Monday, June 15, 2009

Anniversary Games | by Jay

There was an interview with Jack Swarbrick in the San Antonio Express-News this morning. In discussing the possibility of playing Army on the 100th anniversary of our famous game in 1913, Swarbrick also mentioned that 1913 was the first year that Notre Dame played Texas. Might he be trying to add the Longhorns to the 2013 schedule?

Q: There’s been quite a buzz generated in the media since word came out that you were considering playing a game against Army at Yankee Stadium. What did you make of the response?

JS: It’s been amazing. We’ve probably heard about that as much as anything. It’s all very positive and people were very excited.

There’s a long history there for college football. When the Yankees closed the old Yankee Stadium, in the commemorative book, a remarkable number of pages were dedicated to Notre Dame’s visits there over the years. We’re part of the history there.

I read a book recently, that I’m very fond of, called, “Notre Dame: The game that changed college football.” It focuses on the 1913 game with Army where the forward pass came into play. That’s the sort of history you really want to tap in to.

We’re about to go into a period of time where we’re encountering a whole bunch of 100th anniversaries. As a matter of fact, (2013) is the 100th anniversary of our (first) game against Texas.

Q: As we understand it, there are potentially some financial issues that could hinder you in making the Army game happen in Yankee Stadium. But can you talk about the prospects of a game between Notre Dame and Texas in 2013 — and we’re assuming that would be at one of the two campuses?

JS: I’m not really in a position to talk about the prospects of that game in any particular year. What I can say is that we would love to play Texas. We love playing the schools that have had a comparable history. But also that share our values.

I think Texas is one of the great athletic programs in the country. Not just now, but for many years. I’m a huge fan of the program, their coaches, and (athletic director) DeLoss (Dodds) is one of the giants of our industry. So, if we can figure out how to play Texas at some point, we would love to do it.
The rest of the interview is also worth a read, if only to get a sense of what the Washington State game in San Antonio is all about. It's pretty clear from Swarbrick that he thinks it has little to do with athletics, and everything to do with bringing Notre Dame's academic and service presence to the city. At one point, he even discards the "it'll help in recruiting Texas" angle.
Q: You’ll be coming into these areas to showcase the university. But you’ll also be coming into some prime recruiting areas. Can you talk about the benefits from that standpoint?

JS: It’s not much of a motivating factor. We’ve always been able to recruit nationally, moreso, frankly, than any program in the country. That’s the history of this program. I don’t know that we get any particular recruiting advantage by taking a game into a community.
Note that "regional recruiting advantage" was one of the supposedly key reasons cited by Kevin White when he sought out these neutral-site games. Swarbrick just deep-sixed that pretense.

The truth is, as Swarbrick says (and as we noted back in February), these games are about the social service projects, the educational seminars, the Notre Dame Masses in San Antonio -- in short, everything about Notre Dame but football. The two teams down there on the field blocking and tackling each other were, for White, simply a marketing tool, and the off-site venue was a way to wring an 8th NBC broadcast out of a 12-game schedule. Although Swarbrick indicates that he's continuing to explore the neutral-site games, he's at least paying attention to the quality of potential opponents and/or matchups of historical significance. Signing a contract with Texas would be a nice reminder that we're here to play football, not just sell T-shirts.