Hopefully, you caught today's story on Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and his first year in South Bend.
Swarbrick and I spoke for about 40 minutes in early June in preparation for the story and a bunch of what he said has been reported in The Journal Gazette and on Insights over the past month.
But here's some stuff that couldn't quite fit into anything that had already run. And to all the dads out there, including my own and Jack Swarbrick, hope you had a Happy Father's Day:
SWARBRICK ON WHAT HAS FELT THE MOST NATURAL FOR HIM SINCE STARTING:
"They all tend to revolve around representing the university. I'm now, and I love it, I've now represented the university in a speaking role so often in a year that it feels like I've been doing it for multiple years. The issues relating to the management of the department, they evolve over time and you're engaged in them on a continuous basis, a lot, so they feel like you've been doing them a long time. Things relating to staffing and organization of the department and working with your coaches."
SWARBRICK ON SCHEDULING QUALITY FOOTBALL TEAMS WITHOUT RETURNING A GAME:
"There are two things that make it tougher. One is that, more programs who have established themselves and don't feel the need to do that. The other, of course, is the perceptions of our fan base. Our fans don't appreciate yet how good Nevada is. It's a really good football team and, you know, as you look out in future scheduling, that's part of the dynamic here. An opponent that I think is going to be really tough, our fans don't have a full appreciation for how good that program has become. They sort of have a sense of Boise State and Utah but there are a lot of other programs that have gotten very good in recent years as the scholarship limits came down and allowed for a better distribution of talent. I'm not sure our fan base is fully caught up."
SWARBRICK ON WHEN HE STEPS BACK TO THINK BIG PICTURE (BESIDES DURING THE QUIET NIGHTTIME HOURS IN HIS OFFICE):
"Absolutely, stepping back, in an odd sort of way, travel also presents that sort of opportunity. You get on a plane for three hours, you're like 'OK, I'm going to think.' Going to put a pair of headphones on. It's any job like this, it's not unique to me or this job but in any job like this, that's one of the big challenges, finding the time to step back and make sure you're being sufficiently strategic, not reacting to what's happening today but OK, let's look down the road five years, eight years. Am I positioning our business appropriately?"
SWARBRICK ON WHETHER HIS LONG-TERM VIEWS AND GOALS HAVE CHANGED SINCE HE STARTED:
"Good question. I think they are but I'm not 100 percent sure about exactly what I thought when I first started. But, I think, in this year, we had an extraordinary performance in APR and GSR and that's the bedrock of what we do here. So, first and foremost, it's trying to stay at that level. You can look at those numbers and analyze those numbers in a number of ways but a strong case can be made that we finished first in both in the country. That's unbelievable.
"And so, maintaining that standard of excellence is important. If my staff tires of hearing me say winning championships is what we're about, I feel that those are two championships that we won this year but we had eight other teams that were in a position to compete for a national championship, based on their regular season performance. We didn't bring a championship home in those sports but I love the fact that a third of our programs were in a position. They made the NCAA tournament. Soccer team, women's soccer team, made the final game. Hockey team was seeded No. 2 in the country. Fencing team was either going to win or finish second. They were right there. I love that there were so many. We have a group of kids going off to track and field national championships and can become national champions.
"Our goal is to both move the number of teams that are competing and have legitimate shots at a national championship, both to increase the number and bring some of them home, to convert some of those opportunities to the hardware."
SWARBRICK ON THE MOMENTS HE'LL REMEMBER MOST FROM HIS FIRST YEAR:
"There are several. One was the pain in North Carolina when the women lost in soccer. Those seniors had been to three Final Fours, a remarkable group of young women and watching the magnitude of their disappointment, that was a really emotional moment for all of us who were there. Great, great young women and I wish they could have gotten that one. So that stands out.
"A number of the times that our student-athletes have been recognized for the NCAA post-graduate scholarships and other things where you're just reminded how amazing they are.
"And then I'd add to the list Hawaii. That was important because a big part of the reason, the bad news about being 6-6 is that you have a lot of bowl choices. And when we talked about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to accomplish, a very important goal for me is wanting to get that team away, sort of, come together in a way and have some fun. Just get healthy, get well, establish the camaraderie that is so important to a successful team. Yeah, the outcome in Hawaii was nice but it was more that dynamic. Being at the water park with the team and watching them be crazy on the water slides and having fun with each other.
While I was unable to go, my family joined them at Pearl Harbor. That's the stuff that people don't fully appreciate its significance. Not only because our mission here is to educate young people so that stuff is great, but our fans always want to focus on the X's and O's and the coaches and those are very important things. But, a critical component of success or failure is how a team comes together and what it's own leadership is, what it's student athlete leadership is. I just thought a lot of that emerged in Hawaii in a way that we hadn't seen, especially in the second half of the season."
SWARBRICK ON THE TOUGHEST NON-MEDIA QUESTION HE GOT THIS YEAR:
"I had a strange encounter with a person in New York. I gave a speech in New York and he was really upset about the Rutgers scheduling brouhaha that happened before I got here. He just wouldn't accept the fact that A) I didn't do it. I wasn't involved and B) I had read the file and was making the point to him that there's probably more to it than you know from reading the paper. That's all I was saying to him and he just wouldn't, was not going to go down quietly.
"It tends to be the very specific things like that that tend to be the hardest. The person who gets up and just grouses about the performance of the football team, you can engage that and talk about it. The person who wants to know, you know, about a play we called in 3rd-and-2 in a certain game, that's harder. There's no answer to that. I'm not engaging in that. All I can tell them is I trust my coaches to make the right calls at the right time and I have great faith in them that they will. Sometimes they don't work."
SWARBRICK ON MEETING WITH RECRUITS:
"I would guess I meet with half our recruits. I would like to meet with all of them. Frankly, I love it. I love trying to sell this place and trying to explain why it's different, why they should be here. Earlier this year, on junior day, I spoke to all the recruits and their parents, the football recruits. So, yeah, it's interesting. Some coaches use me and then don't use me again, so you wonder how that one went. But I love to take the time to do it. It's one of the things I'm most eager to do. And sometimes, it's a relationship that helps. Because I've been involved in collegiate sports for a long time, sometimes I'll know somebody who can be helpful to us, somebody who knows a parent or the school well and can make a case for Notre Dame for us. You're looking for anything you can do to help."