2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 33 of 163

32 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY LOU SOMOGYI U pon accepting the athletics director position at Notre Dame in July 2008, Jack Swarbrick cut to the chase on the future, specifically the 2010s. "I accept this job on the threshold of ex- traordinary change in intercollegiate athletics in America … there's much about this industry you won't recognize in 10 years," he proph- esied. "We must be at the forefront of that. We must participate in leading that change. "Notre Dame cannot have that dictated to it." Who might have envisioned back then that Maryland and Nebraska would be in the Big Ten, Utah and Colorado in the Pac-12, or even Missouri and Texas A&M in the SEC, among many other geographical league relocations? For that matter, how about Notre Dame bolting the Big East to join the ACC — even partially in football — while also aligning with the Big Ten in hockey? When Swarbrick took the post in 2008, the Big Ten Network was in its infancy. Branding soon would emerge and expand in television, including the Longhorn Network in 2011, followed by the Pac-12 Network (2012), SEC Network (2014) and ACC Network (2019). The four-team College Football Playoff finally came to fruition in 2014, signing a contract through 2025 with ESPN. In 2017, the sport began its early signing period in December, taking away some of the drama and hullabaloo that came with 11th- hour February signings or changes of heart. At Notre Dame, infrastructure was ratch- eted up with sports science technology and nutrition, and the needed room for football was added with the opening of the Irish Ath- letics Complex in 2019. About a half-billion dollars were invested into the Campus Crossroads expansion at Notre Dame Stadium completed in 2017, highlighted by the long-awaited video board on the south end of the edifice. FieldTurf was installed for the first time on Notre Dame's hallowed grounds in 2014, and the sacred (albeit dubious) sellout streak at the stadium that dated back to 1974 was finally officially recognized as "ended" in November 2019. New Notre Dame head coach Brian Kel- ly's initial staff/support members in 2010 included about 20. Entering 2020, that figure has tripled — yet still behind an Alabama, which had as many as 11 analysts on its coaching roster this winter. As we embark on 2020, change this de- cade might become even more radical, from student-athletes now possibly capitalizing on their "brand" like those in professional leagues, to perhaps having a different per- spective on budgets after the coronavirus has brought athletics departments to their knees. Here are the major topics, in no particular order, that in 2030 could be looked back upon with much interest: Coronavirus Impact Over The Long Term The anxiety that comes with the unknown still ahead in the 2020 season may have a ripple effect in the years to come. Do universities now become more budget- conscious than ever despite the never-ending "arms wars" with facilities, massive support staffs for coaches and competing for the entertainment dollar? Does the fan experience at football games or other sporting events become more guarded and forever altered? Or will this eventually become just a foot- note in the history books as a temporary blip from normalcy? Maybe decades from now the 2020 season will be viewed as an aberration, a once-in-a- lifetime fluke occurrence much like we view the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that canceled part of the college football season. THE 2020S: WHAT DOES THE NEW DECADE HOLD? Much upheaval promises to occur again in the next 10-year cycle Director of athletics Jack Swarbrick noted that it is "hard to imagine a time that's been more complicated in the history of college athletics." PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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