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ND Athletics Commentary: From one AD to another

Dan Murphy | Friday, August 29, 2008

Being a sports editor at a major college publication such as The Observer is a highly respected post. That is why I was far from shocked when I was approached this summer to take over for Kevin White as Notre Dame’s Director of Athletics.

Fr. Jenkins and the board made a generous offer and I buckled right down to work. Unfortunately, it was quickly revealed that I studied at the George O’Leary School for Resume Writing and my work as the Appalachian State schedule guru was brought under heavy scrutiny. Jenkins also questioned my role in bringing Kevin Garnett to Boston last year, which admittedly might have been a stretch.

Needless to say, I gracefully stepped down and the athletic department moved on to another smart choice in 1976 graduate Jack Swarbrick. Swarbrick declined my help, but in case he is reading here are a few things that I had pegged as things to do while I was at the top.

Priority No. 1 is turning the hockey program into a major revenue sport. The team has been a force to be reckoned with in college hockey since the arrival of head coach Jeff Jackson three years ago. A new arena is already in the works, but there is plenty more to be done to insure that Jackson has all the tools he deserves. The Irish are already pulling in some of the top recruits in the country, but if they are going to continue to bring in young talent they will need to be able to back up the promise of better facilities to come.

Establishing the Irish as a household name on the ice would open the doors to upgrade the women’s club team to a varsity program. The new arena would have more than enough room to accommodate a women’s team, and the excitement surrounding it’s opening would keep the turnstiles spinning for both teams.

A women’s hockey team would also allow the university to resurrect the varsity wrestling program. Notre Dame did away with wrestling in 1992 because of Title IX legislation.

But of course, the legacy of any Notre Dame AD is not going to be determined by women’s ice hockey or wrestling.

An athletic director can’t play quarterback, and all the support in the world can’t buy you a few extra wins in a season. However, I did find a way to cement my name in Irish football history – before they ripped it out of my hands, of course.

Because of our independent status, Notre Dame is in a very unique position in college football. The Irish Athletic Director is the only AD in the country that is guaranteed a spot on the BCS Committee. That seat means that Notre Dame has a small voice in the ridiculous process of the college bowl system. That voice provides a way to campaign for a playoff system, or at the very least an improvement over the current BCS format.

Swarbrick said he was looking forward to being on the committee but too few university presidents were interested in a playoff system to put it on his immediate agenda. It is a long, hard road ahead but this one-time AD feels that it can’t hurt to try.

I must say that I am a little disappointed in the University’s decision to allow me to step down, but I have decided to be the bigger man. It seems Mr. Swarbrick is pretty well qualified, so the best of luck to you Jack. If you ever need a second opinion, you know where to find me.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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