July 16, 2008
DENNIS BROWN: Good afternoon. I'm Dennis Brown, chief spokesman for the university and assistant vice president for news and information. I want to thank all of you, particularly our friends in the media, for joining us here this afternoon. We're going to have Father Jenkins offer a few comments on our selection of a new athletic director. We'll have him introduce Jack. Then we will open it up to questions from the media. `
Following the open Q&A, we will offer the print media 10 or 15 minutes of more informal interview up here up front, and then after that we'll have 10 or 15 minutes with the broadcast media where Jack in particular can go along the back and meet with each of you.
Again, thanks for joining us. I'll turn it over to Father Jenkins, the university president.
FATHER JENKINS: Well, thank you, Dennis. Thanks to each of you for being here this afternoon as we announce the 12th athletic director in Notre Dame's history.
As we began the process of evaluating and interviewing candidates, and ultimately selecting an individual to lead the Irish athletics program, we were looking for a number of qualities. These included the highest level of personal integrity and the ability to instill that integrity into an organization; a clear and uncompromising commitment to combining athletic endeavors with the academic achievement expected of all Notre Dame students; the leadership ability to work with coaches, administrators and student athletes to attain the highest levels of athletic success; a strong presence in representing Notre Dame at conference and national organizations; and, finally, but perhaps most importantly, an understanding of and passion for the University of Notre Dame and its mission.
Finding someone with all these qualities who can run a complex athletics department is not easy. But we were blessed with excellent candidates internal and external. With the help of Dan Parker and Parker Executive Search, we looked closely at at least 30 potential candidates.
I am confident that in Jack Swarbrick we have found a superb athletic director for the University of Notre Dame. As an exceptionally prominent athletics program at a leading academic institution, that is a Catholic institution, as a member of the BIG EAST Conference with a storied football program that remains independent, the position of Notre Dame athletics is unconventional, and its leader must bring an unconventional set of skills and experiences to the job.
In his career, Jack Swarbrick has gained and exhibited skills that include communications, marketing, negotiations, and consensus building at the highest level, all within the athletics arena.
He led the effort to bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis in 2012, to bring the NCAA to the city in 1999, and to bring the Big Ten Conference men's basketball tournament to Indy from 2008 to 2012. Through these and many other initiatives he has developed numerous relationships with key leaders in college sports: the BCS commissioners, athletic directors across the country, media executives, and the leadership of the NCAA, as well as many others in professional and Olympic sports.
He has a breadth of vision of the landscape of college athletics that in my experience is unsurpassed. Jack is widely respected for his insight and integrity. We're just very pleased that he will be using these many skills in service to Notre Dame.
In my conversations with Jack, I was particularly impressed with his appreciation of and commitment to the wider mission of Notre Dame. The core of that mission is to educate young people who combine the highest level of competence in their chosen profession with faith, a sense of service, and moral character.
We are extremely proud to call Jack Swarbrick an alumnus of Notre Dame. When he graduated from Stanford law school, his intention was to remain on the West Coast and practice law. However, a conversation with a Holy Cross priest led him to reevaluate his objectives and ultimately to return to his roots in Indiana.
At the same time as he began his career in the law firm Baker & Daniels in the early 1980s, the City of Indianapolis had just started its effort to become a world class center for amateur and professional athletics. As someone deeply committed to his community, Jack quickly became a centerpiece of those initiatives both on a professional and personal level, representing clients within the U.S. Olympic movement while also working tirelessly in service to the Indiana Sports Corporation.
During his years as a member and chair of the Sports Corporation, Indianapolis hosted the Pan American Games, the NCAA Final Four and other championship competitions, and a wide array of Olympic and other amateur sports.
Jack has a compelling vision for the future of Notre Dame athletics and the passion, intelligence and experience to see that vision through. He will have the very good fortune to lead an athletics department that is extraordinarily strong. We have experienced administrators, successful coaches and wonderful student athletes. A president could not ask for a better group of intercollegiate professionals and athletes.
In particular I want to recognize and thank Missy Conboy for her service to the university as interim athletic director. She has kept a steady hand on our organization in this transitional period and I'm deeply grateful for her leadership.
Finally I'd like to warmly and enthusiastically welcome to the Notre Dame family Jack's wife Kimberly and his children Kate, Connor, Cal and Christopher. We are very pleased to have you with us.
You will find much more about Jack in the material we have prepared for you. So with that, allow me to introduce to you the 12th director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Jack Swarbrick.
JACK SWARBRICK: Thank you. When I was coming up the other day to begin these two days of orientation, finalizing my relationship with the university, 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.
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.
