Notre Dame Football: Thoughts On Irish AD Jack Swarbrick's Recent Interview

IsmailAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2011

Swarbrick's approval rating is through the roof right now.
Swarbrick's approval rating is through the roof right now.

On Thursday of last week, Eric Hansen from the South Bend Tribune published an interview with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, so head on over there in order to read the full interview.

There were a lot of topics that were brought up in the interview, so here are my thoughts on the juicy stuff Swarbrick talked about.

Get Used to the 6-5-1 Format

Swarbrick affirmed that he is moving the Irish away from Kevin White’s 7-5-1 scheduling vision and that the 6-5-1 format will be the norm for the future.

He said there may be years where a neutral game might not fit and those will turn into 7-5 years, but he is continuing with the 6-5-1 format.

Great move by Swarbrick and one that nearly everyone agrees with.

SEC Team on the Schedule in the Future?

He is exploring the possibilities of playing a SEC team in one of the neutral site games as it is unlikely any of the schools will agree to a series of games any time soon.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Some people are freaking out about this decision to explore the possibilities, but it is important to see who Notre Dame will be playing and when.

For example, it would be feasible to add a SEC powerhouse sometime after the 2016 season where it would give Swarbrick the opportunity to schedule around such a tough game. And who knows, it could be a game against Vanderbilt anyway, in which case there is no need to pull our hair out because of the schedule strength.

Texas, the Longhorn Network, and Notre Dame’s Media Future

Swarbrick talked about his relationship with Texas and their AD DeLoss Dodd and that Notre Dame has a close connection with Texas. According to Swarbrick, the Texas Longhorn Network makes all the sense in the world for them.

As far as what Notre Dame will do in the future, he said that it is important for the Irish to expand their media presence. However, he said that Texas has geography going in their favor and Notre Dame does not.

This is an important point and one that I brought up during the summer when discussing the possibilities of Notre Dame creating their own channel.

Texas will be able to launch their network to the majority of their fans within the state of Texas, whereas Notre Dame has a following that is dispersed all over the country. Clearly, it will be more difficult for the Irish to expand their own channel across the entire country.

Recently Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal went through and Swarbrick was asked how that will affect Notre Dame Football on television. He said:

“It gives us more things to talk about, more potential ways to deliver Notre Dame programming. I can’t speak to what their plans might be, but I think it’s all good for Notre Dame.”

“I think the things you can expect initially is more related programming, more shoulder programming can find its way into an outlet. More locker room access, more practice access, more coaches analysis, because now the combination of those two will have a lot of different places they can deploy programming. So, hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity to do that. 

“Who knows how many channels, how many networks will be part of that family. It’s conceivable that Notre Dame may be on more than one. You may get replays on one outlet. You might have video on demand for former games. I just, again, think it will be the fact that there will be a lot more mechanisms for delivery in the merged unit that will be good for us.”

These are all good signs on the path to Notre Dame creating its own network, but as mentioned in the past, we will probably see this type of media first.

With Versus part of the Comcast/NBC umbrella and their desire to rival ESPN, will we see a weekly coach’s show as well as half-hour practice reports for football?

Will another program be created that focuses on non-football sports?

Will game replays and airings of classic games go on another channel?

On Jumbotrons and Field Turf

Swarbrick was asked about the experience at Yankee Stadium and how the use of a jumbotron affected his feeling about adding something similar to Notre Dame Stadium. He said:

“I don’t know. It’s hard for me to assess that. But I will tell you Yankee Stadium had an impact on people’s communication with me about it. I’ve heard from a lot of people that have said, ‘I was opposed to this, but seeing it in action there, I have a different view.’ 

“Whether that ever happens here, we have to have it fit into what we want our stadium to be and the tradition of the place, and so there’s nothing imminent, but I was interested in how many people had their view changed by that experience, because it does give you a remarkable ability to promote the university, which is what we did very effectively there.

“It’s especially effective in a night setting like that. It was a beautiful board. It was very vivid. It was more about what we did with it. We weren’t running any advertising. We were promoting Notre Dame. Now I’ll tell you who I heard most from was the players. They loved it.”

Swarbrick also mentioned that he was unhappy with the natural grass and its performance this year and that was without any weather challenges. Like the addition of a video board, nothing is imminent, but he wants to make sure the right surface is in place that “makes sense” for Notre Dame.

I’m not sure what to make of his comments on the grass inside the stadium, but it sounds like we would see a jumbotron before FieldTurf or any other artificial surface is put in.

The rest of the college football world doesn’t understand, but these two issues divide the Notre Dame fan base like no other. Personally I’m in favor of FieldTurf and if not that, then a hybrid system should be a great compromise for both sides.

