Swarbrick Comes Home

As he neared graduation from Stanford Law School in 1980, new Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick was thinking about his career choices. He was strongly leaning toward staying out west, but a chance meeting with a former professor changed all of that.

"I had dinner with a priest named Father Tom Stella during the period which I was about to decide to either go to Portland, Seattle or Denver," he said. "Father Tom talked about the importance of community to him and that's why he was leaving the West Coast to go back to the Midwest. It was one of those light bulb moments for me. I just said, ‘You know I want to be involved in a community and I'm not sure I can do that in San Francisco or Portland or Denver because I don't know anyone here. I'm going to go somewhere where I can.'"

That meeting set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to him becoming the man in charge of athletics at his alma mater.

"My life has taken a number of twists and turns, somewhat bizarre," he said at yesterday's introductory press conference. "(That) dinner with a priest who taught me here caused me to completely shift my professional direction and come back to Indiana, that led me into sports."

Swarbrick took a job back in his home state as an attorney in Indianapolis. The resume he built working at the law firm Baker & Daniels was good enough to eventually land him a partnership. His results in bringing collegiate athletics to the city were just as impressive. Swarbrick was responsible for helping to land the NCAA headquarters to the city as well as other NCAA events, including men's and women's Final Fours, and the 2012 Super Bowl.

As Swarbrick became more involved in amateur athletics – both Olympic and collegiate – he began to realize that he enjoyed managing things and left himself open to athletic director jobs. Although he interviewed for jobs as president of the NCAA and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, he didn't seek out Notre Dame when its job opened. He did, however, admit that he hoped that they would call and was happy to answer when they did.

"All of those twists and turns tend to connect some way to this university and make being here today feel predestined, like all of it was meant to come together at this point, at this moment," he said.

Swarbrick's passion for the university began at an early age.

"Don't let my last name confuse you. The other three names that contribute to my family heritage are Comey, O'Brien and McGuiness," he said. "My grandparents could only aspire for me to attend Notre Dame, a dream my parents also shared, parents who didn't have the privilege to go to college. And so when I got to come here, it was an important moment for a long line of people in our family. And the great reward of that for me was that this university met every one of their expectations."

Swarbrick's passion has never weakened.

"My experience here has defined my life. It gave me the values that have guided me professionally and that have helped shape my own family," he said.

Swarbrick talked about coming back to Notre Dame as returning home.

"This is home because this place defines who I am," Swarbrick said. "Notre Dame has given me so much in my life. I can't wait to give more back to it."

Swarbrick desribed how as he and the university were going through the final steps of him becoming athletic director, the school was not yet ready to have anything leak out.

"I was instructed to pull up to the security booth and simply say that I was here to see Father Jenkins, not give my name, in an effort to try to maintain the confidentiality of this process," he said.

But Swarbrick quickly found out that when you truly do come home, there is no use hiding it.

"I pulled up to the security booth and was about to speak and the security guard said, ‘Welcome home, Jack.' I was flattered that he knew my name, but I was honored that he welcomed me home."


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