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catalog of recent conference/independence comments

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:44
edited by Jay, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 19:04

Just grabbing them so we don't lose them to the internet ether.

Also, it's interesting reading them in order.

These should be the sum total of on-the-record comments by Swarbrick, Heisler, or anybody else in a position to make decisions. If I am missing any, please let me know. (Or feel free to add to the thread).

expansion, swarbrick


Dec 17, 09

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:45 @ Jay

Notre Dame isn't interested in joining Big Ten
Irish content as football independent and in Big East
December 17, 2009|By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter

During his 17 months as Notre Dame's athletic director, Jack Swarbrick has asked university officials about what transpired in 1999, when the Irish declined an invitation to join the Big Ten.

Was it a close decision?

"I'm not completely sure," Swarbrick said Wednesday. "The stories don't exactly line up."

Notre Dame's present-day stance is clearer: If the Big Ten opts to expand, it should not bother to knock on Notre Dame's door.

"Our strong preference is to remain the way we are," Swarbrick told the Tribune. "Independence is a big part of the tradition of the program and our identity. We'd sure like to try to maintain it."

Snicker if you must, but Swarbrick said finances would not play much of a role. Yes, Notre Dame has a television deal with NBC that pays the school $9 million annually.

But Swarbrick agreed that Big Ten and SEC schools derive more money from their conferences' media deals. Big Ten schools receive about $20million a year in TV and radio rights fees.

"All of this has a lot more to do with our priorities than it does with business issues," he said. "Our independence is tied up in a lot of the rivalries we have. We play Navy every year and have the tradition of USC weekends. Frankly, it works pretty well to play USC in October at home and in November at their place."

Swarbrick also spoke of Notre Dame pioneers Knute Rockne and Jesse Harper, who envisioned a national football program.

"That defines the school and is very much part of our identity," he said.

That said, Swarbrick will follow the Big Ten's plans closely because of how it could influence the Big East, Notre Dame's partner for sports other than football.

"The question that any school faces, not just Notre Dame, is: Does this start the dominoes falling again, like the last round of reconfiguration?" Swarbrick said, referring to shuffles among the ACC and Big East in 2003. "It's less about our willingness to enter into discussions than what happens to the industry. What are the implications?"


early Feb '10, variety of articles reiterating Dec comments

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:45 @ Jay
edited by Jay, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:57

It's also widely assumed that Notre Dame, which came within a whisker of joining the league in 2003, is not ready to give up its football independence, with Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick saying in December: "Our strong preference is to remain the way we are."

But among those not likely to join Penn State's efforts is Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who told the Tribune in December that the Fighting Irish valued their independence, and that "our strong preference is to remain the way we are."

(And many more)


Mar 9, comments to NYC media (added)

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:47 @ Jay
edited by Jay, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 17:10

NEW YORK -- Notre Dame wants to remain independent in football, but that might not matter if the Big Ten and Pac-10 decide to expand and create sweeping changes to major college sports.

"Our preference is clear," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Tuesday. "I believe we're at a point right now where changes could be relatively small or they could be seismic."

Swarbrick said it will be up to him and university president Rev. John Jenkins to "evaluate the landscape" if realignment happens.

"You can each come up with a scenario that would force our hand," he told a small group of reporters at a Manhattan restaurant.

The Big Ten announced in December it will explore options for expansion in the next 12 to 18 months. Last month, the Pac-10 also made it known that it would be considering adding schools.

Notre Dame has had a non-football Big East membership since 1995.

Notre Dame to the Big Ten has been a constant source of speculation for years. Its South Bend, Ind., campus is located in the heart of Big Ten country and the Irish already have established rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.

The Fighting Irish rejected an offer to become the league's 12th member in 1999 and since then Notre Dame has gone about reaffirming and re-embracing it independent status in football.

Swarbrick has picked up where predecessor Kevin White left off, scheduling offsite and neutral site games around the country, a move that harkens back to Notre Dame's barnstorming golden age.

Last season, the Irish played Washington State in San Antonio, Texas. Next season, they'll play Army at Yankee Stadium and on Monday it was announced they would play Maryland at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins, in 2011.

New coach Brian Kelly said he likes the fact that Notre Dame plays games from coast to coast.

"It's great when you look at the schedule and see games all over; at Yankee Stadium, at USC," he said.

Notre Dame's long and lucrative relationship with NBC, which airs all Irish home games, has helped the storied program flourish on its own, despite not winning a national title since 1988. Notre Dame's current deal with NBC ends after the 2010 season and was reportedly worth $9 million per year. Another five-year deal is set to begin in 2011.

