talked right after the game, but we also talked some more during the return trip. So there wasn’t a point in time so much as it was a conversation throughout the evening.
Q. Why haven’t you contacted anyone yet?
JACK SWARBRICK: Because we had a head coach, and now that we have made this decision and implemented it, we will go about the process of looking for a head coach.
Q. Who is the selection committee or the interview committee? Who is part of it?
JACK SWARBRICK: The decision, much as the decision to make a change, will be made based on a recommendation from me to Father John. We will involve other people along the way in keeping them informed, but there is no search committee or no interview committee. There is a group of student athletes from the team that I have asked to help me and be a resource to me, and they will also be involved.
Q. Do you plan on using one of those firms that goes and helps select or identify possible candidates?
JACK SWARBRICK: We have not made that decision yet. We have not done that yet. We may. I wouldn’t rule it out.
Q. What was your reaction to Charlie not addressing the media after the game?
JACK SWARBRICK: I thought it was up to Charlie. I think under the circumstances it was perfectly within his right to make that decision, and he made it, and I didn’t put any pressure on him to do anything else.
Q. When you took over as athletic director the team had just gone 3 and 9 and you were questioned pretty heavily about what your approach to football, and you said, my first question to Coach Weis will be how can I help you succeed. It was going to be important no matter what happened down the road that that effort had been made. You have to feel pretty solid in the support that you’ve shown for the program the last two years.
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I hope so, but it’s really not about me or the level of support that I show. That’s what all of us at this University do. Football is important to Notre Dame, and from Father Jenkins to the academic leadership of the institution through my office, everybody wants to see us succeed. You know, that’s why I think when people may have wanted us to act more quickly, we thought it was more important to take our time and try and make sure we had done everything we could to make it succeed in its current form before we changed it.
Q. In your opening comments you said that you thought that Coach Weis would go on to the NFL and be an offensive coordinator again. Is that what he communicated to you that that’s what his plan was?
JACK SWARBRICK: I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I’m aware as you are, I saw a report today, that a lot of people have expressed interest in him doing that. He’s superbly talented at it. He brought great offensive ingenuity and success to our program, so I’d be surprised if that wasn’t what he was doing next year.
Q. When you talk about your expectations just in a pure wins and losses sense, what do you expect out of this program, and do you think it’s realistic for Notre Dame to get back to winning National Championships?
JACK SWARBRICK: I think it’s absolutely realistic. I don’t think there are any endemic reasons why we can’t. Is it harder for us? Yes, because of the standards we choose to apply to the program ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t get there. And the standard for success in this industry now is to be in a position to be selected for the BCS each year. Some years we may not make that, but our standard isn’t in particular wins and losses, although it converts to that, it is are we in a position to compete for a BCS berth.
Q. How hard is this job in your opinion with all the unique parts of it?
JACK SWARBRICK: You know, I think it has elements which are hard, but you also have these extraordinary resources to work with, too, in that you can go to places where they don’t have a passion for football, where they don’t have a history of success, where they don’t have the resources in terms of campus wide support and facilities, and you don’t get to work with really bright student athletes. That’s all here.
So there are things we do that make it tough, but boy, there’s some great resources, and I’m confident that the resources are in place to have really qualified coaches excited about coming here.
Q. That said, how difficult is it to fit somebody into this University culture?
JACK SWARBRICK: You know, I get that question a lot about recruiting here, that it must be really hard to recruit at Notre Dame. In a sense it’s not, because there’s a self selection process that goes on. If you’re a student athlete who’s not really focused on both sides of that definition, we’re not the place for you. You don’t look at us. You don’t come into the process. So we see a smaller number of kids and net out a higher number.
I think the same is true of the coaching search. For people who value our approach to collegiate athletics and for people who are excited about being the coach that restores Notre Dame to a place of prominence in college football, I think they’ll be so excited to come, it’ll be an easy marriage.
Q. There’s obviously, as you said, a great deal of interest, but the previous questions have also pointed out that it’s really been about 16 years since the school has competed for a national title in football, so obviously it can’t be that easy. Aside from leadership, what is another criteria that you weigh heavily?
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I don’t think you can infer from a period of 16 years that there’s some continuing deficiency that you have to overcome. I think all of the great institutions in sports go through these periods. I think we’re all focused on the Yankees’ recent success and their 27 world championships. There were droughts in there, and there were droughts for the Celtics and the Cowboys and all of the other prominent teams in sport and the prominent college programs.
This is a drought, and I have every confidence that we will end the drought and succeed spectacularly.
Q. You mentioned recruiting. Are you at all worried about the current recruits that are on board with the fact that you don’t have — the search started already and the process it might take until a new head coach is in place?
JACK SWARBRICK: Well, there’s always some risk, without question, but I like our position better than I think most universities are in this time, for the reason I just alluded to. The young men that picked this place have picked this place. They were attracted to the coaches they met and no doubt were attracted to Coach Weis and have an affinity for him. But as we’ve talked to them today and will continue to talk to them, we’re hearing the message we would expect to hear, which is I’m very sorry to hear that, but you still offer the things that attracted me to the University, and so I’m still coming.
Q. Many have speculated that you may have interest or there might be interest in Bob Stoops. Do you have any reaction to the fact that today he said he is staying at Oklahoma?
JACK SWARBRICK: Yeah, my reaction to all of those reports is that — and it’s important to make this known — that they’re all inaccurate. We haven’t contacted anybody up until this moment, and so it’s a bit of an odd situation to be in, to have somebody say, I heard you’re interested in person X and person X is now not interested in you. Well, none of that happened, so let’s let the process run its course where we can talk to the people we have a strong interest in and see what reaction we get.
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