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Friday, June 29, 2012
Committee can only help Irish

By Matt Fortuna

Two days after Jack Swarbrick helped orchestrate a four-team playoff for college football, the Notre Dame athletic director sat down with his department's website for a 19-minute interview. When it was suggested during the interview that a selection committee would benefit the Irish, Swarbrick agreed.
"Yeah. I do, too," he said. "It's a little complicated because you have the bowls with tie-ins. So the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl, and likely the Orange Bowl, will sort of be set. It will be the three other bowls which will be impacted by the ranking of the selection committee. But I think it's an important thing to do.

"It's gonna change, I think, the way people think about teams and their performance. Because the first time the selection committee reveals its standings, which we anticipate being in the middle of the season, I think you'll see significant differences between the polls that exist at that time. And it's gonna cause a good debate, a healthy debate about, OK, what are these guys looking at that the pollsters aren't?"

Who "these guys" will be is the million-dollar question. Be it former coaches, current athletic directors or conference commissioners, the postseason fate of as many as a dozen schools will be in this group's hands.

More factors -- particularly strength of schedule, an area in which Notre Dame never fails to impress -- will be considered than just the loss column. And with conference tie-ins likely being limited to three major bowls, a good-enough Notre Dame team will be coveted by many bowl executives whose options were previously limited.

Look no further than Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton's comments to the Chicago Tribune this week.
"We think the semi is going to be an exceptionally exciting game, no matter who's in it," Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton said. "We think in the other two years it's going to give us a chance at teams that maybe we wouldn't have been able to get here in the past or haven't had in a while, teams like Notre Dame.

"We're not going around cutting any deals, but as I've mentioned to Jack ... with a certain number of wins we'd take Notre Dame in a heartbeat."

Of course, being good enough is the first and only step to being in that position. Once there, though, the upper tier's newfound fluidity will only benefit an attraction as big as Notre Dame.