October 23, 2009

Swarbrick: The New Notre Dame Man

One of the frequent topics of discussion among Notre Dame denizens is the level of expectations. Some, including me, believe that Notre Dame football, with the right leadership, could return to the nation's elite. Others believe that the glory days of Notre Dame football have passed, so fans should adjust their expectation level accordingly.

Regardless of your stance on the expectation levels, one thing is manifest: those who are vested with the power to make decisions at Notre Dame DO NOT care about championship football. For the administrators and trustees at Notre Dame, football serves solely a vehicle for generating revenue. Football weekends are not about the football, but rather about a place to bring your wife and kids. Notre Dame Stadium is the Magic Kingdom and the bookstore is Epcot Center.

Which brings us to Jack Swarbrick, a/k/a Kevin White, Esq. If Notre Dame's leaders truly cared about reclaiming our place among the nation's elite, they would have hired an experienced AD who possessed a keen understanding of Notre Dame's history and a clear vision for the future. Apparently, however, the only requirement to become AD at Notre Dame is to serve as an attorney at an mid-sized firm in an averaged sized city. If I had known this, I would have applied for the job myself.

My indignation, of course, stems from the recent announcement that Notre Dame will be playing Western Michigan in 2010, joining such luminaries as Tulsa and Utah. While I am angered enough that Notre Dame apparently has no standards and no intention of playing a mildly entertaining schedule (or one that features more than 3 road games), I am infuriated by Swarbrick's condescending explanation. Quoth our fearless leader regarding possible dissent:

"It reflects a not very sophisticated view of what's going on out there," Swarbrick said of any backlash. "Utah is going to be in a BCS bowl this year, in all likelihood. Utah had a number of years where it was in national championship contention and is having another very good year. Two years ago Tulsa had a great year and in a lot of ways is one of the more dangerous teams in country.

Is this clown serious? Does he really think that opposition to his deplorable scheduling model reflects an "unsophisticated view" of college football? Leaving aside the factual inaccuracies in his response, such as his assertion that Utah will be in a BCS bowl, it is unfathomable that he thinks he can pass this schedule (see below) off as a legitimate slate of opponents. For those Notre Dame fans who enjoy road trips, you can forget about ever being able to attend a fun opposing venue. You can also expect that Notre Dame will be attacked relentlessly by the media and punished by pollsters.

It is not hyperbole to say that Notre Dame football is dying a slow, painful death. Our proud heritage has been entrusted to people who have neither the inclination nor the ability to preserve it, which is sad. Notre Dame alumni need to take back their football program, one way or another. I don't have the answers, although I am certain that, for the third straight year, I will send in a blank football lottery application with an accompanying note that outlines my objections to the management of the football program. I'll also write a letter to Swarbrick and Fr. Jenkins.

One closing thought: I have been outspoken about Charlie Weis in the past and, while I still do not believe that he will ever lead Notre Dame to glory, I am now much more inclined to retain him if we finish, say, 8-4 this year. Why? Because insofar as Notre Dame screws up every important football decision that arises, there is zero chance that we will conduct an effective search for Weis's replacement.

2010 schedule

Sept. 4: PURDUE
Sept. 11: MICHIGAN
Sept. 18: at Michigan State
Sept. 25: STANFORD
Oct. 2: at Boston College
Oct. 23: at Navy (at Meadowlands)
Oct. 30: TULSA
Nov. 6: (Bye)
Nov. 13: UTAH
Nov. 20: ARMY (at Yankee Stadium)
Nov. 27: at USC


Jimmy said...

This abhorrent turn of events is gut-wrenching from a competitive standpoint. Deciding to mix it up and play Tulsa and Utah is begrudgingly acceptable. But when the last big "splash" to next year's ho-hum schedule is Western Michigan, there is no logical and reasonable explanation that can be offered in defense of such a decision.

Credit WMU for their anytime anywhere scheduling over the last few years. Since Nebraska, West Virginia, Florida State and Michigan (all but FSU were 1st week fodder) have played them, does that make it right for ND to jump in line? Was Swarbrick's rationale anytime you can lock up the 4th-best program in Michigan, you make that deal? Broncos fans should be elated at this news. I'm sure a few dozen buses shuttle WMU fans the 90-minute trip high school style, make little to no impact on the local economy, and buy up all the unsold tickets that will unquestionably be there for the taking.

As if Swarbrick et al. thought this year had its close calls with not selling games out (which UConn will be a gameday call if the streak ends), this pu pu platter 2010 schedule should see record lows in terms of lottery requests. Is that what the administration wants? Why actively draw the ire of a fanbase that isn't happy with the state of the program in the first place?

This decision runs contrary to any sensible and intelligent plan to get the Irish back to respectability. The media, as Mike mentioned, will have an absolute field day tearing this schedule to shreds next year. Far worse is the competitive edge that the team loses playing mid-level (and lower) programs. They don't get to match up against better competition and better athletes with an eye towards beating the likes of USC and any reputable opponent in a bowl game we qualify for with the requisite win tally, regardless if we deserve it. I can't understand how this helps the program in its climb back to relevancy in the national title picture. If competing to be the best isn't the goal anymore (which I'd be hard-pressed to believe given decisions the last few years), then tell the fans as such and we'll go gladly cheer for another school that cares about winning. I guess if Charlie keeps going to the wire with Team X on the home schedule, NBC makes out just fine, regardless of who team X is.

