Why Jack Swarbrick Will Make Future Notre Dame Football Schedules Even Tougher

Here at HLS, we have already covered how brutal the 2012 slate is for the Irish. However, this year’s schedule may just be an appetizer if Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has his way.

Jack was instrumental in getting the four team playoff instituted in college football starting in 2014. And as Tex made it clear on Friday, we have the best AD in the country. So “In Jack We Trust”. Well, while hashing out all of the details regarding the future four team playoff, Swarbrick made it crystal clear that he wanted Strength of Schedule to be of utmost importance when it comes to choosing the final four.

Last week, Swarbrick appeared on ESPN 1000 radio in Chicago and had this to say:

“One of the things we like so much about that is as much as this happened in basketball in the past decade, the selection committee will send a real message about strength of schedule. If you choose not to challenge yourself, especially in the pre-conference games, it’s going to impact your rating. That’s another way we think we’re contributing to the vibrancy of the regular season through this process.”

Of course, the reference to pre-conference schedules is a shot aimed at all of the powerhouse teams that schedule absolute cupcakes before they start conference play, but the message is clear: Swarbrick believes that to be the best, you have to beat the best, and he is going to make sure that Notre Dame’s schedule gives them that opportunity.

Notre Dame's unfinished 2016 schedule...will Jack make it even tougher?

Now, it was announced last week that the Notre Dame-Michigan series will go on hiatus in 2018-19. The last few times Notre Dame did not schedule Michigan, they had University of Texas (1995-96) and Texas A&M (2000-01) fill in their spot. If I had to guess, Notre Dame will look to fill in that Michigan slot with another marquee game. Here are some hypothetical games that I would like to see Notre Dame play:

1. Notre Dame-Wisconsin: This actually may be the most likely of the bunch to actually occur. Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema has clearly expressed his desire to play Notre Dame. Wisconsin is perennially one of the top teams in the B1G, and therefore would be a logical replacement for Michigan on the schedule.

2. Notre Dame-Nebraska: Another B1G team, this could be the “Battle of College Football’s Most Respectful Fans”. It would certainly be a clash of two massive fanbases.

3. Notre Dame-Virgina Tech: The idea behind this series has been thrown around several times in the past, but I think it would be great if it came to fruition. It would be a great challenge for the Irish to square off against the best of the ACC.

4. Notre Dame-Boise St: The Boise State Broncos have long been the Cinderella story in college football, but struggle to get big-name opponents to face them. The thought process is that if major conference teams refuse to play them, Boise will be held out of key games (basically the BCS National Championship, or, in the future, the four team playoff) due to their inexcusably weak strength of schedule. They would be almost a lock to approve a series with Notre Dame, and it would still be an impressive win to add to the resume.

5. Notre Dame-Alabame/LSU/Florida: Notre Dame is more than due to throw its hat into the ring versus an SEC powerhouse. There is no doubt that the SEC is the Goliath of college football, and if Notre Dame wants to reclaim its spot at the top of landscape, we should have to go through the SEC to do it. It doesn’t particularly matter which SEC superpower we play (although Bama would be nice just for historical purposes, with all of those championships), as any chance to beat an SEC team would be a great opportunity.

Honorable Mention: Notre Dame-Oregon: Adidas vs. Nike.

While it is a complete mystery who Jack will actually add to the future schedules, you can bet the games won’t be easy. But it’s a challenge that will hopefully help Notre Dame’s chances to make the four team playoff, and one that I am really looking forward to.

Love it/Hate it? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @GrantlandX

Looking for EVEN MORE GrantlandX? You can see all of my past writings HERE.

Powered by
  • http://www.tidecoys.com Rob

    Great, then ND will never win another national championship! It can’t get much tougher than this years schedule. The Irish haven’t been able to put themselves in position to be considered as a top 4 team in……forever anyway. Every year the expectations are through the roof and then comes the disappointing loses.Tougher than this years schedule is just Stupid!!!

    • NDtex

      Forever? In 2005 the Irish finished just outside the top four, landing at 5 going into the Fiesta Bowl. That squad was an OT loss and Bush push away, take your pick. In 2006, the Irish came into Southern Cal as the #6 team in the nation, and talk at that time was that a win could propel them into the title as a dark horse.

      Even freakin’ Ty Willingham got the Irish into the top 4 in 2002.

      And keep in mind, those rankings aren’t based on selection committees or strength of schedule boosts that future rankings will see. The wins and losses will be a major part of the story, but ND will be proven as ahead of the curve in scheduling once teams start seeing their cupcake schedules punished instead of rewarded.

      • http://www.tidecoys.com robsuess

        Seriously? A couple of those teams were exposed by LSU and OSU! Ty’s one team was overrated as well. The Irish were clearly overrated in both of Charlie’s first two years, 1988 24 years ago and counting.

