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SPORTS: In hiring as in knee surgery, timing is everything

July 21, 2008

Of this, that and the other: Timing, as they say, is everything.

The University of Notre Dame lost its athletic director, Kevin White, to Duke University on June 1 and has been actively engaged in identifying his successor.

A couple of weeks later, Indiana University announced its athletic director, Rick Greenspan, would resign but serve in lameduck status until the end of the year.

Somewhere in the middle of those circumstances was Indianapolis attorney Jack Swarbrick, a Bloomington native but Notre Dame grad.

Anyone who read my column a couple of weeks ago knows I believe Swarbrick is eminently qualified to become an athletic director. My emphatic choice was IU.

But my alma mater is in no apparent hurry to clean up the mess and get on to the business of restoring its reputation.

And Swarbrick certainly wasn't going to keep Notre Dame on hold waiting for an offer that might not ever come from Bloomington.

There is a financial reality, too. Notre Dame is awash in NBC money. Its football stadium is full on Saturdays. It is serious about being competitive nationally in all sports and can make the financial commitment to do that.

IU, unless it is men's basketball, tries to get by on the cheap. It probably wouldn't pay top dollar for an athletic director of Swarbrick's caliber and potential.

So Notre Dame's win is IU's loss. They snapped up Swarbrick while IU ponders who will serve on the committee that will conduct the search that will make the recommendation to President Michael McRobbie ... later, rather than sooner. Too bad someone-anyone-from IU wasn't there to say to Swarbrick, "before you agree to anything, we at least want to talk."

Swarbrick's hiring also will create a void in the local sports leadership. First with Fred Glass and then with Mark Miles as his copartners, Swarbrick was the constant behind the two Super Bowl bids, the first narrowly falling short and the second being overwhelmingly successful.

Swarbrick also joined Rick Fuson of Pacers Sports & Entertainment in guiding the bid to secure the Big Ten men's and women's tournaments through 2012.

His imprint on this city's sports legacy is lasting and profound.

Notre Dame got the right person. And for Indiana, well, at least it wasn't a swing and a miss. That's because the Hoosiers aren't even at the plate. When they finally get there, this is a hire they have to knock out of the park.

Continuing the theme of good things happening to good people, Clark Kellogg's elevation to lead analyst alongside Jim Nantz on the CBS college basketball telecasts, culminating in the Final Four, is a move that's been long overdue.

Kellogg, the ex-Pacer (no word on how this will affect his role with Pacers'telecasts) replaces Billy Packer, whose favoritism for all things Atlantic Coast Conference irritated viewers across the country.

Kellogg's genuine humility and easygoing nature, combined with his analytical skills and knowledge of the game, will go a long way to winning back viewers who Packer chased away.

It's not unusual, but it is illustrative that the local media focused on the worst part of the Peyton Manning scenario. They were all shouting that he could miss the Colts' season-opener after having surgery on an infected bursa sac in his left knee.

This would be the same Peyton Manning who has started 160 consecutive games; the same Peyton Manning who played after his jaw was broken; the same Peyton Manning who had his leg twisted like a pretzel and didn't miss a play.

The prognosis is that Manning will be out four to six weeks. If it's four weeks, that means he's back on Aug. 11. Even if it's six weeks, that's Aug. 25, nearly two full weeks before the Colts' season-opener against the Bears.

Given his work ethic, if I was a betting man, I'd throw down behind No. 18 being the man who completes that first Colts pass in Lucas Oil Stadium.

But then I'm just a cockeyed optimist.

Last but not least.

My wife and I went to an Indiana Fever game a week ago in Conseco Fieldhouse. If you like basketball, go see Katie Douglas. Repeat, go see Katie Douglas. Sure, the former Perry Meridian High School and Purdue University star can score points in bunches, but it is her defense-disruptive, alert, quick-that caught my eye.

Glad she's back home.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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