Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Jack Swarbrick Talks Future of Brian Kelly at Notre Dame

December 2, 2016

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick spoke on the topic the nation and many Notre Dame fans had been patiently waiting for over the past week. On his radio show (taped on Wednesday Nov. 30th) with Jack Nolan, Swarbrick gave an update on the status of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.


Nolan asked Swarbrick if there was any truth to the rumors of Kelly’s job including a buy out, members of the Board of Trustees want Kelly out and if Kelly may be looking for another job.


“No,” stated Swarbrick. “But we’re happy to do our part to provide entertainment to anyone that’s been engaged in all of that.


“I certainly understand the engagement and the discussion of the program, but it’s been very much business as usual. We have a series of things we do at the end of the year. We do exit interviews with every senior. We do statistical analysis. Coach Kelly is meeting with every member of the team over a three-day period and obviously he meets with staff.


“He and I come together at the end of that process to sit down and talk about what we need to change, what’s next and what the plans are for the upcoming year. In that sense, it’s been absolutely business as usual from our perspective.”


Swarbrick also admitted that he had a conversation with Kelly about the possibility of the rumors of the seventh-year head coach looking for another job.

“We talked about it,” stated Swarbrick. “I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t know the answer to that. I did know the answer to that. We did have a discussion on the night after the game when the reports came out. I fully understood the backgrounds of those reports and Brian and I had clear discussions about his intentions and his future. Of course he clarified those after the game and then in a subsequent statement went out under Michael (Bertsch) account.”


Nolan asked once again, if there was no question in Swarbrick’s mind that Kelly was focused on coaching at Notre Dame next year.


“That’s right,” Swarbrick stated.


I think there is a danger in overreacting to any one piece of information that you get in the course of evaluating football programs. - Jack Swarbrick

The 4-8 season is a cause for concern at a school like Notre Dame and Swarbrick also acknowledge the failure of the 2016 season.  


“It was an extremely disappointing year,” said Swarbrick. “Every player, every coach, myself and other administrators involved in the program – we all share the same view. There’s no way around that conclusion. It’s not bad breaks. It’s not a play here or there. We didn’t do what we need to do."


“I think there is a danger in overreacting to any one piece of information that you get in the course of evaluating football programs. That begins with it looks one way from this season’s perspective, but it feels a little different for me from a two season perspective.”


The Irish went 10-3 with a Fiesta Bowl appearance a year ago and its clear Swarbrick felt Kelly did his job and more in 2015.  


“I thought last year was one of the best coaching jobs I have seen and I’ve been around elite level coaches for 35 years now,” Swarbrick explained. “I think to achieve the things we achieved with the things we faced last year in terms of attrition of our roster, which was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, I thought it was really remarkable year, as reflected in the contributions the players and coaches collectively made to achieve that year.


“This year we get a different result. You don’t ignore it, you certainly evaluate it and pay a lot of attention to it, but I don’t look at it in isolation. I look at it in the context of where the program is overall.”


In terms of winning on the field, Swarbrick was also adamant that winning is important to the University of Notre Dame and that he is looking at the big picture, as he is able to see everything on a daily basis.  


“Wins and losses are critically important to us,” Swarbrick stated. “We are in this to win and we are never going to shy away from that standard, but I also have all kinds of additional information by virtue I am around the program every day.  I’ve said this publicly many times, but for all the disappointment of this season, this was one of the more remarkable teams in terms of its identity that I have been around.


“No matter how difficult this season was, this team led by James (Onwualu) and others, demonstrated a bond and an approach to the game, enthusiasm, willingness to practice and a relationship with the coaches that is what you want to see in a program. That’s not a substitute for winning, but those are the things I look at.”


Once again, the video was recorded on Wednesday and Swarbrick stated he had remained in constant contact with Kelly and it truly was business as usual.


“Yesterday, we didn’t speak today, but part is because of process that we go through,” said Swarbrick. “We will spend time together, significant amount of time together at the end of this week as we always do. Again, I want to stress that it’s the normal process, as we both bring the pieces of information we’re collecting together and focus on every aspect of the program. There is nothing we don’t look at in these end of year reviews.”


Swarbrick also understands the why some might feel that the NCAA penalty for the academic investigation might be cause for dismissal of the head coach, but he has a different stance.  


“I understand why people say that, but I draw a different conclusion,” said Swarbrick. “I think it’s important to note that while that felt news publicly, I had all that information. The nature of this NCAA proceeding was that you agree to underlying allegations and the fact bases. The only thing that was an issue was the penalty.


“So in mid-season when I made the comment about Brian’s future, I already had that information. This isn’t something new coming in late in the season that I have to factor in.


“The University’s view on the appropriateness of the ruling we stated publicly. It’s not Jack Swarbrick or Athletics, the University thinks the approach here was wrong and we’re going to appeal it. We’re not going to appeal it because of the loss of football victories, but because we believe it’s inconsistent with the academic autonomy that the University ought to have.” 

Nolan also asked Swarbrick about the desire of the Notre Dame head coach looking around at other jobs. Kelly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles in after a successful 2012 campaign and in light of the rumors this year, Swarbrick addressed it as any Athletic Director would.


“What I want is the information,” said Swarbrick. “We have very successful coaches here across our programs, who from time to time get opportunities and explore them. I don’t have any problem with that. Now again, I want to stress I don’t think that is happening at the moment. I’m confident its not.


“That never bothers me. I want to know that I am fully informed. Sometimes it doesn’t involve the coach, it involves the coach’s representative doing what representatives do. I’m not going to go into the details of what was reported here and what version of what I know it to be here. On both sides of what agents do and what coaches report to me are pretty normal course of business.”  



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