Was Notre Dame Athletic Jack Swarbrick sandbagging everyone this morning because he’s further along in replacing Brian Kelly than he wants to let on to, or did we see an athletic director scrambling to answer questions he had no answers for? Either way, we got very little clarity from the man who will be selecting Kelly’s successor at Notre Dame on Tuesday morning when he addressed the media.
After a few brief remarks where Swarbrick talked about how strong a position he is in to replace a head coach this time around compared to 12 years ago, he answered questions without giving many clear answers.
According to Swarbrick, the few things we did learn were:
- Brian Kelly allegedly never gave Notre Dame an opportunity to match LSU’s offer
- Swarbrick had an idea that Kelly was growing restless and supposedly wasn’t surprised by Kelly’s decision
- Kelly apparently had a few Fruedian slips over the last few weeks/months according to Swarbrick
- Swarbrick kept no list of potential successors and as of the this morning he claims to have no spoken to any candidates
- There will be no interim head coach for the moment, but if there were to be one, that person would not be a candidate for the full time replacement
- There is no timeframe for a replacement and Notre Dame won’t rush a decision
- Swarbrick will lead the search and will take player input on the characteristics of the coach but not on individual candidates
- Ideally, Swarbrick would like to keep all of the assistant coaches
Ok, let’s unpack some of this because it was a very uneven from “Savvy Jack.” For starters, Swarbrick did not appear to be overly confident in his demeanor which is not ideal. He also contradicted himself to some extent. For instance, he told reporters that he had clues Kelly was restless and open to other opportunities but then said he never once had any discussion with him on what it would take to keep him. If Swarbrick had a clue Kelly might leave, why wouldn’t he have addressed it right away before offers rolled in?
Swarbrick also suggested that he was somewhat unprepared to conduct a search even though he claimed he wasn’t surprised by Kelly’s decision several times. He said he had no list and had not contacted any potential successors as of 10:00 AM. So if he knew Kelly might leave, why wouldn’t he at least have an idea of who he’d target? He claimed it’s because each coaching search is different, and the criteria this time will be different than it was in 2010. Fine, but still, if you thought the guy might leave this year, why wouldn’t you a) confront him about it or b) be ready to move fast if he did?
Doesn’t add up. Swarbrick might not be the best Athletic Director in the world, but he certainly isn’t the worst either. That’s why I feel as though he was either blindsided – despite claiming otherwise – or he was sandbagging because he has an idea of who it will be.
Despite all of his non-answers, Swarbrick might have had his own slipups during the presser. For instance, why wouldn’t he name an interim head coach right now unless he knew he’d have this wrapped up quickly? Recruiting can spiral out of control FAST, and the College Football Playoff committee will undoubtedly consider the coaching uncertainty at Notre Dame when finalizing their rankings.
Perhaps there is no need for an interim head coach because the next head coach is on the staff – i.e., Marcus Freeman – and details are still being finalized. Or maybe Swarbrick does have someone from outside the university lined up and ready because he did know this was coming but doesn’t want to let on to avoid a circus for that coach. Both are possible scenarios, and given Swarbrick’s experience, I tend to believe that he was doing a bit of sandbagging this morning instead of being caught totally off guard and unprepared.
As more news unfolds today, we’ll find out which it was. We already know that Kelly is targeting both Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees to join him at LSU and that Luke Fickell from Cincinnati is already being questioned about the opening by the media. The last time around, the Notre Dame search lasted nearly two weeks. This time around, it has to be much faster, so it might not be too long before we find out more.