Exiting Notre Dame AD addresses expansion, realignment and college sports’ immensely uncertain future

Jack Swarbrick wants a moment of Nick Saban’s time. That was among the thoughts shared by Notre Dame’s former athletic director, who left the Fighting Irish after 16 years Monday with former NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua stepping in as his replacement.

Swarbrick, 70, recently spoke with CBS Sports for an exit interview of sorts. After more than a decade and a half as a powerful figure leading one of college sports’ most notable brands, Swarbrick departs having overseen the most national championships of any AD in program history. (Though none in football, of course.)

Swarbrick was in the room as a voting member of the BCS and later the College Football Playoff, holding unique power as an AD standing alongside 10 FBS commissioners. Under his watch, the Irish played for a combined three championships — one BCS Championship Game and two CFPs. That’s more than 126 FBS schools.

As for what’s next? Swarbrick wants to pick Saban’s brain about the future of the sport.

Swarbrick’s time at Notre Dame has included glory and tragedy (death of Declan Sullivan in 2010). Before last season, he concluded college football was a “complete disaster.” In 2018, Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins called the NCAA enforcement process “perverted” in relation to an academic fraud case. Last year, Swarbrick and Jenkins co-wrote a New York Times op-ed warning that college sports was headed toward semiprofessional status.

In disparate times, Notre Dame still can look itself in the mirror as a university legitimately attempting to balance academics and athletics. Its football independence has never been more solid. Combining revenue from NBC and ESPN — the latter through its scheduling partnership with the ACC — Notre Dame is believed to making…


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