Notre Dame will welcome its 13th athletic director during the first quarter of 2024. The university announced on Thursday that longtime AD Jack Swarbrick is stepping down next year and will be replaced by NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua.

In a statement from Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins announcing the decision, Jenkins said, in part, that Bevacqua will help “in charting a future” for Notre Dame athletics amid a time of “great chaos and disruption.”

Of course, with a change in leadership and Notre Dame’s recent admittance into the Association of American Universities (AAU), the question of conference affiliation is going to burn even hotter now. Long courted by the Big Ten, would the Fighting Irish be more receptive to such a move now that a new man is steering the athletic department?

“I’m a fan of independence, for sure,” Bevacqua said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. “It’s another element of what makes Notre Dame different.”

Swarbrick was one of the architects of the upcoming 12-team College Football Playoff. Under the agreed-upon terms of the expanded field, the 4 highest-ranked conference champions will earn a first-round bye — which means Notre Dame won’t be 1 of those 4 so long as it remains independent.

But the Irish have resisted expansion pushes before. Even after playing a full ACC schedule during the COVID-altered 2020 year, Notre Dame has valued its football independence.

As things stand now, it doesn’t appear that will change under new leadership.