This is home because this place defines who I am. Don't let my last name confuse you. The other three names that contribute to my family heritage are Comey, O'Brien and McGuiness. It is an Irish heritage, and a pretty typical one in that regard: Irish Catholic immigrants who came to this country in the late 1800s seeking a better environment, a grandfather who became police commissioner of New York's second largest city. I grew up steeped in the tradition of this university, at least as steeped as you can be in it in a family that never got within 800 miles of it.
I grew up believing that "Knute Rockne, All American" was the only film available to be seen and that when you watched sports on television the phrase 'And now to later action in the third quarter' was just part of the deal.
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. It was what they thought it would be.
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.
My life has taken a number of twists and turns, somewhat bizarre. Father referenced one where a chance 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.
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.
The common features of those experiences, the ones that have guided me, the things I learned here, go to issues of integrity, issues of excellence, and most importantly issues of community.
I have tried to dedicate myself professionally and personally to building community. I am thrilled at the notion to try and take those skills and apply them to a community I love so much.
But being passionate about Notre Dame doesn't qualify you to be its athletic director. If it did, there wouldn't have been 30 candidates, there would have been 300,000 candidates. But I think, beyond the skills that Notre Dame helped me develop, my career since then has prepared me to lead this extraordinary collection of people who are part of the Notre Dame athletic family.
My experiences have run very deep in the sports world. They started in the Olympic movement, working with a number of national governing bodies, consulting with an Olympic Games, running the Pan American Games, most importantly from my perspective, to help athletes achieve their Olympic dreams. It extended in the past decade to be focused much more heavily on intercollegiate athletics, a special form of athletics in the United States where the goals of education and sport are so directly intertwined. Those experiences have given me insight into the nuts and bolts of collegiate athletics.
But perhaps more importantly they've helped me build the relationships which I think are critical to success in this job. I am proud to count among my friends and colleagues many of the leaders in college sports in America today and I know I can count on them to continue to be friends and allies in the years ahead.
The other thing that qualifies me to do this job doesn't have much to do with me, it's the team I get to work with. When I got an unexpected call from Father Jenkins inviting me to have dinner with him, I considered what things I most wanted to know about this opportunity, and they went largely to the issue of the executive team. What was its commitment to the university, what was its vision, how did they feel about each other, what were their skill sets, how was governance in this university shaped.
I can talk all day about the impressions I gained from that. It's an extraordinary group of leaders that I feel absolutely humbled to be part of. But I think the person who put it best for me in this process was the chairman of the Board of Trustees Dick Notebaert. Dick, as you know, is a guy that has had extraordinary success in the business world leading great teams. He said to me, "Jack," in response to my question, "I can tell you that in all my years in business I've never worked with a better executive team than the University of Notre Dame currently has."
The quality of that team is not limited, however, to the executive branch. I don't get to come in and fix a broken athletic department; I get to work with one of the best in the country, people who have achieved great things already, that I'll try not to mess up.
Chief among them, already recognized. But if you work in the intercollegiate athletic industry as I do, you know what an extraordinary asset Missy Conboy is for this university. Her leadership in the transition has been critical, but it extends way beyond that. She is a leader in intercollegiate athletics, an extraordinary representative of this university.
And, finally, the third team that makes my success possible is my family. They have been incredibly supportive of 20 years of athletic wandering, late nights working events, and the intensity that is athletic administration, and they have done so with extraordinary passion and support. They are thrilled to be members of the Notre Dame family, and I am thrilled to know that I can do this job because of the support they will continue to provide to me.
So I'm passionate about the place, and I think I'm qualified to do the job. But the third piece of this recipe that you have to have is enthusiasm. You have to approach a job like this knowing that you want to do this more than anything else, and I do that. I do that first and foremost because I love challenges.
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.
When people said, Look, youth basketball in America is too broken, there's no way to fix it, that's all I needed to hear. To join Myles Brand and Tom Jernstedt and Greg Shaheen and now the NBA in a mission to reshape youth basketball in America.
When more recently people said there is no chance that the NFL will ever take the Super Bowl to Indianapolis, Indiana, I had all of the challenge I needed, and I was committed to make that happen.
The challenges here are significant. I would argue to you they're 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. I believe that I accept this job on the threshold of extraordinary change in intercollegiate athletics in America.
I have my theories, as Father suggested, about what that change may entail and where the industry is headed. But I think it will be enormous. I think there's much about this industry you won't recognize in 10 years.
We must be at the forefront of that. We must participate in leading that change. Notre Dame cannot have that dictated to it. And I love the challenge of accepting the responsibility for trying, with the other members of the athletic team, staff, coaches, student athletes, to be part of shaping that future.
The other challenge is the most exciting to me. I know you are all part of it, but I think sometimes you have to have the perspective of someone who steps in from the outside to really appreciate what's about to happen here.
