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IT Exclusive: President Emeritus Fr. Edward Malloy Discusses New University Leadership, State of ND Athletics

Updated: Jun 26

Written by Peter Jay Mulroy ⏐ Writer ⏐ Instagram: @sportstodaywithpeterjay

Photo by Notre Dame Athletics

Lou Holtz once famously said, 

“For those who know Notre Dame, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.” 


It’s true, not everyone fully grasps the uniqueness and beauty of the University of Notre Dame. And while that’s understandable, those who are intimately involved with the private Catholic institution echo coach Holtz’s sentiment that Notre Dame du Lac’s magnificence cannot be described in simple words.


No one understands this more that Father Edward Malloy. Current President Emeritus of Notre Dame after serving as the university’s 16th president from 1987 to 2005, Father Malloy has had a front row seat to all aspects of university life, including his time as a student from 1959-1963. Simply put, Father Malloy -- known affectionately as “Monk” -- has simply seen it all.


Whether from an academic, social, or athletic lens, the former Fighting Irish basketball player has had, and continues to have, a huge impact on the shaping of the now 182-year-old university.


One of the essential aspects of being in a high-profile role with a university, specifically as president, is being able to manage transitional phases. And with Notre Dame ushering in a new era with the welcoming of both a new president and athletic director, there was no one better to discuss this process with.


Upon taking the reins at Notre Dame, one of the first moves Father Malloy was tasked with making when following the great Father Theodore Hesburgh as president, was hiring a new athletic director. Former AD Gene Corrigan had recently left his post in South Bend to become Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, leaving tremendous shoes to fill.


This was truly the first major decision I needed to make,” Father Malloy said. “We wanted someone that understood the values here. As such, Dick Rosenthal, who was a banker in town and had a previous relationship with Notre Dame, helped me make that decision.


A member of the Notre Dame basketball team from 1951-1954 and former first-round pick of the NBA’s Fort Wayne Pistons, Rosenthal turned out to be a tremendous hire. During his time as athletic director from 1987 to 1994, the Fighting Irish football team won a national championship. More importantly, however, Rosenthal became a huge asset when it came to the promotion of women’s athletics, something that has been crucial to the overall success of the university to this day.


More transitions would come in the years that followed, but Father Malloy was ripe for the challenge. The hirings of Mike Wadsworth (1995-2000) and Kevin White (2000-2008) as the next two athletic directors, respectively, would prove to be essential.


Mike was the Canadian ambassador to Ireland at the time, so the university was very comfortable with the hire,” said Father about Mike Wadsworth. “Then, the relationship I had with Kevin was very strong during his tenure. Both were tremendous people of integrity that had experience outside of athletics, and that is something I placed great value in and something, in my opinion, you need.”


This year, the university will once again go through familiar change.


Father Robert A. Dowd will assume the role of president effective June 1, 2024, as he succeeds Father John Jenkins, who served as president for 19 years. Additionally, NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua will take control of the athletic department, a role held by current AD Jack Swarbrick for the past 16 years.


Despite these ongoing changes, Father Malloy has no doubt that the Notre Dame standards, ones that have been in place since 1842, will continue to blossom under the new leadership, even as the demands for both roles seem to grow on a daily basis.


From an athletics standpoint, you have to be able to handle everything that surrounds the job; not just sports,” he said. “Legal, personnel, and academic pressures come with the position of being the athletic director at a major institution such as Notre Dame. As athletic director, you’re also university vice president. You work closely with coaches, advocate and oversee the athletic budget, serve as a strong player in public relations, negotiate media contracts, handle ticket prices, become heavily involved in recruiting, bond with alumni, stay active in the future of the NCAA, and so much more.”


While the day-to-day role of both the president and athletic director is surely taxing, working as a brand new, cohesive unit, as both Bevacqua and Father Dowd will, presents its own set of challenges.


In times of transition, it can bring forth an opportunity to create positive change and continue to build upon what presently works well,” Father Malloy added. “I expect the partnership between Father Dowd, who understands athletics and is a big basketball fan, and Pete, will be highly cooperative and positive for the university. The fact that they’re starting together means they’ll be able to forge their relationship together. What Pete brings to the attention of president-elect Dowd as they work through the transitional phase will be interesting to see.


When asked about the current state of Notre Dame athletics, Father Malloy immediately touched on the upward trajectory of the department, which in his eyes has risen due to the many coaches who continue to receive national recognition.


Despite the difficulties transitions can present, the state of this university’s athletic division, in my opinion, is very strong,” he said. “You have a women’s basketball team that has a legitimate chance of reaching the Final Four, the defending national champions in men’s lacrosse, a football program coming off a strong season that has only gotten better over the past few seasons, and a men’s basketball team that did an incredible job coming together in the first year under coach Shrewsberry.”  


Marcus Freeman is a great man who has done a wonderful job over his first few seasons here,” he continued. “For a university that continues to go through changes, having African American coaches (Freeman in football, Niele Ivey in women’s basketball, and Micah Shrewsbury in men’s hoops) in high-profile sports is a testament not only to Notre Dame, but to what Jack Swarbrick did during his time overseeing the athletic department.”


Overall, it appears the University of Notre Dame, specifically it’s academic and athletic institutions, are in more than steady hands. While change and transition can be scary and taxing, it doesn’t always have to be a negative. Father Malloy’s personal experience shed light on what fans and followers of the university can expect over the coming years under the guidance of Father Dowd and Pete Bevacqua: positivity, communication, and overall institutional growth.


And, when asked at the end of our sit-down who he picked to win the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, Father Malloy didn’t hesitate.


I’m going with our Notre Dame team,” he said. “How can I not?


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