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Notre Dame Notebook: Jack Swarbrick Press Conference

Highlights of Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick's comments after Brian Kelly left for LSU

Notre Dame Athletics director Jack Swarbrick met with the media to discuss the departure of head football coach Brian Kelly to LSU. Here are the highlights of what Swarbrick talked about.

On Notre Dame football and the search

"In my 14 years, this program has never been in better shape. We have never been in a better position to take the next step in building this program into a consistent contender for National Championships, and I am excited with the opportunity to attract the next leader to do that. We are in that position in significant part thanks to Coach Kelly, who did a marvelous job of helping to restore the program at the University of Notre Dame .... Similarly, we are in that position because of a great coaching staff and administrative staff. I think we have arguably the best staff in college football, and it's a testament to why we're in the position we're in today. 

"But most importantly, I am in an envious position as I go out now and search for the next leader because of our student-athletes. We have 118 of the best young men in America who are at the core of our program. I met with them this morning, and I was reminded of that and reminded of the fact that the culture built in this program isn't Jack Swarbrick's culture, it's not Brian Kelly's culture, it is the culture built by those young men and especially the leaders of that team. I am most indebted to them for what they've built, and they have my commitment that I will ensure that nothing that they've built will be diminished or lost as we move this program forward in the weeks, months, and years ahead. With that, I am happy to take questions."

On the "Interim Coach"

"Yeah, we haven't made a decision on an interim yet, and frankly, I think we may approach it a little bit differently. This staff is so well-structured and the responsibilities are so well-understood, I feel less of a need to have a designated interim. But as the search progresses, if we feel a need to put somebody in that position, they would not be a candidate for the job."

"We will have our current coaching staff, I hope, largely intact, and we'll designate the person who has to make the jump-ball calls, like how to use time-outs and the coin flip, but we've got a great staff. We've got great coordinators, and so I have every confidence that we will be fully prepared for what I hope is a CFP game, but if not I'm certain there will be a great New Year's Six game, and Brian will not be part of that for us."

On the timetable

"First and foremost it's getting the right leader, and so yeah, I recognize the external factors, if you will, the recruiting calendar and transfer portals, but none of that is a reason not to make sure that we run a process that gets the very best person to lead this program forward, so that will be our focus."

On Kelly looking around at other jobs, finding out BK was leaving

"He did not discuss with me the conversations he had with other universities. We always are talking about the program's needs and how to improve it, and there was not anything identified at any time that was something we could not accommodate or meet. We just didn't have those things come up."

"It was sometime last night, and I can't give you the exact time. I was not surprised. There had been enough in the weeks leading up that gave me a pretty strong sense that there might be other things that were attracting Brian, and then of course social media got very active during the day yesterday. Between the two things, I was not surprised."

Did he counter LSU's offer to Kelly

"No, Brian did not come to me, which frankly I appreciated, with some opportunity to match the offer. When we talked, he indicated that he was resigning to take another position. He thanked me for the opportunity the university had provided to him, thanked me for our friendship, which I very much appreciated, and I wished him all the best, and we talked a little bit about how today would work."

Does the next coach need HC experience

"I don't want to answer it as a hypothetical. We're going to take those characteristics, and we're going to find the best person. I don't want to set any individual criteria as part of that."

Meeting with the assistants 

"Well, the first decision I made last night was to keep them on the road because Notre Dame is in a great place, and I don't want anybody to think we're not moving forward full steam, and so our coaches have remained out on the road. Because of that I can't convene them as a group, so we've communicated via email, and I've had calls with several of them. I haven't gotten to all of them yet."

The timing of Kelly's departure

"Two things have happened. One is schools have accelerated their decisions to relieve coaches, and you saw that this year. But coaches are going to make the decisions this time of year because if you get further you're probably not going to -- don't have attractive options available to you. So nothing surprises me about the timing or that it occurs in a year where we have had an exceptional year and are well-positioned for postseason. 

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"You know, that's a little bit of the dynamic now. Look, 12 years is a really long time at Notre Dame. We were incredibly well-served to have Brian here for that period of time. But it's a long time. I have contemplated for some period of time that there had to be an endpoint coming. We hadn't talked specifically about when that was, but -- in both a long-term perspective and the near term, this wasn't a surprise, and I think this place is perfectly prepared to move forward."

Where Notre Dame is as a program?

"Well, the first thing is to note how pleased I am with what we've accomplished with facilities in recent years. I think we have the best indoor athletic center or indoor football facility in the country, and most of the NFL scouts that come in make that same observation. So that was a major investment we've made. We've made investments in our other practice fields. We've made investments in the building itself. We redid all of the offices last year. So it's a matter of continued investment. We'll always be updating the weight room. We'll always be updating the locker room. At some point in the not-too-distant future, we need to figure out how to most effectively either expand or change the footprint for the football operations building."

Notre Dame's needs as a program 

"No. We just didn't have those. We always have personnel discussions about do we need another X or Y on the staff, and we've always been prepared to support those, and we talk about facilities, but one of the things I appreciated about Brian and why he was successful here was maybe after a little initial resistance, he came to appreciate the things that define Notre Dame like its residential policy, like its admissions standards, like its unique eligibility standards. It had been a long, long time since we had had conversations about any of those."

Why Brian Kelly left Notre Dame 

"Yeah, I don't want to speak for Brian. He can answer that question. I think it's fair for me to share that he told the team today that it was just about another opportunity and the right time for his family to take on another opportunity and have another experience. It struck me how much it sort of was similar to the comments made by Lincoln the day before. I think there's an element of that. There's no sense in which I think it was motivated by a belief that we couldn't take the next step here. Brian has consistently reinforced to the team that we are positioned to take that next step, and I believe that passionately."

What do you think is still separating Notre Dame from winning a National Championship

"When I look at the team that played the last half of the season, I don't see a gap. I think this team is really well-positioned. I believe we're one of the top four teams in the country. The cumulative results of our last four or five games I think are compelling. I think we can play with anybody in the country right now. Can we get better? Always. Every team can. But a lot of the things that we chased for a while, we've put ourselves in a much different position: Youth, depth, development have all put us in a really strong place."

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