Swarbrick’s not ready to talk about 13th game
After watching TCU and Baylor get jumped by Ohio State after the Buckeyes rolled Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, Big 12 conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby openly wondered if his conference was hurt because it didn’t have a 13th game.
That worry—and the fact that the Big 12 is now likely pursuing legislation that would allow such an event to take place—has Notre Dame fans wondering about their place in the postseason, if the Irish get into a beauty pageant for one of the final spots in the four-team playoff.
Some Irish fans wonder if the lack of championship game means Notre Dame will eventually become full members in the ACC. Some are campaigning for an annual faceoff with Hawaii (sign me up).
And Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has heard all the concerns. He spoke with ESPN’s Heather Dinich about the situation, not exactly worried about the future implications.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of letters I get from fans with proposals on how to get a 13th game,” Swarbrick told ESPN from the College Football Playoff spring meetings. “It’s just crazy. All of them have one common feature about them: There’s not a chance in hell the other school or conference would be willing to do it. Honest to goodness, I get the most creative letters on this topic; it’s crazy.”
At a time of year where little topics have no choice but to become big stories, the worry of exclusion is now the topic de jour, finding a root in Irish fans deepest worry—being stuck on the outside looking in if Notre Dame happens to have one less victory than other CFB Playoff contenders.
Not surprisingly, Swarbrick takes the long view on the subject. It’s no surprise that one of the principal architects of the CFB Playoff isn’t ready to jump to any conclusions after the first season of the wildly successful format.
“It’s not that there’s a 13th game,” Swarbrick explained. “It’s always going to be against a really good opponent. It’s the conference championship game. It’s not the aggregate number, it’s who you’re playing.
“There are going to be years where a team looks like they’re going to get in and gets upset in their conference championship game and they don’t get in. Did the 13th game help them? No. I’m not saying that’s a reason to do it or not do it, I’m just saying one year’s worth of experience with this system is way too small to draw any conclusions about how it will play out over time.”
Both Swarbrick and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talk about scheduling often, acknowledging Irish independence as a major reason why Notre Dame doesn’t hide from playing one of the most challenging schedules in the nation. So while Big 12 fans point to the last weekend of the season, they should be just as likely to question some of the cupcake non-conference games both teams scheduled.
With playoff hopes sky high for Notre Dame in 2015, a schedule that features an opening stretch against Texas, Virginia and Georgia Tech, and also has the Irish facing off with Clemson, USC and Stanford shouldn’t be much of a worry.
As Swarbrick is all but saying, win the football games and the rest will take care of itself.