Father Jenkins and the executive team and the trustees have set out on a mission, a grand experiment that has never been attempted before. They are committed to building an institution which is at the very top rank of academic institutions in the world, not just a great place to educate young people, but a great place for research, for discovery, for intellectual curiosity. They are committed to do that at the same time they intend to stay true to the core mission of the university: to advance the Catholic faith. And, finally, they are committed to do those two things while continuing to be among the finest and most successful athletic programs in the country.
I'm not here to just do sports right. I love the competitive environment of sports. Don't step on the field if you don't want to win. We want to win. We want to be a great academic institution that furthers research in this country. We want to be a place of faith. And we want to be a place that wins on the athletic field and turns out extraordinary student athletes.
In the three legs of that stool I think there might be a tendency to treat sports as the stepchild. I think that nothing could be further from the truth. Sport is an integral, not a secondary, part of that success. It is integral for two particular reasons. One is sport is how you celebrate the success of the university. It would be great to gather 70,000 people to cheer an important patent, but it's not going to happen.
But we can bring our community together to celebrate what we are on a football Saturday or on a basketball evening. We can gather around our television sets and share the common bond of watching the remarkable journey of the hockey team this year or the women's basketball team when it went to its national championship. Sport allows you to build community and celebrate all that's great about the school, not just sport.
But a special passion of mine, relative to sport, and the reason I've chosen to include it as the focal point of my career, is that I believe in the academic environment there is no better classroom than the athletic field or court. I've spent a lot of time over the years having the privilege of being around great coaches. And when you talk to the student athletes who have been with those coaches, those who played for Ara, and you say, Other than your parent, who most influenced you in your life? The answer is inevitably that coach.
That is the essence of the educational experience. In collegiate sports now we use the phrase "student athlete." Well, the corollary of that is educator coach. That's what the coaches at Notre Dame are. They have an opportunity to shape lives, which is not, as I said, incidental to the mission of this great university. It is one of the most effective ways to realize it.
So the opportunity to be part of the team that has set this extraordinary challenge for itself is a perfect opportunity for me and a challenge I embrace. Notre Dame has given me so much in my life, I can't wait to give more back to it. Thank you.
DENNIS BROWN: Thank you, Jack. We'll open it up now to questions from the news media.
Q. You talked a little bit there about what Father Jenkins described as a compelling vision for Notre Dame athletics. The thing I wanted to touch on was where you talked about you're on the threshold of extraordinary change in college athletics. Can you give us a little bit more about what you see as that change? It was interesting you used the phrase that change cannot be dictated to Notre Dame. How can Notre Dame help dictate that change to the rest of the intercollegiate athletic world?
JACK SWARBRICK: I think it's essential we play that role. And that's not being hubristic. It's the importance of schools that have Notre Dame's values leading that change. I don't mean to suggest by that that we would lead it alone. But I hope we will lead it with other institutions that share our values, share a view of how intercollegiate athletics ought to be fully integrated into the academic mission of a university.
I'll stay away from the specifics of the crystal ball, other than to say I would suggest to you they're a convergence of forces. It's hard to imagine them playing out without change, significant change, happening. Part of that's what's going on in the world of broadcast and media, the grand experiment that is in the NCAA Network and the incredible significance I think that has for college sports down the road.
I think the issues surrounding the financing of college athletics in the United States, a clear division among schools as to ability and approach to that topic. I think shifting allegiances and alliances among schools and conferences. So I think it's a very dynamic list of factors.
I have my thoughts on how they might all shake out. But what I'm eager to do from this position is talk to others in leaderships, intercollegiate athletics, commissioners and athletic directors, to see what they think and try to chart that future.
Q. Talk about when you start on the job, and when you do start, what do you see as your most immediate challenge, the thing you need to face first?
JACK SWARBRICK: I will start August 18th. That will be my first full day here. I effectively started today with meeting the staff and establishing relationships, and will continue to be involved between now and then. But August 18 will be the first day that I'm on the job full time.
I need to learn. I need to spend time understanding the capabilities of this very talented staff, getting to understand what the coaches view as the opportunities and challenges that face each of our sports here. I'm especially eager to introduce myself and learn more about the academic side of the institution, to meet the deans, to establish relationships with them, and to make sure that we are fully integrated into the mission of this place.
Then I want to reach out to our fan base. I want to travel, spend time with them. I want to greet them when they're here. I want to hear what they have to say. That passion is what fuels the success of Notre Dame. And I know some people get nervous about how passionate it can be sometimes, how it plays itself out. I welcome that. I embrace that.
The inconvenience of some posting on a blog you might not prefer to have is a much better situation than being at a school where nobody cares and nobody talks about you and nobody writes about you. I see the passion here as only a plus and I'm fully prepared to engage it.
DENNIS BROWN: We'll take some time for more informal chats. Thanks very much for your attendance.