Swarbrick Defends Irish Schedule

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick responded to critics of Notre Dame’s scheduling philosophies in a report released Friday by the Associated Press. Irish fans have been critical of Notre Dame’s slate of games in 2009, but the new Irish AD thinks Notre Dame’s schedule in 2009 stands up well against other top teams.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick defended Notre Dame's 2009 schedule on Friday in a report from the AP. (Photo - Icon SMI)

Swarbrick’s argument that this year’s schedule is not soft revolves around the overall average ranking of Notre Dame’s opponents compared to other schools. He pointed out that Notre Dame’s average opponent rank is competitive with other teams and in that argument he is correct. The problem for Irish fans, however, is that while the overall average rank might not be off base, the schedule lacks big games that make the trek to South Bend worthwhile.

When you look at Notre Dame’s schedule as a whole, there are only two games from teams outside the BCS conferences – Navy and Nevada – and neither of them are considered complete cupcakes. While the Irish are scheduling opponents from the major conferences, some of those opponents are looking like cellar dwellers in their respected leagues this year. Washington, Washington State, UConn, Purdue and even Boston College and Michigan aren’t expected to do a whole lot on the field this year.

The other games, save for USC, include Stanford, Pitt, and Michigan State. Again, none of these teams are considered serious BCS threats.

In short, there are a lot of average games this year. Considering Notre Dame’s national fan base, it makes it tough for fans to get excited about making long trips to South Bend when there’s only one ranked team coming into Notre Dame Stadium all season long.

Not all of criticisms regarding the schedule are warranted or under Swarbrick’s control. If you look at this year’s schedule historically, this schedule could be described as daunting in other years. Opponents such as Michigan, Boston College, Purdue, and Washington have historically been strong programs. Even a school like UConn has very recently been considered a pretty tough opponent. With college schedules being put in place so far in advance, situations like this year’s schedule are not necessarily avoidable.

It’s also not as if Notre Dame is scheduling Division IAA schools or tiny directional schools.  Notre Dame is scheduling legit programs that for the most part have rich college football histories.  People don’t seem to be harping on Penn State’s schedule even though they will be hosting Division IAA Eastern Illinois or on Florida’s even though the Gators have Charleston Southern, Troy, and Florida International all visiting Gainesville this season.

Where Notre Dame fans’ real problem lies with the Irish schedule is the 7-4-1 philosophy. Swarbrick also defended the 7-4-1 philosophy that was put into practice by former AD Kevin White in the report stating that it gives Notre Dame fans more chances to see the Irish at home each year. While this is true, the real problem lies with that 1 in the formula.

Having a neutral site game each year in itself isn’t a bad thing. Giving Notre Dame fans around the country more chances to see the Fighting Irish in person is actually a very good thing. When that neutral site game has to be considered a home game is where it starts to handcuff Notre Dame’s scheduling opportunities. Because the neutral site game needs to be considered a home game for TV purposes, it really limits the potential matchups. Take this year’s Washington State game. It is being played in San Antonio because TV contracts prevent a Pac 10 school from playing a game in Pac 10 territory that isn’t a true road game that is televised on a network outside of their TV agreements.

Now, if the neutral site game didn’t have to be considered a home game, then Notre Dame could play a Alabama in the Georgia Dome, a Texas in the new Cowboys Stadium, or maybe a Virginia Tech in FedEx Field. While all of these matchups might be pipe dreams, they are matchups that Notre Dame fans would love to see take place.

Swarbrick is in a tough situation here since the schedules for this year and the immediate future were largely built by his predecessor, and at the same time he also needs to defend Notre Dame and its philosophies when they are being criticized. It’s his job to defend Notre Dame publically whenever necessary. What he really thinks of the Notre Dame future schedules we’ll soon find out as he looks to fill the remaining holes and secure matchups with teams that will excite Notre Dame fans.

Swarbrick also has to a walk a fine line in scheduling marquee games because of the cyclic nature of some of Notre Dame’s traditional opponents. In any given season the Purdues and Boston Colleges on the schedule could be very tough matchups. It was just two years ago that Boston College walked into Notre Dame Stadium with the nation’s #2 ranking in a game played midway through the season.

Figuring out the best mix between marquee matchups and creating a schedule that makes it possible for Notre Dame to compete for a national championship each season is one of the hardest parts of Swarbrick’s job, and the future opponents he adds to the Irish schedule will reveal what his true thoughts are about Notre Dame’s scheduling philosophies.