Notre Dame is also guaranteed to receive money from the BCS every year, no matter how the Irish play.

Of the 120 major college football teams, only Notre Dame, Army and Navy are not in one of 11 conferences.

The Big Ten has given no hints about what schools it might want to add or how many, but speculation has been rampant. Texas and Missouri from the Big 12 and Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse from the Big East are names that have been thrown around by media and fans.

But if Notre Dame ever had a change of heart, the Big Ten would no doubt welcome the Irish.

Since the Pac-10 announced it was interested in expanding -- most likely adding two teams to reach the minimum 12 needed to hold a football championship game a la the SEC, Big 12 and ACC -- the speculation ramped up again. Colorado from the Big 12 and Utah, BYU and San Diego State from the Mountain West are some of the teams that have been mentioned as possible Pac-10 targets.

"I've been around this business for 29 years," Swarbrick said, "and this is as unstable as I've ever seen it."

So what could lead Notre Dame to consider giving up its independence?

"What if realignment impacts the shape of the BCS?" Swarbrick said.

"The Big East has been a great conference for us," he said. "If there is a fundamental change to the Big East, what does that do?"

Unknowns aside -- and there are plenty more -- if Swarbrick had his way, he'd choose the status quo.

"We're trying like hell to maintain our football independence," Swarbrick said. "I think it's good for college football and it's good for Notre Dame."


Irish Rethinking Football Independence

Calling the state of college sports the most unstable he has seen in 29 years, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said Tuesday that the Irish were considering giving up their football independence.

Although Swarbrick stressed that Notre Dame was "trying like hell" to keep its unique independence, he said the potential for "seismic change" in conference alignments was forcing him to spend 50 percent of his time making sure Notre Dame is prepared.

Swarbrick said that he and Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, have been discussing situations that could affect the university.

"I believe we're at a point right now where the changes could be relatively small or they could be seismic," Swarbrick said. "The landscape could look completely different. What I have to do along with Father Jenkins is try and figure out where those pieces are falling and how the landscape is changing."

Notre Dame is the only independent team with an affiliation with the Bowl Championship Series. Most of its other sports are members of the Big East.

Swarbrick said that the decision to look at alternatives, the most likely of which would be joining the Big Ten Conference, stemmed from external factors. He said that the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten had separated themselves from the other four major conferences - the Pacific-10, Big 12, Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference - because of their lucrative television agreements.

"This is as unstable as I've ever seen it," Swarbrick said. "You add to that a change in N.C.A.A. leadership and the discussion of the expansion of the basketball tournament. Every factor that touches the business of collegiate athletics right now is potentially in flux."

Whether the landscape of college sports will shift drastically or just simply evolve rests mostly on the Big Ten. The Pac-10 has announced that it is exploring expansion offers, but the Big Ten holds significantly more power because of its television network. If the Big Ten added only one team, and that team was Notre Dame, the shift in college sports would be minimal. But if the Big Ten, which already has 11 teams, were to expand to 14 or 16 members, it could create a radical shift in college sports alignments.

The Big East, which was raided by the A.C.C. in 2005, would be a target and could lose universities like Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia.

A report last week in The Chicago Tribune said that the Big Ten had hired an investment firm to study Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri and Notre Dame. The study found that if the Big Ten decided to expand, the league's current members would be able to make more money.

"You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand," Swarbrick told a small group of reporters. "It's not hard to do. We just have to pay attention and stay on top of the game and talk to people."

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said Tuesday in an interview at Madison Square Garden that his conference was always working to improve itself. He cited the creation of three bowl games and the fact that the league was studying its television options, including starting its own network.

"If creating a network is what we need to do in the next several years, we'll create a network," Marinatto said. "We're here today because of the leadership the conference had five years ago when the conference had dramatically changed. That leadership is still the same. We will not allow it to not be successful."

Notre Dame has a standing invitation to join the Big East's eight-team football league, but that is not likely. A more likely move would be for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten, which be financially comparable to the Irish's current television deal with NBC and also would drastically increase the value of the Big Ten's network.

NBC is paying Notre Dame an estimated $15 million a year under its current deal, which runs through 2015.

"We've seen a lot of businesses in America change dramatically in the past five years," Swarbrick said. "The automotive industry and the airline industry couldn't look any different than it did five years ago. They are responding to the economic pressures, and college sports is doing the same thing."

The Big Ten's timetable for possible expansion could stretch well over a year. The Big East's television contract expires in 2012-13 and is considered undervalued because it was negotiated in the wake of the A.C.C. invasion, which lured away Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, and when much skepticism surrounded the football conference.