        • NDtex

          The argument was:

          The Irish haven’t been able to put themselves in position to be considered as a top 4 team in……forever anyway.

          That is ridiculous and completely false. Whether or not those teams could’ve actually won a title is a completely separate issue altogether.

  • jim

    AM I missing something? We won’t have 13 regular season games, as your chart indicates … so Jack only has 1 new team to add in 2016

  • jim kustron

    ND is a team that hasn’t been great in 20 years, and we’re making the schedule more difficult! Absurd! Swarbrick is not setting ND up for success but failure. White’s plan made more sense to me. We play these marquee Saturday night games, and we lose most of them! I think of that Michigan game last year and who did it help the most, especially recruiting wise? I be interested to see how this years night games against Mich., OK and USC turn out.

    • NDtex

      You do realize that the only night games that ND has ever scheduled in the past two decades are 2011 USC, 2012 Michigan, and the Shamrock Series games, right?

      Times of road games are out of ND’s hands and are determined by a combination of their host’s wishes and ESPN/ABC (mostly the later). ND, and by extension, Swarbrick, has zero say in that.

      Then again, White’s plan of “lol, I don’t know” made sense to you, so I don’t even know why I’m trying right now.

  • NDtex

    “Battle of College Football’s Most Respectful Fans”

    You haven’t met many Nebraska fans have you? Find some that were around the last time that they were in South Bend and you will hear wonderful jokes about how they turned The House Rock Built into Nebraska’s home field.

    • http://ndeddiemac.tumblr.com NDEddieMac

      Guhhhhhhhhhhh Sea of Red game. To be fair though, they were super respectful as they bought up all the tickets and took over. They’re pretty nice on the whole, I’d give him that.

      • NDtex

        They aren’t awful, but dear God, the ones I’ve ran into won’t ever let me forget that game. They’ll gleefully rub your nose in it, but buy you a beer afterwards (and repeat the jokes at the bar).

        • http://ndeddiemac.tumblr.com NDEddieMac

          Sadly they earned it.

        • Irish Eyes in SD

          Nebraska. Where the N on the helmet stands for Nowledge.

        • Jerry Beckett

          Just say “Well, if NU was coming off a 5-7 season and Bob Davie was your coach, you’d have sold your tickets, too….”

      • Mark G.

        Not only respectful but extremely knowledgeable. The 60 year old Nebraska woman behind me was calling out offensive plays like she was the OC. How many times do you hear an older lady calling for a trap draw?

        The bookstore loved the Nebraska and the A&M home and away format. When they visited our house they bought every piece of ND gear they could lay their hands on.

    • denverirish

      They turned it into their home stadium and did not destroy the stands, field, or locker rooms in the process. Annoying to hear about the sea of red, yes, but more annoying that we let it happen. The bill the university would have if another team had pulled this off shows they are respectful.

  • Brian

    Stop being a sissy, Jim. The players want to compete against top-tier opponents. NBC wants the Irish pitted against the best programs in the country. …and now the BCS, or whatever they’re calling it, demands an independent football team play the toughest schedule possible to qualify. I love the 2012 gauntlet and hope for more of the same.

  • Kelly Gruene

    I don’t see a reason to play Boise State. No recruiting advantage, minimal upside for a win and substantial downside for a loss. TCU would be a MUCH better match. Play at Cowboys Stadium (100,000 fans, mostly for ND), recruits from Texas, big market exposure (DFW specifically and Texas in general), big upside for a win. SEC teams almost never play non-conference games away from SEC territory (Georgia being an exception). Getting one of the big teams from the SEC to schedule a home-and-home series would be a coup.

    • http://herringbonesports.com HerringBoneSports

      While the majority of misinformation about Boise is that it’s a mountain town when it’s the basin of the Treasure Valley, it must also be pointed out that saying “minimal recruiting advantage” especially in regards to 2016 is also incorrect.

      Boise is one of the fastest growing American cities and within driving distance if another in the Top 15 – Salt Lake City. Add into that a region that has gone football crazy and is seeing a MASSIVE spike in youth football participation in stark contrast to much of the U.S. which has decreased across the board.

      They’ll be in a better conference at that point and a win would be significant assuming their team maintains some level of success.

      Plenty of Bears fans who follow the Irish. Your 1st round pick was 6’6″ farm boy from the Boise burbs and there are more on the way. Playing the Broncos could only lead to good things.

      • Kelly Gruene

        I guess I’ll respectfully disagree regarding recruiting advantage. The Dallas Fort Worth metro area has 6,500,000 people; Texas has 25 million. The Boise metro area has 616,000 people and Salt Lake city metro area has 1,145,000. So, the exposure you’d get playing TCU in DFW, a true hotbed of football prospects, would absolutely dwarf the exposure you’d get playing in Boise, which certainly has a few good football prospects.

