The Notre Dame Head Football coach hire is far more complex than the Internet hype on Stoops, Meyer, etc would indicate. The saying "he's a winner" carries less and less weight in college football as coaching salaries have gone from five to seven digits and high school recruiting rankings are almost as important as the win—loss record. So when ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick and company go into their private jet and head around the country interviewing candidates, there are several moves he will have to get right in order for Notre Dame to prosper in the future.
In essence Swarbrick is playing Texas Hold'em Poker and in order to win the hand, which would be landing a coach that brings long term success to a struggling program, then he will have to play his cards perfectly.
Swarbricks first move was to fold his open-ended flush draw (Charlie Weis) even though he had $18 million in the pot. He decided that he did not have a great deal of confidence that the next two cards, the turn and the river, were going to complete his flush and win the hand so he folded and took the loss.
His next move is to post the big blind as he has no choice in the matter, Notre Dame needs a head coach so regardless of the two cards he recieves from the dealer, he has to play them. This week he and the firm they have hired have been all over the country interviewing candidates for the head coach job at Notre Dame.
While Swarbrick waits for everyone to post the blinds so that he can get a look at the flop, everyone at the table is saying he has pocket aces or pocket kings (Stoops and Meyer speculation), but at the end of the day those two cards are face down and will not be flipped up until the hand is over (when the decision is made).
Once the dealer flips up the next three cards not only Swarbrick, but the rest of the table have a much better feeling of how the hand is going to shape up. He may not have liked his cards before the flop, but given the cards that were turned over he is now reaching for chips. On the contrary, he may have had a low pocket pair and fell in love with it before the flop but with a suited ace and a suited king on the board he may not be as confident anymore.
The Flop: Ace of Spades, 5 of diamonds, King of Spades
The player to his right makes a bet and Swarbrick is now left with some decisions: how much is this going to cost me to play, how much should I invest in my hand, am I taking a short term risk (chasing a flush or straight) or am I making a long term investment (slow playing the tree of a kind). Is there a chance at hitting a big hand or is this the best I have. In the end he has to decide whether he is going to call, fold or raise. Folding would mean he would have to spend the spring without a head coach which is devastating to a college football team, calling would show he is not overly optimistic but he is not out either and the raise would show that he is confident in the cards he possesses. It is only he that knows what cards he has as the rest of the table watches him, guesses at his hand, waiting for him to make a bet.
Once Gruden signed his extention with ESPN and Meyer and Stoops both told the media they are not leaving the schools, that would lead me to believe that Swarbrick liked his pre-flop hand (im guessing pocket 10's), but he knows he is in trouble. Feeling pressed for time and knowing that he just lost $18 million on the previous hand without seeing it play itself out he decides to call. He is worried about the flush and the potential stright draw but he has a small level of optimism in the next two cards.
The Turn Card: 10 of diamonds
Here is where Swarbrick most likely is today. There is a straight possibility, there is a flush posibility but he hit the three of a kind (if my guess is correct that he had pocket 10's). We, like everyone else at the table, have no idea what his two cards are and that card may have made him, crushed him or may have no impact.
What is important to realize however is that he has no control over many of the variables that are at play for him to win the hand. The next card the dealer flips is random, what the other players are holding for there two cards is out of Swarbricks hands and how they bet is also not something he controls. Its now a game of chance, but he has to make the best of the cards he is dealt. The guy down the table throws down a big bet, hinting that he may have hit the straight with the 10. Swarbrick has another decision to make.
This decision is not just about whether he thinks he can win this hand, but whether these same two cards would win the hand in the long run. He also needs to look at how much the bet is going to cost him, how much he can win from the pot if he succeeds and most importantly he has to know the people he is playing against and how their strategies.
The dealer looks Swarbrick straight in the eyes and says, "its your turn," he pauses and ..... (to be continued)
Notre Dame fans across the country wait anxiously for his next couple of moves.