"It's all speculation," Marinatto said. "You envision numerous scenarios. You and I can come up with 144 iterations of what seismic change could be. But it's all based on speculation. So it's really not a fruitful exercise to go through. My job is to keep everyone grounded and to improve the conference and insulate it from changing."


Mar 11, Heisler's note on

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 17:11 @ Jay

1. If you are wondering how sports headlines come about, understand that sometimes it's almost by accident. Take Tuesday, for example. Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, in New York for a day of events with Notre Dame-connected groups, was visiting with a small group of New York-based sportswriters over coffee that morning at the Barking Dog café on 34th Street. The event was designed as more of a "meet and greet" session for media who don't make it to South Bend every day. Most of the conversation wasn't headline news, but Kelly at one point was asked about his thoughts on conference affiliation. Meanwhile, Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick just happened to stop by the session to listen - and he, too, was hit with the question about conferences. What Swarbrick said wasn't necessarily new or groundbreaking - but it maybe involved more of a national assessment of the conference landscape than had been voiced. In any event, the nature and context of Swarbrick's remarks immediately prompted the Associated Press to run a short item, followed by a more in-depth feature later in the day - and the New York Times wrote a full-blown piece that ended up the lead sports story at the top of the page in Wednesday's print edition.


Apr 5, interview with USA Today

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:47 @ Jay

Most potentially explosive is the announced intention of two major conferences, the Big Ten and Pacific-10, to explore expansion. The Big Ten, in particular, is in position to touch off a substantial realignment of the college landscape, affecting longtime rivalries, destabilizing the finances of gutted leagues and left-behind schools and likely widening the gap between the nation's haves and have-nots.

All told, it's a confluence of issues that has caught the attention of administrators such as Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

"Not to say there haven't been significant periods of instability or change before," he says, "but this one's unique.

"You have the potential for them to have no consequence. Or you have the potential for any one of them to have significant consequence. ...

"It's just a different dynamic than we've ever had."

Conferences and Irish

He, Notre Dame and the land's most storied college football program are caught in the maelstrom and speculation about conference realignment. Might the Fighting Irish be wavering on keeping football independent, akin in South Bend, Ind., to asking if church should continue to be held on Sundays?

Swarbrick says remarks he made in New York last month were incorrectly interpreted. Asked then about staying independent, he said a drastic shift in the college athletic landscape could prompt him and the university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, to "evaluate the landscape."

That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big Ten or any other league.

"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it's not three divisions in college; it's four. It's the big change.

"I don't see that happening."

Alluding in part to a football television contract with NBC that runs through 2015, Swarbrick says, "I really do believe strongly that we're sort of uniquely positioned to continue to chart our own course."

A sticking point is keeping the Big East healthy as a home for basketball and Notre Dame's other men's and women's varsity sports, which might depend on fending off Big Ten advances.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has remained tight-lipped about options the conference might be weighing. It could seek to add a school - Rutgers or Pittsburgh from the Big East, Missouri or Nebraska from the Big 12 or, yes, Notre Dame - to give it 12 and allow it to split into two football divisions and create a playoff. Or it could look to go bigger, selling the growing TV exposure and largesse from its 2½-year-old and already profitable Big Ten Network.

The league said in January that Delany would take 12 to 18 months to make a recommendation to its governing board of presidents and chancellors. As yet, Swarbrick says there has been no contact with Notre Dame.

The Pac-10, in announcing its exploration of expansion in February, said it would take six to 12 months in advance of negotiations for a new TV deal. Its current contracts run through 2011-12. The league, like the Big Ten, could be interested in getting to 12 members to set up divisions and a football playoff.


Apr 17 to alumni senate

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:49 @ Jay
edited by Jay, Sunday, April 18, 2010, 16:52

Jack Swarbrick: "Our highest priority is maintaining football independence."

(Also reported here )


Rockne dinner comments (4/30)

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 09:39 @ Jay

"Jeff Jeffers moderated the event and the Q and A and touched on some of the subjects that are so near and dear to our hearts. On conference realignment, Swarbrick indicated that its no longer a possibility, but a certainty. He made some of the comments about independence that have been referenced from prior interviews (stressing its importance, especially from a historical perspective and acknowledging the alums' desire to stay independent), but was realistic that there are tough times ahead and that Jenkins and the leadership are going to have to guide us through uncertain waters in the next few years.

On scheduling, he indicated that we're more likely to see 6-5-1 going forward. Regarding specific yearly scheduling, the transition and other logistical issues have made it difficult to fill out the '11, '12 and even '13 schedules, but "we're in great shape from 2014 going forward."


May 18

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 05:33 @ Jay

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