Jack Swarbrick on Innovation, Long-Term Plans, and Historic Firsts at Notre Dame

May 9th, 2019 | by CollegeAD
Jack Swarbrick on Innovation, Long-Term Plans, and Historic Firsts at Notre Dame
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swarbrick“We are investing a lot of time thinking about where the industry is moving, it’s a very dynamic time for all of us.”

Jack Swarbrick is now in his 11th year as vice president and director of athletics at his alma mater, Notre Dame. He’s no stranger to the evolution of the industry and has his eyes squarely facing forward.

“As courts redefine the relationship between the university and student-athletes, as financial pressures grow, what’s this going to look like in 10 years?” Swarbrick explains to CollegeAD. “I think, it’s hard for all of us because we always have the next event or challenge right in front of us, but we are trying to be disciplined at taking a look at the long-term.”

Taking the long view is something Swarbrick has taken to heart during his time with the Fighting Irish, completing the ambitious Campus Crossroads project in 2017. Campus Crossroads was the largest building initiative in the history of the University of Notre Dame.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the results of the stadium project. We added three buildings to it, they house many student centers and that was largely what that project was about. Taking a facility that was dark for all but 7 days a year and giving it year-round use, and it’s in the center of our campus.”

Approximately 800,000 square feet of classroom, research, student life, media, performance, meeting, event and hospitality space was added via three buildings adjacent and attached to the west, east and south sides of Notre Dame Stadium. swarbrick

“So, we did that by adding all of the square footage on to our stadium and giving it gameday purpose too. It’s worked spectacularly well. It’s sort of a once-in-a-generation project, and I’ll let future generations worry about what comes next; we’re going to be fine for a long time.”

However, he hasn’t really stopped there, as Swarbrick does have a few new projects in the works, one of which he says is “a must” for the cold they face in Indiana.

“We are a couple of months away from opening a new indoor facility, largely for football, but soccer will also use it. It’s much needed here, in these climates, with the NCAA time management rules, you need a second indoor facility, so this is going to help us a lot.”

Swarbrick also talked with CollegeAD about the football program’s unique relationship with NBC. Recently, the sports team experimented with new shots and camera angles that could have an impact on how all future football games are covered.

“We like our relationship with NBC. We think we can be a bit of an incubator for new ideas at NBC for their football broadcasts,” says Swarbrick.

NBC’s production of the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game featured cutting-edge production elements. A dual SkyCam was debuted that offered a sideline and line of scrimmage view for every play. Plus, in a first-of-its-kind for Blue-Gold, the game was produced in collaboration with members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Media staff and current Notre Dame students.

“It’s a single facility, so they can experiment with it and take those ideas to their NFL broadcasts and the other broadcast they do. It’s exciting for us to work with NBC, to think about new things we can bring to the broadcast, new technologies, we are trying to take full advantage of that.”

Something Swarbrick isn’t so sure about is alcohol sales coming to Notre Dame’s stadium for Fighting Irish game days. He says more research and time is needed before they commit to that kind of change.

“We certainly want to look at the experience of other people. There is sort of an assumption that people do it to increase revenue, but when I look at the numbers, generally speaking, the impact isn’t that great. I think the question is, is the spectator experience enhanced by it?”

Fan engagement coupled with research will be the driving force if there is ever any change in their alcohol sales policy. Something Swarbrick says hasn’t really been thoroughly discussed just yet.

swarbrick“Many schools report a reduction in conduct issues when they started serving beer in the venue because people don’t pregame as hard. That’s worth looking at. What is the impact on the spectator experience? So, we’ll look at that as others implement this, but we haven’t started to really go down that road, yet.”

For now, he has his mind on the next big event for the university, a new historic first. The University of Notre Dame will host a competitive soccer match for the first time in the 90-year history of the institution.

“Liverpool does an annual tour in the states and we thought it was perfect for us. A good time to show off campus with a great sports franchise.”

The school will get to show off its iconic 77,000-seat stadium to a world audience when the Liverpool Reds face Borussia Dortmund on Friday, July 19.

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