ND Gets Their Guy

The University of Notre Dame officially announced John B. "Jack" Swarbrick as the school's 12th athletic director during a press conference this afternoon. University president Father John I. Jenkins said that the school is in a unique position as a prominent athletics program at a Catholic university with a strong emphasis on academics.

"Its leader must bring an unconventional set of skills and experiences to the job," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said that 30 candidates were looked at closely and that the school was looking for someone with a number of qualities. Jenkins said that school wanted someone with integrity, leadership, an understanding of Notre Dame, a commitment to combining athletics with academics and someone who would be able to represent the school well at national conferences.

Jenkins said that the university feels that it has found the right man.

"I am confident that in Jack Swarbrick we found a superb athletic director for the university," Jenkins said.

Swarbrick, previously an attorney and partner with the law firm Baker & Daniels LLP, certainly brings an unconventional skill set. Despite not having any previous experience as an athletic director, Swarbrick has an extensive record of getting things accomplished. As a member of the Indianapolis Sports Corporation, he was involved with bringing the NCAA offices to the city as well as future Final Fours and the 2012 Super Bowl.

Both Swarbrick and Jenkins mentioned that the contacts that he has made working in the world of collegiate athletics would benefit the school and that he would reach out to them for ideas and help.

"I am proud to count among my friends and colleagues, many of the leaders of college sports in America today. I know I can count on them to continue to be friends and allies in the years ahead," Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick, a 1976 Notre Dame graduate, said that the university contacted him about the position, but admitted that he was hoping they would call.

He acknowledged and accepted the challenge set forth by Jenkins and the Board of Trustees to build a top-ranked academic institution while staying true to the religious mission of the school and, at the same time, remaining as one of the top athletic programs in the country.

Swarbrick said that he is a competitive person who wants to win and does not see the goals of athletics and academics as opposing forces.

"Sport is an integral, not secondary part of (academic) success," he said. "Sport is how you celebrate the success of the university… I believe that in the academic environment there is no better classroom than the athletic field or court."

Swarbrick talked not only of the responsibilities of student-athletes, but also of educator-coaches.

"(Coaches) have an opportunity to shape lives which is not incidental to the mission of this university, it is one of the most effective ways to realize it," he said.

Swarbrick said that he has welcomed challenges his whole professional life.

"When 75 cities set out to become the home of the NCAA, 75 of the best cities in the United States and no one handicapped Indianapolis to be in the top 20 of that 75, that's all I needed. I was going to win that derby," he said. "When more recently people said that there is no chance that the NFL will ever take a Super Bowl to Indianapolis, Indiana, I had all of the challenge I needed.

"The challenges here are significant, I would argue even bigger than those. But they're challenges of the best kind. They're challenges born not of problems, not of shortcomings, but of great striving, of high goals."

Swarbrick said that the college athletic landscape is in the midst of a dramatic shift and that Notre Dame needs to stay ahead of the curve in order to accomplish its goals.

"I believe that I accept this job on the threshold of extraordinary change in intercollegiate athletics in America," he said. "I think there is much about this industry that you won't recognize in ten years. We must be in the forefront. We must participate in this kind of change. Notre Dame cannot have that dictated to it."

Swarbrick stayed away from identifying the specific changes that he envisions but said, "there are a convergence of forces that it's hard to imagine playing out without change."

Swarbrick said that before he accepted the job he wanted to make sure that he would have a full say in all things that involve athletics at the university, including football.

"I wanted to talk to (Chairman of the Board of Trustees) Dick Notebaert and Father Jenkins and understand how they viewed the athletic director," he said. "I came away absolutely convinced that I have all of the authority that I need and have to have to do this job right."

Jenkins backed up that belief.

"He has total authority. I would not have hired him if I did not have confidence in him," Jenkins said. "I expect him to consult with me, to inform me about decisions, obviously a decision that is going to affect the university as a whole. But Jack has complete authority to run the athletic department and I have complete confidence in him."

Swarbrick, whose first official day on the job will be Aug. 18, said that after all of his endeavors he discovered that he what liked most was managing enterprises, which led him to considering opportunities like this one. Swarbrick was a finalist for the NCAA president job, Big 12 commissioner and was reportedly being considered for the AD job at Indiana University which will be open in 2009. He said that the opportunity to return in this capacity at his alma mater was too good to let pass.

"It's not a desire born of being a fan. I think it's a desire of believing in the institution and what it stands for," he said.

Swarbrick noted that he likes the traditions that are in place at Notre Dame and does not have any plans to change them.

"I love that aspect of it because it takes those things and removes them from the debate. We've got a whole series of traditions here that you just have to embrace…It frees you up to work in the other areas."

Swarbrick said that he would need more time to comment on any scheduling issues in regards to the football team.

"It's one of those issues that now you're scheduled out for so many years that you have a little time to evaluate and see whether it's the right thing for the university."

He said that he thinks that the bowl system works well and that there are other problems to fix before tackling the issue of a playoff, but said that he is committed to independence in football.

"I think it's a critical part of who we are as a school and the short answer is yes," he said. "I think part of that is navigating what I think are sea changes that are coming. If the BCS gets reformed in some way, if there is a reshaping of the conferences we've got to navigate those waters, but yes…maintaining independence is who we are."

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