Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss Pat’s conversation with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and debate his thoughts on the future of college athletics.
DAN WETZEL: You were in South Bend, I believe. Talked to Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame athletic director and one of the smarter guys. When Jack Swarbrick talks, I listen.
PAT FORDE: Absolutely.
DAN WETZEL: No questioning him. And he's kind of at that intersection of all sorts of stuff. And he doesn't belong to a conference, so he can say all sorts of crap. He basically said college football is going to break up into major schools-- or college sports-- and smaller schools sometime in the mid-2030s. I mean, that's kind of a long-off prediction. Probably, something's going to happen by then. What did Mr. Swarbrick say to you?
PAT FORDE: Yeah, it was a really interesting interview. Ranged over a lot of topics for about 90 minutes. And as you said, he's one of the smart, smart guys in the field. And I think his perception of the national landscape is especially valid because of where he sits, OK? He's the only athletic director who's on the college football playoff management committee. So he interacts with all the other conference commissioners.
He schedules independently nationally, so he talks to people trying to schedule football games in all different conferences. And he's a member, in every sport but football, of the ACC, which is the biggest conference with 15 schools. So I think he's got a pretty good finger on the pulse of things. And, yeah, he said that right now, things are not sustainable and we are heading towards a breakup of FBS and Division I.
And his theory is that we're going to end up with two ends of the spectrum. One end are the schools that still say, hey, we are a university that's tethered to higher education, and athletics is a part of that. But we are not subservient to athletics, and we're just going to do things as much the way we traditionally have as possible. So that's going to be Notre Dame. That's going to be a lot of your academic heavyweight schools.
If you're really going to do it this way, it's going to be Stanford, it's going to be Duke, it's going to be Vanderbilt, it's going to be Wake Forest, it's going to be maybe USC, UCLA, Cal, Virginia, North Carolina, maybe Michigan, and then the Ivy Leagues. And then at the other end of the spectrum is going to be schools that he thinks will spin off a licensing deal with their name, nickname, colors, logos, all those sort of things, and you'll just run an athletic business. That will be the tie to the university.
It'll be Crimson Tide Incorporated or whatever, Oregon Ducks Incorporated, which would be a pretty radical change. But there's a lot of people that think that that's kind of the only direction this thing can go in terms of satisfying the market pressures brought on by NIL, brought on by revenues and expenditures, brought on by supporting other sports or not. And we end up there.
DAN WETZEL: Yeah, I don't like any of that--
PAT FORDE: No.
DAN WETZEL: --so I hope that isn't the case. So let me put it-- let me ask this. If you are Crimson Tide Inc., would the players on your team go to college, take college classes still? Or are you just like a USFL outpost--
PAT FORDE: I would--
DAN WETZEL: --in Tuscaloosa.
PAT FORDE: --anticipate that they would not have to take classes if you are Crimson Tide Inc. We didn't tease that out all the way. But again, you're licensing a name and--
DAN WETZEL: I think most kids, most people-- I think that would be a major recruiting advantage to still go to college. So I think they would offer that.
PAT FORDE: I would think so too.
DAN WETZEL: I don't know anybody-- there's no parent out there that says I hope my kid doesn't go to college for free.
PAT FORDE: No, but there are parents that want their kids to go to the G League or--
DAN WETZEL: Right.
PAT FORDE: --overseas or whatever because it's like, well, that's what my kid wants to do is to go pro. So let's--
DAN WETZEL: Well, I guess you're right about that.
PAT FORDE: You know.
DAN WETZEL: Certainly in basketball.
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
DAN WETZEL: I mean, yeah, you have this Overtime Elite. I mean, yeah, you got Lamar Ball or something like that. Maybe in basketball. I don't know. Let me say this. I think the group that would take academics over athletics will be a very small one, and I don't know that it will include Notre Dame, Stanford, and those. Push comes to shove, that's a lot of alumni, a lot of marketing, a lot of money, a lot of excitement. I mean--
PAT FORDE: It is.
DAN WETZEL: --when they send out-- let me say this. When they send out-- if you're Notre Dame, you send out your college admission brochure, emails, Snapchats, everything they do to try to attract the other 8,000 kids that go to the school, not the athletes. Maybe there's 1,000, whatever. 7,000. You want the best students possible. You want 100,000 applications or maybe even more. I don't even know, right?
All of that material, all of the stuff they point out includes we have the Fighting Irish athletic teams. This is an exciting place to go to school. Look at how much fun this is. You can get great academics and, as a student, be part of this incredible tradition that has excited and attracted and bound alumni for almost 100 years, right? Maybe more than 100 years.
PAT FORDE: Yep.
DAN WETZEL: I don't know if Notre Dame's giving up on that. Sure as hell Michigan and these other-- do you give up on that? Maybe the Ivy League does, but yikes. All of a sudden, you're like this not quite Ivy League school in South Bend.