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What Notre Dame Football Fans Learned From Jack Swarbrick’s News Conference Today

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Brian Kelly is gone, but we don’t yet have any idea who’s next.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Jack Swarbrick addressed the media today after Brian Kelly’s resignation late Monday as head football coach. The Notre Dame athletic director gave Irish fans some intel about how the coaching search would progress.

THERE IS NO DEADLINE TO FIND THE NEXT COACH

Swarbrick said the university would conduct its own search, with him as the head of that committee.

“Every search process has its own rhythm,” the athletic director said. “It’s about the right candidate. When we find the person we think is the right one to lead this program and have the right conversations with him, that’s all that matters. If that happens tomorrow or weeks from now, that’s fine. This is about getting the right person.”

Swarbrick added, “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.”

THERE MAY NOT BE AN INTERIM COACH

Swarbrick said there has not been a decision in the last 16 hours about naming an interim coach “and, frankly, I think we may approach it a little bit differently.”

“My confidence level in this staff gives me some time to deal with that issue, and if I think operationally we need somebody to play that role, we’ll put somebody in that role,” he told the media. “But I asked the players today to give me a little time on that one because I just want to see how we operate for a little while here.”

Swarbrick added: “If we feel a need to put somebody in that position, they would not be a candidate for the job.”

SWARBRICK DOESN’T HAVE A LIST

The athletic director joked he may be the only person in his role who doesn’t keep a list of potential replacements for his current head coaches.

Fit at Notre Dame is number one. This is a unique place, and it is important that you understand and appreciate the uniqueness. That’s a critical element of this.

Increasingly the role of college football head coaches is a CEO role, and so clearly understanding your approach to building and managing staff becomes very important.

Next, what’s your approach to playing the game? What’s your style? How do you achieve victory on the football field?

And then a whole list of things that relate to attracting and developing great student-athletes, and especially the development part of it. I am really pleased with where our recruiting is today and the improvements we’ve made in it, the resources we’ve put into it, but I still want to be a great development program, so what are your ideas on developing young men to be great players, great champions and great parts of our community.

When asked if Swarbrick would hire an individual with zero previous head coaching experience — such as defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman or offensive coordinator Tommy Rees — the lawyer demurred.

“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,” he replied. “I don’t want to set any individual criteria as part of that.”

OTHER MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Brian Kelly no longer has any coaching role with Notre Dame.
  • The former head coach told his players this morning, according to Swarbrick, “that it was just about another opportunity and the right time for his family to take on another opportunity and have another experience.”
  • Swarbrick says Kelly did not ask for Notre Dame to match LSU’s reported offer of 10 years for $95 million, “which frankly I appreciated.”
  • Kelly, according to his now-former athletic director, did not leave because of inadequate facilities, the desire to house student-athletes in dorms by themselves or the rigors of the university’s admission process.
  • The players will help shape the criteria for the next coach, but will not have a role in determining who is ultimately selected. (Several have taken to social media to stump for Freeman.)

MY TAKE

On Twitter, I interact with a certain segment of the Irish fanbase. The overwhelming vibe is fear of the unknown. Many are publicly calling on Swarbrick to make Freeman a permanent head coach soon. The reasoning varies between thinking the first-year Irish defensive coordinator is ready for the chief executive officer role to preventing him from joining Kelly in Baton Rouge.

Swarbrick is working from a position of strength, at present. If the candidate selection process is methodical — or some might say, too plodding — the athletic director best be certain he’s waiting for his No. 1 candidate. That may be Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell or another coach not yet identified. Otherwise, it’s like musical chairs — you don’t want to be taking choice No. 2 or No. 3 because your first choice got a more immediate, attractive offer.

I personally trust Swarbrick to handle this right. His comments about the program being in great shape — and therefore an attractive position — are correct. But that attractiveness will diminish if coordinators bolt for Saturdays down south and recruits start getting weak knees.

Swarbrick’s job in this next week, two weeks, month — whatever it takes — is to urge guys to keep their powder dry and make sure no one makes a decision without checking in to see what Notre Dame can offer.

Whatever the decision, we won’t know if it’s a success or failure until that individual starts being the head coach at Notre Dame. So anyone who says Freeman, Fickell, Rees or anyone they could possibly conceive of is a “home run” or “absolute whiff” is simply talking out their ass.

I’m just glad we don’t have to go begging Urban Meyer for anything.