As far as the jumbotron is concerned, I am in favor of that too. But my idea is much more detailed than just throwing up a giant screen and ruining the aesthetic value of Notre Dame Stadium.

How about adding a press box to the eastern side of the stadium and then placing one modestly sized video board to each corner of the two press boxes?

Alabama went with a similar look after their reconstruction and I think it looks tasteful and much better than their old arrangement. Doing this would upgrade the stadium but without having the eye-sore of a giant jumbotron that many people don’t wish to see.

And the next question is what do you do with the video boards?

I think it is important to stress two things when talking about this:

1. It should be done tastefully.

2. It should utilize and promote Notre Dame’s tradition.

Look, we know Notre Dame is going to do things tastefully and with class. Swarbrick has already mentioned that there will be no advertisements and we can safely say that there won’t be any of the annoying fluff that most other sports teams show with their video boards.

So I think it’s important to remember that Notre Dame can put up video boards and not do what everyone else does, but do things in a new and exciting way that doesn’t take away from the old-time feel.

The second issue is that there is a mountain of rich tradition from which to exploit. I know there are plenty of fans out there who think the stadium is perfect the way it is and that video boards are an outright assault on “tradition,” but at the same time, these video boards can promote the wonderful tradition of the school.

Again, this isn’t about throwing up some enormous jumbotron and having a “Kiss Cam,” blasting loud rock or hip-hop, and showing other crazy things that have nothing do to with football.

What I would propose is a two or three minute video right before the team comes out to the field showing clips of past games, speeches from Rockne and Holtz, and some inspirational commentary from current and former players.

There would be no loud music, just accompany it with some energetic classical music. And when the video is over and crowd is jacked up, have the team run out onto the field like normal with the band playing the fight song.

When the video board is not in use, simply put a Notre Dame logo on it like they did at Yankee Stadium. After each play, show a replay.

Aside from that, show a few videos throughout the game. Coordinate things with the band and show inspirational clips from coaches, player and games. If we’re playing USC, show a clip of a huge victory over the Trojans. Do this, give the band its allotted time to play and keep the energy levels high during timeouts and breaks in action.

During breaks, when the band is playing, show them doing so on the video board and zoom in on some of the students too. This is simple and yet so effective. I don’t think it ruins the atmosphere in the stadium but enhances the experience.

I often hear that a video screen isn’t needed and that it would take away from the game.

Well what exactly is needed at a football game?

Do we need seats and can’t we just stand the entire game?

Do we really need the band to be there?

I mean should we take it to the extreme and ask if we really need to even watch the game itself? Can’t we just check the score on Saturday night to see who won and lost?

And as far as video boards taking away from the game, I think a dull crowd and one that gets scarily quiet without any energy takes away from the game, wouldn’t you say?

And here’s the kicker: We’re already seeing hundreds of fans every game playing with their cell phones when they’re bored, or others searching for replays of the game online. Within the next five to 10 years fans will be able to easily access any replay, live commentary, statistics, and other new media with their cell phones, only it is going to create a problem much worse than it is today with people keeping their heads down and not paying attention to the field.

A solution to this ongoing problem that is going to continue to be magnified at Notre Dame, is to keep fans attentive by showing replays and keeping them engaged in Irish football when there is a break in action.

I refuse to allow tradition to stand in the way of my idea with the video boards, and to not allow fans to be more entertained, to stay engaged, and immerse themselves deeper into the history of Notre Dame Football.

Notre Dame can either decide what fans are exposed to during games or they can sit back and let people do what they want to do in the future. To all those who think that a video screen takes away from the game and isn’t needed, just wait until 50,000 people have the 2018 iPad with the ability to look at 14 different angles of a replay.

I say let’s pioneer a new and tasteful experience that is rooted in the game and tradition.

But that’s just me.

Will We See Playoffs Anytime Soon?

Swarbrick was asked if there was any momentum for a college football playoff and he simply stated, “No. None.”

His long answer to the question was full of the typical responses you hear from school presidents and athletic directors, and because of that I was somewhat disappointed.

I do wish Notre Dame would take more of a lead in the crusade for a playoff, but it is important to remember that the school is still very much part of the “Cartel” that is protecting the BCS.

I would like to question Swarbrick’s point of view off the record, but I can say that he does not support a playoff because like the other members of the Cartel, Notre Dame still has a lot of power and has not been screwed over in the current system.

He can talk about academics and protecting the regular season, but unless Notre Dame’s power is weakened or the Irish get screwed out of a BCS bowl or national title game, don’t expect Swarbrick, Jenkins and Co. to fight for a playoff system.

Your thoughts?

From the FanTake blog: One Foot Down


Follow on Twitter: @OneFootDown


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.