        • NDtex

          Being from the area, you severely over-estimate TCU’s influence here. It’s similar to the Rutgers fallacy. Sure, the NYC area is huge, but no one really cares. Just because a school is in or close to a major area means very little.

          • trey

            Yeah, ND vs TCU would be great for US, but TCU’s fan wouldnt really benefit much from it…

          • Kelly Gruene

            I’m also from the area. A game against TCU really would be all about the recruiting of DFW, central, and near-west Texas, not about the local stature (or lack thereof) of TCU. There would surely be huge local coverage of the game if it were at Jerry World, much more than there will be when ND plays Arizona State there. Kids like Jonathon Gray from Aledo or kids from Soutthlake Carroll or Euless Trinity or Dallas Skyline or Highland Park would get a little extra ND love. That would create inroads that the Texas schools would be fearful of.

        • http://HerringBoneSports.com HerringBoneSports

          I must make it clear I never made any reference to TCU in my comment or compared Boise State’s recruiting advantage to any school for that matter.

          My point was that claiming “BSU provides NO RECRUITING ADVANTAGE” to be incorrect as it’s a region that is in rapid growth and a houses a new generation of football die-hards. It’s a place I’ll guarantee you’ll see the number of higher star recruits pouring out of at the end of this decade and when you have the resources of Notre Dame why not make some presence known there with an open date?

  • http://N/A Patrick

    What about a game in Florida? Against one of the three powers (The U, Noles, or Gators). We have history with Miami and FSU and UF is in the SEC for all the haters who say we never play SEC teams. Could even play the game at a “neutral” site like ATL, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, etc.

    • NDtex

      I love all the “ND never plays the SEC” folk. They totally disown Tennessee by saying that.

  • http://N/A Patrick

    I know we already have Miami already on the schedule several times in the near future, but why not keep them on the schedule? Like I said we have history with them and it would be huge for all sides.

  • Avon Domer

    Notre Dame has always prided itself on playing as tough a schedule as possible with traditional games such as Navy in the mix. That has always been one of the great attractions of our program and it should always be that way. Jack Swarbrick is absolutely right about continuing that tradition, and kudos to him for taking a leading role in coming up with the new playoff system, that at least for the forseeable future, has ND keeping its NBC deal, has the Irish eligible for the championship tournament if ever worthy, and most importantly, keeps ND independent in football.

    One other thing: I was at the “Sea of Red” game and I don’t blame the Nebraska fans at all for taking over ND Stadium. I do blame the so-called ND fans for surrendering their tickets because they BETRAYED our University and our team. In a perfect world those who sold their tickets to an opposing team’s fans, and yes the Nebraska folks were all great people to hang with, should never be allowed in Notre Dame Stadium again. GO IRISH!!!

  • http://ndnation.com a68domer

    Luuuv The Plan for future schedules! Now, the IRISH have to perform on the field. According to JS, BK has laid the foundation for the future of ND football.

    GO IRISH !!

  • Jim Prisby

    I think we play a game at Miami as part of the three game deal. I just don’t recall what year.

    As far as playing an SEC team, I think we have tried to schedule them in the past and only Tennessee has been willing to schedule games. It’s not us. The SEC prefers to schedule Div. II cupcakes and thump their chest over how great they are. (The same can be said for a lot of B1G teams like O$Um PSU and MSU.) Hopefully, if SOS does play a major factor in the selection committees decisions, that the SEC will be forced to add tougher non-conference games. That’s when we might get a few games scheduled. Until then, they will continue to play the roll of the bully and cowardly not step out of their back yard.

    • Joe

      Actually MSU was 1 of 4 D1 schools to have never played a 1AA team until last year or the year before. Now ND (of course) USC and UCLA are the only ones.

  • Brian

    I think you are mistaken about ND replacing Michigan with Texas the last time the series went on hiatus. The last time we didn’t play Michigan was in 2001 and 2000, and Texas was not on either of those schedules. We did however play Nebraska, Texas A&M and West Virginia in each of those years, as well as Tennessee in 2001, so I guess you could consider any of those the replacement for Michigan.

    As far as replacing Michigan in 2018/2019, my vote we be for one of the SEC powerhouses (Alabama, Florida, LSU), mostly because it would be awesome to watch, but also for the recruiting factor.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/GrantlandX Grantland-X

      Good catch Brian, I must have overlooked it when poring over old schedules. Fixed.

  • http://www.herloyalsons.com The Biscuit

    I love Jack, and I agree that he is better than every other AD out there, and most if not all commissioners. But making the schedule MORE difficult vs this year is patently insane. We have the preseason #1 SOS. Why would anyone want it to be MORE DIFFICULT THAN THE MOST DIFFICULT? This is the biggest issue I have with ND fandom – we feel like we have to make everythin SO much harder just ‘because we are ND’. I obviously don’t want a cupcake schedule. I really like schedules in the Top 1/3rd (so around Top 30-40) in SOS.

