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Notre Dame Football

Q/A | Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick on Matchup with Tennessee State

April 6, 2022

Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick spoke on Wednesday afternoon following Notre Dame's announcement to play Tennessee State in 2023. 

On scheduling Tennessee State:
"I confess I'm a little off my game coming in here because I walked in with Eddie George and Jerome Bettis. And I'm trying to think how did human beings make a decision to try and tackle these guys has been incredibly painful. 

"But thank you all for being here. This is a special day for us and we couldn't be more pleased with this announcement. The beginning of it for me dates way back, and that is that in my prior life, where I spent a lot of time working with the Indiana Sports Corporation, we also the Circle City Classic. And Tennessee State was participating in that game six times while I was there, seventh after I left, and that was one of the best events of the year, the excitement around that event. Their alumni coming to our city, the band's the game, and it has always been a goal to try and bring some of that here if we could figure out a way to do it. 

"As you know, our scheduling matrix is so complicated that you're always sort of trying to find that opportunity and it happened to present itself with the way this year's schedule worked out. And so when we saw the opportunity, we were thrilled when we reached out that Dr. Glover and Dr. Allen and Eddie all were enthused about the opportunity. I can't thank them enough—Father Jenkins as well. 

"And of course, Marcus and Ron Powlus played a lead role in putting it together for us. It was a lot of people coming together very quickly to take advantage of the opportunity. And I think it's gonna be a really special day for the University of Notre Dame and our program."

On if he thought of scheduling other HBCUs or if history with Tennessee State made it an easy decision: 
"No, it involved first some research about the state of programs and, you know, I had no idea how many national championships they've won, and you see that number and you say, Whoa, that's a pretty good match. They've won more than we have. And some of the iconic people that played for them. 

"But I'll tell you, the thing that struck me the most as we considered our options was the trajectory of this program. I mean, what they're achieving, whether it's the evaluation of adding hockey in partnership with the (Predators) in the NHL, the investments they are making into the football program. It just felt right that this was a program in the right position at the right time to do it. 

"We're really excited about the additional programming we think we can do around this game. I think there are opportunities for our presidents to do some things together, faculty, certainly the bands beyond halftime, we have to take advantage of that. So it's just a great opportunity, and they just felt like the perfect partner. That they could make it work was just fortuitous." 

On if the positive experience with Howard on MLK led to the decision:
"Well, Coach (Mike) Brey claims 100% credit for this. So I got to give it to him. But we had been talking about this for a while. But the success of that and all the benefits we saw for our student-athletes and the university sort of accelerated our desire to get this done." 

On if the return from Ireland made this an attractive date:
"A little bit had to do with the annual exercise that we go through of working with Marcus, in this case, to say, 'When do we want the byes to fall? What should that look like?' 

"We had originally talked about a bye on this date, but to take your bye so early in the season isn't a great idea. And so as we started to talk about this, we said, 'why don't we move the bye and use this day?' and it worked for Tennessee State and it worked for us. So that's what made it happen." 

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