Saturday, July 11, 2009

more 'brick | by Jay

Jack Swarbrick gave an interview to BGI the other day where he talked some more about scheduling concerns. In it, I was dismayed to hear Swarbrick trot out that old cliché about how N.D. fans, in their desire for more competitive schedules, want to face a "top 10 team every week." We heard this canard from White over the years while he was rationalizing a crummy slate of games; I heard it personally from Heisler at a seminar at N.D. This line really is a strawman: as Doug over at WeIsND points out, there are exactly zero folks clamoring for a murderer's row year-in, year-out.

I will allow that if you are the one answering the athletic department mail, it may seem that N.D. fans want lots and lots of big name teams; surely Swarbrick's office is getting a lot of letters imploring him to add Texas and Alabama and Georgia and so on. But there's a huge difference between wanting a couple of more "name" teams at the top, and something stupid like "top 10 teams every week." ND fans aren't stupid. Nobody wants 12 games in a row against top 10 teams. So it was disconcerting to hear Swarbrick prop up the same strawman. It makes us, the fans, sound like delusional masochists, which we aren't. (As Jack Lipnik would say, "Let's put a stop to THAT rumor right now!")

What folks do want is something much more reasonable and attainable: we want more diversity to the schedule, as befits a true independent, and we don't want to be locked into the same old teams year in, year out. And yes, we need to stay competitive, but not insanely so. Most of all, we'd like to make sure we have some interesting top-end names headlining each season -- not just Southern Cal and Michigan. That's about all the fans are looking for, Jack.

Despite the strawman utterance, there are, I think, important differences in what Swarbrick is saying about the schedule and what his wrongheaded predecessor wanted to do.

For one, Swarbrick simply isn't selling it like White did. In fact, it seems like he's leaving himself an out, just in case the whole 7-4-1 thing doesn't work:
The hardship Swarbrick faces is finding those teams who are willing to come to Notre Dame for game, without the benefit of a return visit from the Irish.

“Implementing it is very hard,” Swarbrick said. “Our fans would like to see us play a top-10 team every week. Well, top-10 teams aren’t going to come on a non home-and-home basis. Top 30 teams aren’t going to come on a non home-and-home basis. And so you have to balance those things…It’s much harder than I might have thought prior to sitting down and trying to fill in those blanks.”
I heard similar sentiments from Swarbrick relayed to me by a friend who heard him speak to an alumni group in Omaha recently; he talked about how "hard" it is to make it work. By repeatedly citing the hardships in executing the 7-4-1, I think he's setting up one of two possible outcomes: A) because it's impossible, we'll be getting zero bigger-name teams in the future, so prepare yourself for a lot of MAC and WAC and Sun Belt filler, or B) we're going to see some welcome backsliding on the rigidity of 7-4-1, cracking it open to include some more home-and-homes with the top 10/top 30 types.

This leads to my second point: given the profundity of on-the-record interviews Swarbrick has given on the topic, I don't think we should read the BGI piece in isolation. As we've documented here, there has been a lot of smoke concerning marquee matchups with Miami, Wisconsin, Texas, and the like emanating from Swarbrick's office recently. To our knowledge, none have been scheduled yet. But this chatter seems more in line with scenario B than scenario A, doesn't it? We shall see.