Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will step down from his role in 2024, the university announced Thursday. He will be replaced by NBC Sports Group chairman and Notre Dame alumnus Pete Bevacqua, giving the athletic department a new boss for the first time since 2008. The transition will be finalized "sometime in the first quarter" of next year.
Bevacqua, a 1993 graduate, joins the athletic department in July as a special assistant for athletics to Notre Dame president Reverend John Jenkins. There he will work hand-in-hand with Swarbrick, learning the ropes of his new position until the transition is complete.
"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. "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.
"I am so grateful to [Notre Dame president Reverend John Jenkins], the Board of Trustees and, of course, Jack Swarbrick," Bevacqua continued. "Jack has become a true friend over the course of the past several years and I am looking forward to working alongside him and learning as much as I can from the person I admire and respect the most in college athletics."
Swarbrick, 69, will leave a position he held for 15 years. His tenure included the hiring of former football coach Brian Kelly, who guided the Fighting Irish to a BCS National Championship appearance in 2012, and later to a pair of College Football Playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020. Kelly left to become LSU's coach in late 2021.
Swarbrick has been part of the CFP's management committee, along with the commissioners from the 10 FBS conferences. There he played a key role in the upcoming expansion of the College Football Playoff, which will grow from four to 12 teams in 2024.
"It speaks volumes about Notre Dame and Father 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. I look forward to helping Notre Dame's student-athletes and coaches achieve their goals in the months ahead while also helping Pete prepare for his tenure as athletics director."
The Notre Dame AD change will mark the latest adjustment to the CFP committee after a slew of recent changes in the lineup of FBS commissioners. Bob Bowlsby stepped down as Big 12 commissioner in Summer 2022, and Craig Thompson left his post as Mountain West commissioner a few months later. Most recently Kevin Warren resigned from his role as Big Ten commissioner to become the president and CEO of the Chicago Bears.
Notre Dame football's future as an independent
Bevacqua joins Notre Dame after spending the past half-decade at NBC Sports. He served as president of the organization before he was promoted to chairman in 2020. He was heavily involved in the network's new media rights deal with the Big Ten. The new seven-year agreement makes NBC and Peacock as the exclusive home of Big Ten Saturday night football.
He spent the previous six years as the CEO of the PGA of America, where he secured extensions with his NBC Sports for events including the Ryder Cup and Senior PGA Championship.
Notre Dame football is the FBS's most prominent independent program. Even with Bevacqua's background in sports television, it doesn't appear the Fighting Irish will be eyeing conference membership in the immediate future. Bevacqua told Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde he is "a fan of independence, for sure," and that it is "another element of what makes Notre Dame different."
As recently as last year, Swarbrick cited realignment as "validation" for the Irish to refrain from joining a conference. Though all remains quiet on that front for now, the college sports community will certainly keep an eye on Bevacqua as he puts his own stamp on the Notre Dame athletic department in the coming years.