Swarbrick talks apparel, Stadium expansion and basketball practice facility
Mike Monaco | Friday, December 20, 2013
With its footwear and apparel contract with adidas set to expire after the 2013-14 academic year, Notre Dame is still deciding between the three major companies in the industry, Irish Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick told The Observer.
“We are actively engaged with that process,” Swarbrick said. “We have talked with all the major companies. We’re in the last leg of it. No decision has been made, but because of the timetable, we’ve got to get going. It is a really condensed window to get ready for the 2014-15 season.”
In Nov. 2005, Notre Dame signed a 10-year agreement with adidas to supply footwear and apparel for all 26 Irish varsity teams. The partnership began between the school and adidas in 1997-98, when adidas began providing footwear for all Notre Dame teams and apparel for many Irish teams.
Now, however, the next contract — with whichever provider Notre Dame partners, either adidas, Nike or Under Armour — will force a quickened production process for all the gear.
“They’d like 14 to 16 months but someone’s going to get six months,” Swarbrick said. “It’s not optimal but it’s the way the contract was drafted. No one would do that today. Back when this contract was drafted, you didn’t need as much lead time, now you do because all the equipment has gotten so specialized.”
Swarbrick said when deciding which company to partner with, Notre Dame’s most important component is the potential provider’s ability to support the student-athletes and provide them with the best experience. He said the provider also needs to recognize Notre Dame as a national brand.
“We really need our apparel partner to embrace that concept and to treat us differently,” Swarbrick said. “It sounds selfish but it’s just about being a national brand. There’s one approach when you’re primarily a regional brand and a great regional brand, but we’re not. We’re a national brand and need a partner who can help fuel that.”
Swarbrick added the economics of the potential contracts certainly play a role, and the futures of the companies will be analyzed, as well. Swabrick surveyed the current industry and noted the three major players are all representing teams competing at the highest levels. He mentioned the BCS National Championship Game matchup between Auburn, wearing Under Armour, and Florida State, wearing Nike. In men’s soccer, the Irish won the title against Maryland, an Under Armour school.
Despite recent reports that Under Armour could be next in line for Notre Dame, Swarbrick denied that the company is the front-runner.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about that. Until we get final offers and are really able to compare apples to apples, there can’t be a leader in the clubhouse,” he said.
Swarbrick said the process will come together quickly as Notre Dame collects more information and he doesn’t think the “decision is far away.”
From a corporation-values perspective, Swarbrick said he is “very comfortable” with all three of the potential partners.
He also said if Notre Dame were to move on from adidas, the change would have nothing to do with any “dissatisfaction.”
Feasibility study nearing an end
More than seven months have passed since Notre Dame announced it would conduct a feasibility study to determine whether major changes should be made to Notre Dame Stadium, changes that would “make it a hub for, among other possibilities, a student center, media center and classroom and conference center.”
Swarbrick said a decision could be coming soon.
“I think we’re at a phase in the process where you’ve got to call the question,” he said. “And so we’ll probably do that in January, late January, and decide are we going forward, and if we are, start the detailed work of that, both the fundraising and the detail design work.”
Swarbrick said there have not been unforeseen challenges that have cropped up throughout the study.
“I think in a project like this you always start with designs on doing more than the end of the day you believe you can afford, so there’s a whittling down that goes on,” he said. “But beside that … I think overall we have been very much able to act on the initial concept.”
Basketball practice facility
Swarbrick said one concept for the stadium changes is to move student recreation from the Rolfs Sports Recreation Center into Notre Dame Stadium and use Rolfs as a basketball practice facility.
“As the idea of ‘Does it make sense to move recreation into the CCPD’ came along, then the question was raised ‘Well, if you do that, what do you do with Rolfs?’ That’s how we got there,” Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick declined to go into the finances of a potential practice facility but did say he is “optimistic that we can get it done.”
ACC and Hockey East transitions
In Notre Dame’s first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Hockey East, Swarbrick said the transition has gone very well. He said his main concerns heading in were all logistical, specifically scheduling and how it impacts Notre Dame’s missed-class policy for student-athletes.
“The logistics are mind-boggling,” Swarbrick said. “To your question, I could not be happier with sort of how all that has worked, and in significant part because everyone involved has been so open to change, willing to figure out ways to make it work. The ACC has been a phenomenal partner for us. Our own sport administrators and coaches have found ways to work through whatever the issues are.
“And so it has exceeded my hopes for the seamlessness of the transition.”
Swarbrick said the move to Hockey East has been simpler, yet with the same satisfactory result.
The hockey team has already played five games televised on the NBC Sports Network, and the Irish are slated for six more in the new calendar year.
“I am most excited in that dynamic with our television presence,” Swarbrick said. “We have these games on NBC on Friday night uniquely, and the quality of the production has been so high. It’s the network that does the NHL, and it shows. They know what they’re doing with hockey and it’s been great for our guys.”
Assistant Managing Editor Matthew DeFranks contributed to this report.
Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]