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Notre Dame Football

Swarbrick | Notre Dame Positioned To Compete For National Titles

December 1, 2021

The message from Jack Swarbrick during Tuesday’s press conference was clear and the Notre Dame Director of Athletics returned to it repeatedly.

Whether you believe it or not is another story, but Swarbrick continuously stressed his belief that the Irish have cemented their status as an elite-level program capable of winning a national championship…now.

Swarbrick contrasted the situation he finds himself in today following Brian Kelly’s departure for LSU with the one he was in a dozen years ago, which led him to hiring Kelly in the first place.

“The circumstances could not be more different,” Swarbrick told reporters. “Then, I was in the process of trying to find someone to fix a very broken program and in a circumstance where, frankly, a lot of people didn't think this was a place they wanted to be because they didn't think Notre Dame was committed or able to produce championship football teams.

“I couldn't be more pleased with the difference I see today as I embark on another search. In my 14 years, this program has never been in better shape. We have never been in a better position to take the next step in building this program into a consistent contender for National Championships, and I am excited with the opportunity to attract the next leader to do that.”

Swarbrick credited Kelly with helping put the program in that position and acknowledged ongoing discussions about ways to continue upgrading the program. But he dismissed the notion that those discussions played some role in Kelly’s decision to leave.

“We always are talking about the program's needs and how to improve it, and there was not anything identified at any time that was something we could not accommodate or meet,” he said.

Swarbrick pointed to the improvements that have already been made and hinted at more to come.

“I think we have the best indoor athletic center or indoor football facility in the country, and most of the NFL scouts that come in make that same observation,” he said. “That was a major investment we've made. We've made investments in our other practice fields. We've made investments in the building itself. We redid all of the offices last year.

“It's a matter of continued investment. We'll always be updating the weight room. We'll always be updating the locker room. At some point in the not-too-distant future, we need to figure out how to most effectively either expand or change the footprint for the football operations building.”

Swarbrick was asked directly if Kelly requested further allowances from Admissions, Housing or flexibility in the new era of NIL.

“We just didn't have those,” he said. “We always have personnel discussions about do we need another X or Y on the staff, and we've always been prepared to support those, and we talk about facilities.

“But one of the things I appreciated about Brian and why he was successful here was - maybe after a little initial resistance - he came to appreciate the things that define Notre Dame like its residential policy, like its admissions standards, like its unique eligibility standards.”

Swabrick again brushed back the idea that any of those issues contributed to Kelly leaving.

“It had been a long, long time since we had had conversations about any of those,” he said.

Had Kelly come to him with any specific upgrade requests, Swarbrick said he would have entertained them.

“I think this was fundamentally a decision by Brian and his family,” he said. “This wasn't a matter of saying, ‘Gosh, I need X or Y to remain at Notre Dame.’ There just weren't any of those conversations. I would not have resisted to enter into those conversations.

“Let me stress, we're always talking about improvements in the program, constantly, and we have a capital improvement plan that spans the next three years. So, it's not about not doing things to get better. It's just that we talked about what those would be and what those would look like, and there wasn't distance between us.”

Rick Kimball/ISD

So, if Notre Dame was willing, did Kelly leave because he felt Notre Dame was simply unable to provide him everything he needed to win a national title?

“There's no sense in which I think it was motivated by a belief that we couldn't take the next step here,” Swarbrick said. “Brian has consistently reinforced to the team that we are positioned to take that next step, and I believe that passionately.”

Asked what Notre Dame needs to do to take that next step, Swarbrick isn’t sure there is a whole lot left to do.

“When I look at the team that played the last half of the season, I don't see a gap,” he said. “I think this team is really well-positioned. I believe we're one of the top four teams in the country.

“The cumulative results of our last four or five games I think are compelling. I think we can play with anybody in the country right now. Can we get better? Always. Every team can. But a lot of the things that we chased for a while, we've put ourselves in a much different position; youth, depth, development have all put us in a really strong place.”

Then, why did Kelly leave?

“I don't want to speak for Brian, he can answer that question,” Swarbrick said. “I think it's fair for me to share that he told the team (Tuesday) that it was just about another opportunity and the right time for his family to take on another opportunity and have another experience.”

Swarbrick also pointed to the length of Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame, longer than any previous head coach not named Knute Rockne.

“12 years is a really long time at Notre Dame,” he said. “We were incredibly well-served to have Brian here for that period of time.

“But it's a long time.”

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