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Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick says "Big Ten, SEC" have consolidated power in those 2 leagues

The Fighting Irish's AD also touts his school's continued viability as a football independent

Addressing an intra-university audience via YouTube livestream Wednesday, Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick said he believed the impending expansions of both the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences had positioned those conferences for an upper hand moving forward, but Swarbrick also touted the independent viability of Notre Dame.

“I think what we’ve seen now is the consolidation of power, if you will, in two conferences, the SEC and Big Ten,” Swarbrick told viewers in a nearly hour-long session moderated by Lou Nanni, the school’s vice president for university relations, while he also downplayed an impending formation of a ‘Super League’ in college football. “So there’s a bit of a ‘Big 2, Next-Level-3 and Group of 5’ in a way that there wasn’t prior to this, or won’t be when the moves are completed.

“That’s probably the biggest significance I think, that the SEC and Big Ten have, at least for now, put themselves in a different position.”

Swarbrick also said on the broadcast that the specific moves of the University of Texas, which announced last summer it would join the SEC, and USC, which announced earlier this summer it would join the Big Ten, alongside L.A.-area rival UCLA, were not unexpected.

“I think a lot of us knew Texas was interested and considering what its options might be,” Swarbrick, who indicated not imminently but eventually he expected the Big Ten and SEC to swell to 20 members apiece, said. “I think a lot of us knew USC was a little frustrated with its situation. So those two dominoes were potential movement. Did I see going USC and UCLA going to the Big Ten? No, not necessarily but the movement didn’t surprise me.”

Swarbrick, who praised the Big Ten’s impending new mega-broadcast rights deal as also a positive for the Fighting Irish, likewise sounded off on the current state of Name, Image & Likeness – a concept that Swarbrick fairly noted had been wholly endorsed by ND leaders, himself and school president Rev. John L. Jenkins included.

“(NIL) is dizzying for ADs, too,” Swarbrick said when asked to make sense of the frenetic, no-holds-barred onset of NIL. “It’s a mess. We as college athletics have completely screwed this up. The intention, and we were the first university to speak out in favor of Name, Image and Likeness ideas, the intention was to put student-athletes in a position that every other student at Notre Dame enjoys. Which is, they can benefit from their Name, Image, Likeness and ideas.

“The musician can play club, the artist can sell art. You couldn’t do anything, even those things you couldn’t do if you were a student-athlete. So, we supported it. What we never anticipated was that it would come online with no regulation and that it would come online coupled with the unlimited right to transfer. It’s created an untenable situation, frankly, that most of what’s going on has nothing to do with Name, Image and Likeness. They are not commercial transactions where I am rewarding you for something great you’ve built or the fact you’ve got 5 million followers on your social media Web site. They are talent-acquisition fees, where I’m paying you to come to our school.

“And we have to find a way to get away from that.”

Swarbrick, however, was rather candid in his assessment of the present forecast for NIL regulation.

“Not much,” Swarbrick said when asked if there was hope it was trending to a more regulatory model. “It’s a little hard to see a way forward where Congress isn’t involved. The NCAA is so gun-shy about anti-trust lawsuits right now; for good reason, they’ve lost all of them.

“There’s a lot of discussion with Congress, interest in Congress, but we all understand the challenges of getting Congressional action these days. It’s tough when probably your most promising solution is also one that’s so remote. I think we’re going to have a couple more years of this absolute mess.”

Notre Dame, which already has begun discussions on its next broadcasting-rights pact, currently held by NBC, and has heard from other suitors in the marketplace, is signed with NBC through 2025 on its first-of-its-kind deal that originated in the early-1990s and has since been extended multiple times.

As media-rights fees have increased exponentially, the Irish have targeted an larger deal more commensurate with the current market – though sources with knowledge told FootballScoop that reports Notre Dame had asked or targeted $75 million were erroneous.

“With the caveat that they haven’t formally announced (the new Big Ten deal), I think it’s great,” Swarbrick said. “I think it’s great for college football. They’re going to have three linear broadcast partners in Fox, which principally is the ‘Big Noon’ game, CBS at 3:30 and NBC with primetime kicks. The more broadcasters and major networks we keep involved in college football the better it is for everybody because they’re invested, they want to promote the game.

“I think when they finally announce the (financial) number, it will be a pretty amazing one. Also, it’s a perfect (component) for Notre Dame. We need NBC to have more college football to effectively promote college football and to promote our games.”

Still, amidst arguably college athletics’ largest sea-change in decades, Swarbrick believes Notre Dame is well-positioned to navigate into the future.

“When I started this job, and I don’t say that to take any credit for it, but all the commentary was, ‘Were we relevant anymore?’,” Swarbrick said. “And this year, no one’s asking that question.

“I think all of this dynamic has just reinforced that a lot of the decisions that have been made of the years have placed Notre Dame in a very good position.”