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  1. Most schools duck playing Southern Cal even in the 2003 & 2008 BCS Championship game, they did all they could to avoid playing Southern Cal (Oklahoma was unable to duck Southern Cal in a big game and you saw what happened). NOTRE DAME PLAYS SOUTHERN CAL EVERY YEAR.

  2. BTW, Not saying Tate Forcier is an addict, just Marinovich. I find it ironic, that he’s saying almost verbatim the stuff Marinovich said before imploding.

    Two QB’s I respect? Both of MSU’s Cousins is pre-med and Nichols ( sp ) wants to go to dental school. Through backs to the old days when these kids were prepared for productive life.

  3. If ND’s schedule is weak, then the following teams should not be in the top 25:


    That also means, MSU, and Purdue suck – which means Ohio St. which lost to USC sucks. Other than Penn State, isn’t that a good portion of the class of the Big 10? That means the Big 10 sucks.

    Now let’s see, Pitt is also supposed to suck: Big East, which lost to other conferences this week. PSU beat Syracuse, so if the Big 10 sucks, the Big East sucks.

    And Washington, WSU, and Stanford suck, according to the weak schedule logic, so now a fair portion of the Pac-10 suck so is CAL the only good PAC-10 team?

    Navy came close to Ohio St. So do they suck? Actually I’ll not ever say they suck, because unlike to hoods on most teams, the service academies are willing to take a bullet for our country. Can’t imagine life losers like Neon Deion, T.O. or even the Todd Marinovich wannabe ( heroin addict ) Tate Forcier playing for our country.
    So Navy doesn’t suck.

    Nevada? we spanked them so they and the WAC suck. This is getting out of hand. If everyone sucks? The sport sucks and even the winners suck. What a bunch of idiots we are. Football’s not fun, it sucks because everyone sucks!

    I laugh at arguments about schedules. ND was criticized even when the stats showed we had some of the hardest schedules. What’s the difference anymore? Can anyone tell me the Mountain West is not a BCS caliber conference with a dominant record against the PAC-10, or that the ACC, Big East, and Big Ten are? Without more strong independents, you’ll never know.

  4. Stop crying Notre Dame fans…Michigan just beat you!! Thought they weren’t expected to do much on the field this year…

  5. Florida played the Citadel last year. The Citadel for crying out loud! For them to gain anything positive from such a match up they had to beat them by 50. And did. Real classy. Does anyone think that a national title contender beating some little 1-AA team by 50 is good for college football?
    I always thought College football was supposed to be about Team and school spirit. Mutual respect for your opponet, fun and fair play. Talk about chalking up a victory before the season even starts. What a bunch of BS. Talk about a double standard. Their hypocirsy has no bounds. It makes me sick to hear them get talked up every year while ND gets blasted for their schedule.

  6. i agree with everybody here, but my little gripe about the article is that i have never met a ND fan who wouldn’t want to make the “trek” to south bend to see ND play in person against anybody if they could get tickets or better yet, afford them with these online scalping services these days. i try to make at least one game per year and i live almost 12 hours away with or without tickets because to be at ND on gameday is an experience like no other.

  7. Compared to entries on other blogs, I believe this is a much better approach to a critique of Notre Dame’s schedule. To those who responded with their comments…WELL SAID! I agree with the five of you.

  8. When ND starts pummeling these so-called weaker opponents then I’ll listen. I do know there are 10 quality football programs on ND’s schedule this year. Nevada and UCONN are still building.

  9. Just look at the other “powers” schedules. For instance Penn State usually starts every season with four patsies. This way they get their timing plus a 4-0 record going into the big 10. How many of the big 10 teams are good. You can go through Florida, Florida tate, Miami, Pitt, Southern Cal, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas etc, etc. How many of these team’s opponents play an equally hard schedule. This arguement can go on forever. How many years over time did Notre Dame plsy a harder schedule than the national champion. ND loses two to ranked teams and the national champ loses none or one against a lousy schedule averaging 40 or 50 points a game. How hard must their schedule be to grab the national title. In fairness to all the teams the schedules are made so far ahead that when this game is agreed to be played the team may be in a great stretch where they were really good at that time. Just live with it.

  10. Poppy, I agree totally. PSU doen’t even play 12 games this yr in the NCAA FCS class!!! Eastern Illinos is a I-AA school and doesn’t count w/i the BCS calculations at the end of the season. If 3 schools go undefeated PSU doesn’t play for championship. GOOD for them.

    1. Excellent point about Penn State guys. I added a little blurb in the article with the Eastern Illinois example.

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