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Irish Turf, Contracts & Schedules

The main news story from Notre Dame on Thursday (April 18) was the extension of its contract with NBC for exclusive broadcasts of its home football games. It began in 1991 and now will run through 2025.

Notre Dame vice président/director of athletics Jack Swarbrick addressed various topics on Thursday.

However, in a brief afternoon meeting with several members of the media, Notre Dame vice president/director of athletics Jack Swarbrick, nearing the completion of his fifth year at the university, addressed several other topics:

Will FieldTurf be installed in Notre Dame Stadium?

Maybe down the road, but definitely not for the 2013 campaign. Durability of the sod is part of the issue if the Stadium is going to be used for more events, as it already has been for Commencement exercises.

“Down the road as we contemplate the future of the facility, finding more ways to use it is important,” Swarbrick said. “Might turf be a dynamic in that? It may. But alone, it doesn’t solve the problem.”

He was pleased with how well the sod held up during the 2012 football season.

“I was pretty clear with my disappointment the season before [2011],” he said of the poor field conditions as the season progressed. “A lot of people worked very hard to provide a better service for our team, and I thought it showed. That was encouraging and we’ll hopefully be able to repeat that success this year.”

Swarbrick also clarified how the installation of sod is achieved, and how often.

“We do partial replacements, we do full replacements, it’s not every three years or every five years,” he explained. “This year will be a partial replacement. There are no magic deadlines for that, but [we] see nothing in the near term that would move us away from sod.”

No Jumbotrons either.

Where is he with head football coach Brian Kelly’s impending contract extension and/or restructuring?

“There is nothing new to announce, and my predictions in that regard have proved to be historically awful, so I’ll stay away from it,” Swarbrick said. “There are no issues, no big things that all of a sudden you say, ‘Oh my gosh, how do we solve this.’ It’s just the normal process of moving forward.”

Asked if he hopes to have it done prior to the 2013 football season, Swarbrick replied, “Certainly.”

Has the switch to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the need to schedule five ACC football teams per year starting in 2014 created headaches?

Yes, and Swarbrick is the first to acknowledge that it is more difficult than he thought to fit all the pieces together. To achieve the goal of playing each of the 14 other ACC teams at least once during the first three-year rotation from 2014-16, and then again in the next from 2017-19, is challenging as it is. Then there is also the matter of finding the right dates where moving around other scheduled games — or even dropping them — can be kept to a minimum.

A visit to Florida State in 2014 already has been confirmed, and the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton tweeted that a game with Louisville also appears to be in place that season, per NBC. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney indicated at a local gathering this week that the Fighting Irish will visit “Death Valley” in 2015.

“It’s a little of everything,” Swarbrick said of the different logistics involved. “‘Let’s have you play Team X in this year. Well, here are the dates we have available. Well, Team X can’t play on any of those dates this year — can you play on this date? Well, let’s see if we can move School Y so we can make that date available.’

“The domino effect is obvious.”

A potential domino that might fall is whether some contractually agreed upon games from years ago might have to be tabled. Arizona State athletics director Steve Patterson has publicly voiced his displeasure about the chance that Notre Dame’s scheduled 2014 game in Sun Devil Stadium might not come to fruition.

“On a school-by-school basis, we’ll work through those issues,” Swarbrick said. “One such discussion [Arizona State] has gotten some attention, but there are several of them going on and they have to work their way out and we’re engaged in that.

“There has been a lot of schedule changing [in the NCAA overall] because of conference realignment. This is schedule changing because of conference realignment. It’s a smaller version but it’s a little different version because as opposed to being conference games in some cases, they're individual, contractual games, so it just changes the dynamic. But it’s certainly not unusual.”

As for dealing with the ACC while trying to sort out the future schedules, Swarbrick couldn’t be more grateful for its cooperation and assistance.

“They’ve been phenomenal to work with,” he said. “They couldn’t be more accommodating and helpful.”

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