Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Swarbrick says key to athletics is returning students

August 6, 2020

The onus is on the students.That was the overriding message from Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame's long-tenured athletics director, during a Thursday afternoon appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show on the Southeastern Conference Network."Programs are doing what they can, and doing it well," Swarbrick told Finebaum. "Now, the students come back. That's going to determine more than anything what we can do."The Fighting Irish football program, coming off an 11-2 season and the program's most successful three-year stretch since the early 1990s, has had the majority of its football roster back on the South Bend, Ind., campus since early June.

It released a single positive COVID-19 test for a football player in late-June; it released a second round of tests just after the July 4 holiday that revealed zero positive tests for the viral pandemic.

Now, however, as Swarbrick referenced, Notre Dame is welcoming back students moving onto campus for the first time since the school dismissed for spring break after the first week of march and never resumed in-person classes.Notre Dame is set to begin an accelerated fall semester with classes starting the week of August 10 and including no fall break as well as end-of-semester dismissal before Thanksgiving.The next few weeks, Swarbrick explained on Finebaum's show, are critical to the potential of a college football season.

"If there's one thing all of us has learned, is trying to predict where this pandemic is going or how it will react is a fool's errand," Swarbrick said. "One thing I'm comfortable with in the past four months is being wrong. ...

"That's the whole perspective here [that it is about the general student population and a focus on the academic setting, not athletics]. We cannot under any circumstances as an athletic department create a risk for our university that it doesn't generally have for the whole university, whole student and faculty population right now. And that's our focus."Notre Dame's football program is set to open its preseason camp in the next week after the Atlantic Coast Conference on Thursday morning released its revamped 2020 football schedules for all league members, including provisional member Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish are scheduled to open their season at home against Duke on September 12.

"If we increase the risk-profile at Notre Dame, we won't be playing (football) this year," Swarbrick said. "We have to do everything we can to help the overall goal, which is to have a successful academic year with our students in residence. That's our focus.

"If as a university we can't manage that, we're not going to hold on to the opportunity to participate in athletics if it's inconsistent with what we're doing as a university."Swarbrick also addressed with Finebaum Notre Dame's move as a full football member of the ACC for the coming campaign, which affords Notre Dame an opportunity to potentially participate in its first-ever college football conference championship game."I don't think it will alter our perspective [as a nationally independent program]," Swarbrick said. "But one wonders as conferences move to conference-only scheduling what their futures will be like."

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