Thursday, July 17, 2008

The View from (2000 Miles from) Indianapolis | by Dylan

When the rumor mill kicked into gear on Monday and Jack Swarbrick's name began to propagate in pixels around the ND digital universe, I had the feeling I had heard the name before. I googled him and checked out his Baker & Daniels bio and saw that he had been Chairman of the Board of the Indiana Sports Corporation. My father, who lives in Indianapolis, has been involved with the Sports Corp in one form or another since the mid-80's, so I called him up and filled him in on the scuttlebutt. I had barely finished the sentence when he said "He'd be perfect."

I moved to Indianapolis in 1984, just in time to see Notre Dame get their collective ass handed to them by Purdue in the inaugural game at the sparkling new Hoosier Dome. The opening of the stadium and the arrival of the Colts that year were two of the most exciting developments, up to that point, in the civic project that promised to bring a renaissance to the town trying to outgrow the moniker "Indianoplace." The engine that would drive the renewal of downtown Indianapolis would be sports, a model that is well worn now, but seemed pretty novel at the time.

The next few years would see that vision become reality as one event after another rolled through town. I remember going to see Willie Banks break the world record in the triple-jump at the USA Track and Field Championships in 1985, seeing Team USA beat Cuba in baseball at the Pan Am Games in 1987 (on a ninth-inning home run by I can't remember who, but it was his second of the game, one from each side of the plate), multiple NCAA Regionals and Final Fours, and all sorts of other national and world championship events in cycling, diving, swimming, and gymnastics.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, the momentum kept building and Indianapolis was transformed into the type of city that is chosen to host the Super Bowl. This was, quite literally, unthinkable in the early '80s, and one of the reasons it came to pass was because of the Indiana Sports Corporation and the leadership of Jack Swarbrick. Watching Indianapolis progress over the last 30-ish years, in large part by integrating amateur sports into the fabric of the town and using that integration to spur economic development, has been fairly amazing. One of the architects of that transformation is now running our athletic department. Can I get a Hell, Yeah!?

Anyhow, as we were all sniffing around on Monday, trying to figure out who this guy was, we got an email from a reader who is also an attorney in Indianapolis who knows and has worked with Swarbrick. It read, in part:

Swarbrick is the perfect choice for Athletics Director at our University. A '76 graduate with a law degree from Standford, he is the right man at the right time. He is a member of the family who not only knows how amateur sports are run in America, but also one who is anticipating where sport will go in this country.

Jack is the real deal. He understands the role the University and its athletic program must play in the community in which it is located and the communities in which it competes.

His accomplishments are truly remarkable. Whether it is the National Sports Festival, the Pan American Games, the World Gymnastics Championship, multiple Final Fours, the relocation of the NCAA headquarters, the Indiana Sports Corporation, or two Super Bowl bids, Jack has provided effective and unifying leadership ensuring success in each of these endeavors and securing Indianapolis as the Amateur Sports Capital of the world.

He is a well respected attorney and national sports consultant, proud to be the lead consultant to the NCAA. This is the guy.
Glowing praise, and apparently not an uncommon sentiment in Indianapolis and elsewhere, as you can see from the list of quotes referred to in the post below. The reader described Swarbrick as the most well-known unknown man in national sports.

Not anymore.