SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jack Swarbrick will step down as Notre Dame’s athletic director next year after a 16-year run in which he helped the school maintain the football program's independent status amid unprecedented realignment by some of the top conferences in the nation.
Notre Dame announced Thursday that NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua will succeed Swarbrick. Bevacqua, a 1993 Notre Dame alumnus, will join the university July 1 as a special assistant to the president for athletics before taking over the athletic department sometime in the first quarter of 2024.
“It speaks volumes about Notre Dame and (university president) Father (John) Jenkins’ leadership that we can implement such a well-conceived succession plan and attract someone of Pete’s talent and experience,” Swarbrick said. “I have worked closely with Pete throughout his time at NBC and based on that experience, I believe he has the perfect skill set to help Notre Dame navigate the rapidly changing landscape that is college athletics today, and be an important national leader as we look to the future.”
Notre Dame officials noted that Bevacqua has been NBC's chief steward of the network's exclusive broadcast rights agreement with Fighting Irish football. This year will mark the 33rd season that NBC has been the home for Notre Dame football home games.
Swarbrick, a 1976 Notre Dame alum, emerged as one of the most powerful players in college sports as he worked with Power Five conference commissioners to formulate a playoff plan that included the Fighting Irish while enabling them to remain an independent in football.
His tenure included the rejuvenation and modernization of Notre Dame's storied football program.
Swarbrick fired Charlie Weis as coach in 2009 and replaced him with Brian Kelly, who helped the Fighting Irish play for a national title in 2012 and reach the playoff in 2018 and 2020. When Kelly left for LSU at the end of the 2021 regular season, Swarbrick responded by promoting defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to the head coaching position.
The Irish's home stadium, one of college football's most iconic venues, also got a different look. Notre Dame started playing on field turf in 2014. Notre Dame Stadium later received a $400 million expansion that included the addition of a Jumbotron scoreboard.
Notre Dame maintained its football independence in part by agreeing to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports other than football and men's hockey. Under the agreement that made Notre Dame a partial ACC member starting in 2013-14, the Irish began playing five football games per year against ACC schools and had full access to the league's postseason bowl options.
When the pandemic delayed and shortened the 2020 football season, Notre Dame became a full ACC member for just that one year and only played ACC opponents. The Irish made the playoff that year and went undefeated in the regular season before losing to Clemson in the ACC championship game.
“Sad to see @NotreDameAD stepping down,” former Notre Dame quarterback and current Fox Sports analyst Brady Quinn tweeted after the announcement. “He’s been a driving force in College Sports in a multitude of ways. Thank you for all you have done Jack! @NotreDame couldn’t have found a better replacement than Pete Bevacqua!”
Notre Dame has won 10 team national titles during Swarbrick’s tenure, including the fencing and men’s lacrosse championships this year. The Irish won six championships in fencing and one each in women’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and men's lacrosse.
The last national title in football for the Irish was in 1988.
Bevacqua is the third chairman in the history of NBC Sports, a position that enabled him to lead all aspects of its business operations and overall strategy. The rights agreements he acquired included an 11-year extension in 2021 to keep NBC the home for NFL’s Sunday Night Football and 2022 deal that makes NBC and Peacock the exclusive home of Big Ten’s Saturday night football package.
He previously served as chief executive officer of the PGA of America.
“This is an unbelievable honor for me and a dream come true. With the exception of my family, nothing means more to me than the University of Notre Dame,” Bevacqua said in a statement released by the university. “As a Notre Dame alum, I have a keen understanding and deep appreciation of the lifetime, transformational benefit our student-athletes receive in a Notre Dame education, one that is unique and unlike any other institution in the world."