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  • Hanging Out with Jack

    by Mike Coffey

    As you may have guessed if you’ve read NDN’s front page at all the past couple weeks, earlier this evening, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick sat down with six folks from various ND-related electronic communities, one of whom was yours truly. For an hour, Jack responded to our questions, follow-ups, and in general shared his opinions and positions with us on matters great and small in the ND universe. The recording will be embedded at the end of the post for easy watching.

    Getting down to brass tacks (is Bismarck a hewwing?), the evening wasn’t without its hiccups. Ryan Ritter from Her Loyal Sons wasn’t able to get connected in, so he wasn’t able to get his questions answered. About halfway through the event, the recording feed was lost, meaning only the first couple questioners got their answers recorded for posterity. And to top it all off, the randomness of video sampling resulted in my face being the resulting still photo for anyone searching for the video, which (as any online dating service could tell you) will do very little to drive people to watch.

    But overall, I thought the event was very well put together. To wit:

    • Jack took all questions with no advance notice as to subject matter or particulars. No topic was considered off-limits. This certainly was a level of access the Internet providers haven’t had before, and he deserves a lot of credit for taking that step.
    • All of the participants came prepared with good, thought-out questions. Topics close to the hearts of website operators were a priority, of course, but the things ND fans want to know about — the methods by which football success is judged, the decisions about ND’s independence — all came up in the conversation.
    • While the glitch in recording is disappointing, any first-time attempt at something is bound to have its hiccups. If and when it’s done again, no doubt things will go more smoothly.

    In an effort to fill you in on the parts that weren’t recorded, I’ll do my best to recount the questions and follow-ups I asked that didn’t make YouTube, along with some other stuff from folks who don’t have blog access right now. Keep in mind this isn’t an exact transcript, but rather a paraphrase/summary of what was asked and answered:

    Pat Mitsch: On the topic of future scheduling in the new playoff era, you said this in a recent interview with Blue&Gold Illustrated: “You don’t know who’s going to be up and who’s going to be down — you have to err on the side of a hard schedule.” How do you define a “hard schedule”? Does that mean we can expect future home and home arrangements with SEC programs and marquee match-ups in upcoming Shamrock Series games? What, to you, constitutes a “hard schedule”?

    Jack Swarbrick: “Hard” is a bit of a subjective word, but ND needs to be able to make the case at the end of the season that it played a competitive schedule against quality competition. In terms of top opponents, we have Oklahoma this year and Texas in upcoming years, and I’d love to schedule an SEC team. But ND also needs to balance the schedule and there are going to be times where a home game makes more sense than another neutral site game.

    Pat Mitsch: How do recently announced contests against Akron, UMass, and Temple fit that desire for a hard schedule? Is it the understanding that not every opponent is going to be a Top 10 matchup, or were those games a reaction to the difficulty in scheduling power conference teams later in the season when they are in the thick of their conference race?

    Jack Swarbrick: In terms of Akron and UMass, they were decisions to try and schedule games against former members of the ND coaching family. We love when ND coaches get a chance to run their own program and like to see if they can schedule those types of games when possible.

    Me: Taking the scheduling discussion to basketball, we talked earlier in the program about wanting to draw stronger crowds to men’s basketball games. It seems one way to do that would be to have stronger home games in the non-conference season. We always play tough teams out of conference, but it’s always at a neutral site. Is there any chance we’ll see games like this year’s Kentucky matchup become less of a one-off thing?

    Jack Swarbrick: We always seem to do well with the neutral site games. We played Missouri, Indiana, and Maryland last year, so it was a strong schedule. We’d like to see more home games like that, but we have to balance that against what we’re signed up for. We’re in a neutral site tournament every year. And a lot of the stronger teams are in those tournaments too, and they want to have home games just like we do. It’s a tough thing to balance.

    Me: Since we’re on the subject of basketball, my readers on the Pit would not forgive me if I didn’t ask. You talked earlier about the problems of AAU basketball, and anyone who follows men’s basketball recruiting knows it’s a cesspool, figuratively and almost literally. There are things that Notre Dame will not (and should not) do in recruiting, and no one is expecting ND to do those things. If we’re not going to do those things, however, it stands to reason that we need to do everything else as well as we can do it, and for a long time, the biggest failing in that area was physical plant. The upgrade to the arena was done well, and it looks much more professional. But the lack of a practice facility remains a big hole. Is there a plan in place to build one, and is there any kind of timetable you can share with us?

    Yes, it was a long-winded question. I thought I was being recorded for posterity

    Jack Swarbrick: Absolutely it is a priority of ours. I’ve talked about it publicly, and Mike and Muffet have as well. We want to get that done, and we’re working on it. As you know, we have the rule when we do building projects here that 100 percent of the money to complete the project must be pledged and 70 percent of the money must be in-hand before we break ground. Because of that, we don’t have a schedule set. But we are working very hard on it.

    As I remember more of the content, or if any of my fellow panelists provide content or write articles, I’ll update links here.

    Lisa Kelly’s questions

    And finally, here’s the parts you didn’t miss, complete with Ugly Stick Face:

    One Response to “Hanging Out with Jack”

    1. […] And to check out some of the other Q&A, head on over to NDnation’s blog post! […]