Sources: Swarbrick to replace White as athletic director in South Bend

Updated: July 15, 2008, 7:56 PM ET
By Graham Watson | ESPN.com

Notre Dame has called a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference Wednesday in which the school is expected to announce Indianapolis attorney Jack Swarbrick as its new athletic director.

The school has not officially announced Swarbrick as its choice, but several sources have confirmed as much to ESPN.com. Swarbrick, 54, replaces Kevin White, who left Notre Dame for Duke on June 1.

"Notre Dame made a brilliant choice," said Jim Morris, special adviser to the chief executive officer and president for the Indiana Pacers and Swarbrick's friend of 30 years. "Jack Swarbrick is an extraordinary person and he will be an outstanding athletic director for Notre Dame."

With the help of Parker Executive Search, a search firm based out of Atlanta, Notre Dame interviewed several candidates, including SMU athletic director Steve Orsini, but sources say Swarbrick was the school's ultimate target.

"This was a national search and Notre Dame brought us in to conduct that," said Dan Parker, president of Parker Executive Search, whose confidentiality agreement with Notre Dame does not allow him to divulge names of any candidates. "It's always conducted on a confidential basis, but searches are inclusive, not exclusive, and we reached out to a number of individuals. That's all I can tell you."

Swarbrick has never been an athletic administrator at the collegiate level, but it's not without trying. Swarbrick was considered for athletic director positions at Indiana and Stanford and last year's commissioner opening with the Big 12 Conference. In 2002, he was a finalist for the NCAA president's position that went to Myles Brand.

Becoming Notre Dame's athletic director is a dream come true for the 1976 ND graduate, who rooted for the athletic teams as a student and beyond. Longtime friend Mark Miles said the two talked about the possibility of Swarbrick becoming Notre Dame's AD last Friday while they were in New York working with the NFL on Indianapolis' 2012 Super Bowl bid. At that point, Swarbrick had not been offered the job but had gone through most of the key interviews.

"I think he feels real confident that he can do this job," Miles said. "There's no place he'd rather be than Notre Dame. … He's watched Notre Dame be a market leader in their approach to the commercial aspects of the sport as well as their leadership in their various programs from a competitiveness point of view. He likes the platform Notre Dame represents. For him to be able to use the skill set that he's developed over a career for his alma mater is just irresistible."

Swarbrick, a lawyer with Indianapolis law firm Baker & Daniels LLP, made his athletic mark as the chairman of the Indiana Sports Corporation from 1992 to 2001. While there, he helped move the NCAA's offices from Kansas City to Indianapolis.

Swarbrick is known by his friends and colleagues for his ability to think outside the box. Former president of the Indiana Sports Corporation Sandy Knapp recalls several instances where Swarbrick went above and beyond what was asked of him and motivated others to do the same. Knapp says Swarbrick made every project better because of his innovative style.

"He's really one of the brightest, best thinkers I've ever had the pleasure of working with," said Knapp, now retired, from her home in Austin. "And at the same time, he's so innovative. … It will be very interesting to have him bring that combination to an AD position. I think he'll establish a new standard for the hiring of athletic directors in collegiate sports.

"Someday in the future, Notre Dame will celebrate this day as a real turning point in their athletic program."

Graham Watson covers college football for ESPN.com. She can be reached at gwatson.espn@gmail.com.

Graham Watson | email

College Football
Watson joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four seasons covering the Missouri Tigers and the Big 12 Conference for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She also covered college football recruiting for the Dallas Morning News.