    But there’s absolutely no need to HAVE to be in the Top 10 every year, let alone trying to trump ‘most difficult in the natin’ with EVEN MORE INSANELY DIFFICULT.

    Let’s play a tough schedule, yes. But let’s not make it impossible for us to finish with 10+ wins.

    • NDtex

      I think Grantland’s title for this post, as well as his conclusion, is slightly misleading to Jack’s actual intentions.

      If you check out the interview I posted in the last Roundup, Jack thinks 2012 is far too hard and doesn’t want to duplicate it.

      Now what I think you will see two things going forward:

      1) ND will continue their practice of strong, consistent SOS. Opponents like Michigan won’t be replaced with cupcakes, but BCS-conference opponents and we will continue to seek out quality matchups.

      2) We are going to see a major shift in SOS rankings. If SOS does indeed become a determining factor, schools will adapt and fast, making some of our usual schedules seem a hell of a lot more normal. Basically, it’s the inverse of the effect the current BCS system has had on scheduling in which wins against cupcakes are held at practically the same value as a win over a quality opponent.

    • trey

      I was going to say the same thing…in the Jack Nolan video, I distinctly remember Swarbrick saying that this year’s schedule is TOO tough and not something he is really interested in doing again. Look for it to tone down a bit more under his watch.

  • Mike Blick

    In order for the IRish to even be in the conversaton for a BCS bowl, they need to have a record which allows for that to happen. Why do we continue to beat ourselves up during the season, unlike everyone else, just so we can say we’re ND and that’s the way we do things here. Last time I checked, they don;t give out trophys for 7-5 or 6-6 records.

    • NDtex

      Not true. Head down towards the bottom this post that I wrote and you will see that last’s year national champion, Alabama had a much tougher schedule than we did.

      As I point out there, the major difference between our schedule and Alabama’s was that ours in unbelievably front-loaded while theirs was very spaced out.

      Now, you can schedule your way into a BCS game or even the title game as Ohio State has proven before. They also don’t give out trophies for losing those games either after you are exposed and I highly doubt that is what you actually wish for.

      Yes, our schedule, especially 2012 (and even last year’s) makes things a lot harder, but quality teams will overcome that. According to Sports-Reference.com, the SOS on our last title run in 1988 had a SOS rating that we last matched in 2003.

  • Erik ’04

    Guys, I think most of you are completely missing the whole point. JS is not saying he wants to make our schedule even more difficult than it will be this year. In fact, he said he would prefer NOT to go into Southern Cal, Oklahoma, and Michigan State all in the same year. The real issue is that the future was looking bleak for ND to be able to schedule ANYONE of quality. The conference expansions (e.g. look at B1G) were forcing teams to add more conference games to their schedule. The current system was then penalizing them for scheduling difficult out-of-conference teams, which meant that teams really didn’t have room to play Notre Dame. What was the benefit to them? Therefore we were becoming relegated to playing teams from the bottom third of their conference. The new system will force teams to add solid out-of-conference games such as Notre Dame, thus securing our ability to have any good schedule at all. It wasn’t to make us play a more difficult schedule, but to allow us to CONTINUE the schedule flexibility that we have come to enjoy and not be pushed out by the conferences.

    • Erik ’04

      Looks like NDTex beat me to posting this. I was about 5 minutes too late to his party. :)

  • ndNips


    “Is this the kind of schedule you want?”
    Jack – “No, this one’s crazy… The scheduling process is dynamic and you don’t exercise the level of control that people would like to think we do… We spend more time on scheduling than any other school in America because we’re independent and we have to, but you’ve got to have partners for the dance and sometimes your opportunity to play somebody falls in a window which isn’t terribly convenient. Would I like to be at USC and OK in the same year? Or at MSU? No. But that’s the way it came together this year… But a little more balance than this year is probably in our future.”

  • Don Sullivan

    Wrong! Georgia approached Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State for a series last year and was turned down by ND amd Michigan. Ohio State said yes only to reverse their position this past month. Georgia has a great 92,000 seat stadium, great tradition and located is a wonderful college town. Their only national championship came in 1980 when they beat, you guessed it, The Irish. We should play Georgia, NOT MIAMI! Aren’t most ND fans sick of Miami yet? I know I am. I remember their idiot fans throwing rocks at the ND team bus! Let’s get with it Jack and schedule the Dawgs!
    Don Sullivan’64

    • Jim Prisby

      By all means, schedule the Dawgs! Have them play early in the season and replace the Michigan game. The last few years, Georgia has played poorly to start the season then finished strong. Then we get a win AND strong SOS!

      BTW, all joking aside, I’m sick of Miami as well. Can we raise our standards and play schools that have fans with higher IQ scores than Jacory Harris’s interception totals…

      • tlndma

        You mean you want BC off the schedule?