3 Offseason Thoughts: Notre Dame & Pinstripes

Staff Columnist
Posted Mar 9, 2010

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick offers some candid assessments of the college sports landscape. That and more in this week's offseason offerings.

1) Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick made news at a Tuesday talk from the Big East Tournament in New York. Swarbrick candidly and thoughtfully addressed the future of his program and the state of collegiate athletics. Let his words – as relayed by Pete Thamel of The New York Times - tell the story:

"I believe we're at a point right now where the changes could be relatively small or they could be seismic… I think seismic is a possibility," Swarbrick said. "I don't know where the spectrum falls out. You have such an interesting media environment here. It's having such an impact on people. You have two conferences who have separated themselves economically. And you have all the other conferences lined up in successive years for broadcast negotiations. That's a tough situation for everyone in that position. The bar has been set so high, and the media market is so tepid, that it creates tension. I've been in and around this business for 29 years now. This is as unstable as I've seen it."

Indeed, the college sports landscape seems headed for a series of upheavals that look more and more inevitable each day. BCS conference expansion and the dawn of 16-team superconferences promise too much cash for power brokers to resist. Notre Dame wants to remain independent of a conference in football, but Swarbrick – who freely admitted on Tuesday that he spends "50 percent of my time" on the matter of Big Ten expansion – might be forced to join the rush if Commissioner Jim Delany pursues a 16-team model for his league.

However the new media and conference boundaries are redrawn – and it's only a matter of time before they are – let's hope some sane limits and tempering attitudes prevail. Collegiate sports have become a runaway money train, and some degree of proportionality needs to be re-introduced to this billion-dollar industry before priorities become even more disordered and education becomes even more of an afterthought.

2) Kudos to the NCAA. The recruiting limit for coaches-in-waiting has been lifted for the Texas and Maryland staffs. Give credit when and where credit is due. Yes, "Nice going, NCAA. Seriously."

3) The New Era Pinstripe Bowl? What a misnomer. There's nothing new about this era of college football. The sport still lacks a playoff. It still has over 10,000 empty seats for one of its formerly prestigious New Year's Day bowl games (in 2010, the Orange). It still possesses way too many bowl games. Neil Best, the media columnist for Newsday, put it best on Tuesday morning: "Nothing captures the spirit of New York in the holiday season quite like a bowl game featuring the sixth-best team in the Big 12." When will leaders step up in college football (and by extension, college sports – just look at the discussion about expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams) and realize that less is more?