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Jack Swarbrick appointed director of athletics at Notre Dame

Author: Arts and Letters


John B. “Jack” Swarbrick Jr., a Notre Dame graduate who has risen to national prominence as a lawyer, consultant and executive in the collegiate and Olympic sports industries, was appointed today (July 16) as the University’s 12th director of athletics.

Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., introduced Swarbrick at a news conference on the top floor of the University’s Hesburgh Library. The appointment is effective immediately.

“As most of you know, the Notre Dame mission is a combined commitment to excellence in undergraduate education and in research, scholarship and creativity, all in concert with our unwavering commitment to Catholic values and teachings,” Father Jenkins said. “Added to that is our long tradition of success in intercollegiate athletics, both on and off the field. Finding an athletics director who fits with this multi-faceted mission is no easy task, but we were fortunate to have many outstanding candidates, both internal and external. We looked closely at some 30 potential candidates, and I am confident that Jack Swarbrick will be a superb athletics director for Notre Dame. I am delighted that he has accepted our offer and look forward to working closely with him.”

Raised in Yonkers, N.Y., and Bloomington, Ind., Swarbrick is a 1976 magna cum laude graduate of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Upon graduating from Stanford Law School in 1980, he returned to Indiana to accept a position as an associate in the Indianapolis law firm Baker & Daniels. He was made partner in 1987.

At the same time that Swarbrick began his career, the city of Indianapolis was beginning its effort to become a world-class center for amateur and professional athletics. An employment law specialist, Swarbrick soon shifted his focus to sports and quickly became active in the city’s initiatives.

As a member of the Indiana Sports Corp., including the chairmanship from 1992 to 2001, Swarbrick led many of the city’s successful proposals to a wide array of athletics organizations – from the NFL to the U.S. Olympic Committee to the Big Ten Conference. His leadership efforts have resulted in the city:

  • Earning the bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl to Indianapolis
  • Becoming the home of the NCAA national headquarters
  • Hosting the 1987 Pan American Games
  • Hosting the 1991 World Gymnastics Championships
  • Hosting NCAA Final Fours and other college championship competitions and a wide array of national and world championships in the Olympic sports
  • Securing rights to host the Big Ten Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for five consecutive years beginning in 2008

Swarbrick’s work has focused on the representation of owners of sports teams and organizations which sanction or conduct athletic competitions. He has served as general counsel for numerous national governing bodies of Olympic sports, including USA Gymnastics and USRowing, and as a consultant to the 1996 Olympic Games. He also served as president and chief executive officer of LMiV, an Internet-based network of radio stations.

In his work as an advisor to the NCAA, Swarbrick has:

  • Coordinated the men’s College Basketball Partnership, an NCAA-led group that addresses the opportunities and challenges in the sport
  • Worked with the NCAA’s Corporate Partners and Champions Program
  • Served as a member of the NCAA Division I women’s Basketball Discussion Group
  • Chaired the NCAA/USOC task force dedicated to developing proposals to expand sponsorship of Olympic sports among NCAA member institutions
  • Developed the business plan for the new NBA/NCAA youth basketball enterprise

Before accepting the offer to lead his alma mater’s athletics department, Swarbrick had been a finalist for several high-profile positions in college athletics, including president of the NCAA and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.

Swarbrick and his wife, Kimberly, are the parents of four children: Kate, a junior at St. Louis University; Connor, a sophomore at Wake Forest University; Cal, a junior in high school; and Christopher, a high school sophomore.

What They’re Saying About Jack Swarbrick

Myles Brand, NCAA president:
“Notre Dame should be congratulated for reaching into its very talent-rich alumni bank to make this hire. Jack Swarbrick’s extraordinary skills have been apparent to the city of Indianapolis and to the NCAA for some time. He has successfully managed large, complex projects on numerous occasions; indeed, he always exceeds expectations. I predict the Notre Dame faithful will discover they have a real gem.”

Mitch Daniels, Governor, State of Indiana:
“Notre Dame was wise to land Jack Swarbrick before someone else did. His sports experience and business skills are proven and obvious, but in particular it’s his ethics and integrity that make him a perfect match for this assignment as steward of the values that make Notre Dame unique.”

*Bill Polian, President, Indianapolis Colts:

  • “Notre Dame has hired one of the most outstanding individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with or know. Jack is supremely talented, supremely gifted and has an incredible knowledge of a wide variety of sports. Coupled with his legal background, I can’t imagine a man who is any more qualified than Jack for the job. I join with his legion of friends in wishing him nothing but the best as he embarks on this new chapter in his life.”

*Tony Dungy, Head Coach, Indianapolis Colts:

  • “I commend Notre Dame on the hiring of Jack Swarbrick as athletic director. At the same time, I congratulate Jack for this outstanding opportunity at one of the nation’s premier institutions. I have had the privilege of working with Jack and enjoying his company on many occasions. I know his abilities as a professional and a person will benefit the university greatly.”

*Larry Williams, Athletics and Recreation Director, University of Portland; 1984 Notre Dame Football Captain; 1985 Notre Dame Graduate:

  • “Notre Dame showed brilliance in hiring Jack Swarbrick as its next athletic director. Jack is an incredibly strategic and creative thinker who happens to also be an incredibly hard worker. He has a long track record of using those skills to achieve success in the sports industry. As an alum and former student-athlete, I am very excited to have him leading the Notre Dame athletic department.”

Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director, USA Swimming:
“Jack Swarbrick is both a visionary and a pragmatist. He is a thoughtful leader who will challenge others to change, while simultaneously exhibiting an appreciation for Notre Dame’s rich history and traditions. In so many ways, Jack is the perfect choice to lead Notre Dame athletics into the future.”

Steve Penny, President, USA Gymnastics:
“Jack is a visionary and strategic leader with a strong sense for serving the best interests of great institutions such as Notre Dame. His outstanding leadership skills have helped to transform Indianapolis into one of America’s premier sports communities, and his experience – especially with the NCAA – will be a valuable asset to the University.”

*Mark Miles, President/CEO, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership:

  • “I’ve known Jack well and worked closely with him since 1985. He’s the perfect person for the job. First, he loves Notre Dame and he has lived his life in a way that reflects the values of the institution, because that is the essential nature of his character. Second, he has the technical skills and capabilities to excel in the job and to ensure that the Irish athletic program continues to set the highest standards for college athletics. Indianapolis’ loss is Notre Dame’s gain. We are grateful for all he has done for Indianapolis and we look forward to following his success in South Bend.”

Jim Delany, Commissioner, Big Ten Conference:
“Jack is a superb professional who has spent his career in law, business and athletics. He’s had interest in a position like this for the past few years, and this seems like a perfect fit for both the institution and the individual.”

Joe Kernan, President, South Bend Silver Hawks; Former Governor, State of Indiana; Former Mayor, City of South Bend:
“Jack is very smart and is highly respected by everyone that I know who has dealt with him. I’ve seen him in action and he knows what he’s doing. He has a great sense of humor. He gets things done and done the right way. He loves Notre Dame. I think he will be a great fit for this job at Notre Dame as well as in the community. Jack is a great choice.”

Max L. Siegel, President Of Global Operations, Dale Earnhardt Inc; Notre Dame Law School Graduate:
“Jack Swarbrick will be a tremendous asset to the Notre Dame athletic program. He is a proven leader, a strategic thinker and a team player. Jack”s unique skill set, vast experience in amateur and professional sports, as well as his vision will both sustain and enhance Notre Dame’s position as a leader in college athletics."

*Frank Supovitz, Senior Vice President, Events-National Football League:

  • “Through his work on Super Bowl XLVI and the 2007 NFL Kickoff, Jack Swarbrick has been a tremendous ambassador for Indianapolis and a great friend to the NFL. His experience and expertise in the world of sport will be invaluable assets to Notre Dame.”

*Jeff Smulyan, President, Emmis Communications:

  • “This is absolutely terrific news. I can”t imagine Notre Dame picking someone with more knowledge, integrity and passion for this job than Jack Swarbrick. As a USC alum, it is the only possible decision Notre Dame could ever make to almost make me switch allegiances. Seriously, Jack Swarbrick is a first-class human being, with a first-class mind and Notre Dame will be proud to have him representing the university. Congratulations on a brilliant choice."

Michael O’Hara Lynch, Head of Global Sponsorship Management, Visa Inc.; Notre Dame Graduate:
“Jack Swarbrick is the perfect choice to lead the University of Notre Dame athletics in the many years to come. No one is more knowledgeable or highly regarded in the world of college sports than Jack. In addition to being a great human being of sound character, he is one of the smartest people in the business. As a proud alumnus, I couldn’t be
more thrilled for the future of Notre Dame athletics.”

*Jim Morris, President, Indiana Pacers:

  • “Jack Swarbrick is a remarkably able person. He has that wonderful combination of great intellect, strong work ethic and a humanitarian’s heart. He loves athletic competition and is completely committed to the value of sports for the student and the institution. Notre Dame made a brilliant choice in selecting Jack in that he is a values-driven person and Notre Dame stands for faith, integrity, doing things the right way and always putting the student’s well-being first. Because of what Notre Dame is, Jack and his University colleagues will make a monumental contribution to the quality and genuine significance of the collegiate athletic experience. This is double good fortune in that Jack is a graduate of Notre Dame.”

*Thomas W. Jernstedt, NCAA executive vice-president:

  • “On every project I have worked with Jack – including hosting men’s Final Fours, the relocation of the NCAA to Indianapolis, his work with national governing bodies and Olympic sports, and his most recent assistance in our new youth basketball partnership with the NBA – he has demonstrated he is an extremely bright, creative, versatile and visionary leader. Over many years, Jack has been a great asset to intercollegiate athletics, and I am confident that in his new role the University of Notre Dame, the NCAA and all of college sports will be enhanced through his increased day-to-day participation and leadership in the enterprise.”

*Wallace I. Renfro, NCAA vice-president and senior advisor to the president:

  • “It is intercollegiate athletics’ good fortune that Notre Dame has tapped one of its alums and one of Indiana’s favorite sons to be its new athletics director. Jack’s abilities to both listen and lead, to negotiate and make the tough decision, to set expectations and motivate for maximum results, have made him one of the architects of change and growth for Indianapolis, central Indiana and beyond. His creativity and communication skills have inspired numerous organizations to achieve new levels of greatness, and Notre Dame is about to reap the benefits of all those talents.”

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on July 16, 2008.