By ERIC HANSEN - Follow me @hansenNDInsider
South Bend Tribune
11:36 PM EDT, October 10, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- Thursday night football at Notre Dame Stadium?
Not happening, but Notre Dame's impending scheduling relationship with the Atlantic Coast Conference could mean an Irish football road game on a Thursday night sometime in the not-so-distant future.
"With all of our teams, we'd rather avoid missed class time," ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday while making an in-studio appearance on WSBT's Weekday SportsBeat radio show.
"(Playing football) on a weekday obviously causes some missed-class consequences. The flip side of that is we really like prime-time broadcasts. It's the best way to promote the university. In the case of a couple of games this year, you go from an audience of 2 million to an audience of 6.2 million -- for the Michigan State game. That's a good thing for Notre Dame, so there's a balance."
ND's arrangement of playing five ACC schools annually kicks off in 2014. Each school is guaranteed at least one football game with the Irish in a three-year cycle.
Swarbrick touched on a number of other topics affecting ND athletics. Here are snippets from the most pressing of those:
-- On whether the recently nixed Notre Dame-Michigan football series would be resurrected: "Oh, absolutely. It's a priority of ours to figure out a way to get that done," Swarbrick said. "I needed to take advantage of the flexibility this contract afforded me to create an ability to manage the schedule the next few years.
"We have nothing but the highest regard for Michigan. I enjoy working with their AD. We'll have Michigan games in the future absolutely. The timing (of exercising the out clause) was triggered by the contract. I'd lose the flexibility of being able to alter any of it if I didn't do that before kickoff (on Sept. 22). That's when we had to do it."
-- On what will happen to the Michigan State and Purdue football series: "We've got to work with both schools and work through it. Already, there's a break in the schedule in the Michigan State series. It's been long-standing on the schedule. Whether we have to do anything beyond that, we're not there yet."
-- On future sites for the Shamrock Series off-site home games: Notre Dame played its fourth such game last Saturday, a 41-3 triumph over Miami (Fla.) at Solider Field in Chicago.
Previous sites (and opponents) were San Antonio (Washington State), New York (Army) and Maryland (Landover, Md.). The only future game scheduled is next season vs. Arizona State at Arlington, Texas.
"We'll get back to New York," Swarbrick said. "That's important to us. I think we need to get to one in the middle of the country at some point in time -- a Denver or a Kansas City.
"San Antonio was a great experience for us. We may go back there, and (get to) some East Coast cities. And then there are some great venues in Florida, because of the bowl games that are hosted down there. We'll try to round out '14 and '15 pretty quickly here."
-- On the prospect of FieldTurf coming to Notre Dame Stadium next year: "One of the things I've wanted to see is how the field played this year," Swarbrick said. "It's played much, much better. I made no secret of my unhappiness with our field the past two years. And I'm really proud of our staff. They've worked hard. They've reached out to outside experts and did a lot of things differently."
But bad weather is coming, and ND head football coach Brian Kelly is holding practices in the stadium on Thursdays before home games, adding to the potential wear and tear.
"That's going to be one of the factors with the field," Swarbrick said. "What's the field going to be like on Saturday? So there are a lot of factors. No decision has been made."
-- On whether ND not having the potential to play in a conference championship game could hurt the Irish in the new postseason selection formula set to go in motion in 2014:
"There's certainly the potential for that," Swarbrick said. "It's a high strength-of-schedule game. If they prevail, that's going to be another mark on their side of the equation. The flip side is it can hurt teams too, who are ranked ahead of you when they go into that game and they lose to someone who maybe isn't as strongly perceived.
"We'll find out. None of us knows exactly how the selection committee will place emphasis, how it will make decisions. We'll evaluate that as we go. I think it's notable that the Big 12 is very comfortable not having a conference championship game and don't believe that in any way adversely affects their ability to get into the semifinals."
-- On ND's impending bowl agreement with the Orange Bowl, beginning with 2014: "There are still some details to work out," Swarbrick said, "but opposite the ACC in the Orange Bowl will be either an SEC team, a Big Ten team or us. And we've got to earn our way into it.
"We've got to be ranked higher than the alternative from those conferences, and that won't be easy, but it's great to have an additional opportunity like this. We're hopeful in a 12-year period of time, we'll be there at least a couple of times.
In years in which the Orange Bowl hosts the national semifinals, the Orange Bowl option won't be available. Swarbrick expects the agreement to be finalized by the end of the month.
-- On whether progress has been made to leave the Big East in men's and women's basketball and the Olympic sport for the ACC ahead of schedule: "Very preliminary," Swarbrick said of the talks. "It's just to explore the possibility.
"I think we need to try and find a way if we can. If we can't, we're fully prepared and happy to continue to play in the Big East until that naturally expires."
-- On whether conference musical chairs is over: "I don't think there's a lot more ahead," Swarbrick said. "I think one of the legacies of our decision will be that it ushered in a period of relative stability, at least through the current terms of the broadcast agreements, which are all 12 or 14 years.
"A lot of what might have happened was hinging on what Notre Dame would do. And I think our decision will help now quiet a lot of that."
Staff writer Eric Hansen:
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