I have a lot more to say, but am just not up to it. This is a joke. And nobody's laughing.

Anonymous said...

i like the Utah and Tulsa games. It shows ND isn't afraid to play the mid-majors that actually have a shot at breaking through. But Western? Central Michigan would have been much, much easier to accept.

Anonymous said...

One problem with an open date for an independent like ND at that point, Oct 16, is that most schools are in the middle of their conference schedule at that point in the season, so there were probably very few teams for ND to pick from. Anybody care to dig through all the schedules and see who else had an open date on 10-16-09? I'd think the open date in November would've been easier to fill with a quality opponent.

INCITEmarsh/Mike Marchand '01 said...

Utah probably won't make a BCS bowl, but other than that Swarbrick's, uh, right.

As for 2010, let's see, it looks basically like the same schedule as this year. The first six games are against '08 opponents, as are Navy and USC. That leaves WMU, Tulsa, Utah and Army. The teams they replace? Nevada, Washington, Boston College and Washington State.

If that's not basically a wash, it's close enough to this year's schedule that you should probably ease off on words like "deplorable," especially since your reasons don't quite match your rabidity.

We played Rice in 1988 and Northwestern in 1993. I don't think those games were heralded as the end of the program.

Mike said...

Not really sure why you assert that my reasons don't match my rabidity. The 7-4-1 scheduling model is indeed deplorable. At a time when other teams are scheduling bodybag games as a pure money grab, Notre Dame should be leading and not following. More importantly, to the extent that our watered down schedule becomes an excuse for conference affiliation, this approach is especially pernicious.

You will note that I didn't defend this year's schedule either. Also, the Rice and Northwestern analogies miss the mark for several reasons. Northwestern, of course, is not comparable because they play in a major BCS conference. As for Rice in 1988, it was just one game against an otherwise killer schedule. I don't view Western Michigan in a vacuum, but rather against the rest of the schedule, including Tulsa and Utah, which makes it so bad.

INCITEmarsh/Mike Marchand '01 said...

Not really sure why you assert that my reasons don't match my rabidity. The 7-4-1 scheduling model is indeed deplorable.


At a time when other teams are scheduling bodybag games as a pure money grab, Notre Dame should be leading and not following.

Exactly. We're taking the 7-4-1 and scheduling better teams instead of I-AA creampuffs like Alabama and Florida (who both play 7-4-1) do.

Most schedule difficulty ranking systems have ND's slate this year in the top 20, well above almost all of college football's powerhouse teams. Given that we both agree that the 2010 sched is roughly equivalent to 2008's, I'm not sure what exactly your argument is.

Northwestern, of course, is not comparable because they play in a major BCS conference

Tulsa and Utah are tougher opponents than the average "power conference" teams. By considering Northwestern a superior opponent to them based only on their membership in the Big Ten misses the point, and badly.

Would replacing Western Michigan, Tulsa and Utah with, say, Vanderbilt, Kansas State and Wake Forest make things better for you? What's the difference?

Mike said...

I noticed that you didn't address my points re: scheduling as a possible future justification for conference inclusion and the comparison between now and 1988 and 1993. That, in part, addresses the "why." I believe my post and comments provide more than ample justification for my indignation.

Vanderbilt, K-State and Wake would be an improvement over the current slate, especially if they demanded home and home deals, rather than a one-shot deal. The reason that we are scheduling these minor conference teams, of course, is that they won't demand a return engagement at their stadium.

With respect to 7-4-1, I don't buy the "at least it's not a 1-AA opponent" argument. ND shouldn't be looking to construct a schedule that's bad, but not as bad as other schools. We should aspire to emulate USC with respect to scheduling.

Jeremy said...

I know one of the reasons that the members of this blog hat the 7-4-1 arrangement is the elimination of quality away games. The 7-4-1 model (and ND's refusal to schedule quality home-and-home matchups) destroys the possibility for fun roadtrips and the opportunity to see games in new and exciting venues.

Sure, 7-4-1 is bringing us the game at Yankee Stadium, but we're still playing Army. And what school in their right mind is going to agree to play one game at ND and one game in some "neutral" location, likely far away from their particular fanbase (see: Wazzu @ San Antonio). Its a gutless, money-grubbing way of scheduling football games that goes against everything that ND has stood for since its inception.

Eric said...

Look this isn't that big of a deal. I don't subscribe to this theory that just because we're Notre Dame that we have to go out construct these ridiculously difficult schedules. What's the point? Doesn't Notre Dame already LEAD by having high academic standards and all the rules that are in place? We're already at a huge disadvantage as it is because of our locale, religion, academics, you name it...now you want to put up a murderous schedule to prove what exactly?

Anyway, this 2010 schedule is not in any way going to be easy. Just like this year's isn't. Statistically, the Irish schedule this year is pretty tough, and we all know there are so many teams out there who run through walls to beat us.

This just seems like a lot of hot air needlessly blown. We're opening up our season in 2010 with 6 straight rivalry games! I don't care if we play Western Michigan, that is one tough plate.

Maybe the 7-4-1 schedule isn't the best thing in the world, but you're coming off all wrong here.