ND's Swarbrick comments on current college athletics landscape

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, far left, and head coach Brian Kelly gather with the team for the alma mater following a game against Ball State in 2018.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick addressed the media Tuesday, opening up about the current landscape of college athletics as it enters a summer of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the university announced reductions in pay, ranging from 5% to 20%, for all top-level officials at the school, including in the athletic department.

“I’m pleased to say the contribution that will come from athletics personnel, as a result of salary adjustments, will be over $1.5 million,” Swarbrick said.

In the backdrop of the pay cuts is the ongoing contract extension talks of football coach Brian Kelly. Currently, Kelly is under contract through the 2021 season. The 58-year-old has been coaching Notre Dame since 2010 and will become the longest-tenured coach in program history if he stays through the 2023 season.

“Our discussion with Brian has been ongoing for a long time, and as soon as we get the opportunity to not meet by Zoom, I look forward to hopefully making an announcement about (his contract extension),” Swarbrick said.

NIL

Last week, the NCAA outlined its plans regarding the name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation that is being explored by the organization. In it, the NCAA announced it supports “rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics.”

However, the NCAA also said it doesn’t want schools to pay the athletes directly, stating, “the use of conference and school logos, trademarks or other involvement would not be allowed. The board emphasized that at no point should a university or college pay student-athletes for name, image and likeness activities.”

Swarbrick is in favor of NIL legislation but disagrees with the NCAA’s thought process regarding university involvement.

“I actually thought it would be beneficial to have opportunities for the student and the university to work together,” Swarbrick said. “In whatever form the name, image and likeness activity took, I thought a separation should be drawn between a school acting as an agent or broker and the school participating as a co-licensee.”

Swarbrick is also hesitant with going ahead with NIL legislation during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It sure feels like a ‘pause’ button would still be welcome,” Swarbrick said. “It is so hard, in the current context, to have the sort of conversations that we ought to be having about the finer points of what will emerge as name, image and likeness.

“Plus, the financial landscape is going to change so dramatically over the next 12 months that it’s a challenge to figure out how a concept that developed during what was a fundamentally different economic circumstance will play out going forward.”

FALL SPORTS returning?

Swarbrick said May 15 is still the target date for the university to determine whether students will be allowed on campus for the second term of summer classes. As of now, all in-person activities on campus are canceled through July 5.

Swarbrick said the idea of fall-sport athletes returning before the rest of the student body hasn’t been ruled out.

“There’s an enormous desire to get back on campus. It’s so central to who we are that we want to figure it out,” Swarbrick said. “Could there be circumstances where the campus does not yet open and student-athletes would be welcomed back? Yes.

“… Fall sports teams, collecting for the purposes of preparing (for the fall sports season), may in fact happen before schools are fully open in a number of places.”

OTHER NOTES

• The Notre Dame-Navy football game, scheduled for Aug. 29 in Dublin, Ireland, is still scheduled to be played in Ireland at this time.

• Notre Dame is joining forces with the Big Ten in its initiative to promote mental health services for student-athletes. Notre Dame’s hockey team is a member of the conference.

• Swarbrick said he wasn’t sure what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on non-revenue sports. He said he doesn’t know if Notre Dame will have to consider cutting programs and he doesn’t “anticipate that happening during the course of this.”

• When asked if a statue of former women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw will be built outside the Purcell Pavilion, Swarbrick said, “We’ll honor her in an appropriate way.”

• Requests for season tickets for the 2020 football season end later this month. Swarbrick said Notre Dame sells less season tickets by design, trying to keep 50% of the venue open for non-season ticket holders. That’s why Swarbrick feels Notre Dame will be able to handle any social distancing precautions society still might face come the fall in terms of limiting fans at sporting events.

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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