Kyle Rudolph’s Future at NBC

EHS 2001

The Athletic has a long piece out today about the future of Notre Dame’s broadcast contract with NBC. Part of it mentions the relationship between the school and the network including Kyle Rudolph’s work for NBC.

Kyle Rudolph had never been in a booth before.

Naturally, Notre Dame Stadium was a good place to start.

That’s not how most networks train new analysts. They’re typically put through the paces of calling a recorded game in a studio far from the general public’s eyes or ears. Rudolph figured he’d get his reps that way before jumping into USFL work. Instead, NBC put the former Notre Dame tight end and 12-year NFL veteran into the same broadcast booth once occupied by Tony Dungy, Drew Brees and Mike Mayock.

“I wouldn’t recommend your first broadcast being a spring game,” Rudolph said. “It was certainly an experience.”

It’s also exactly the kind Notre Dame and NBC have created for one another during the past decade as broadcast opportunities have increased, no longer limited by time slots or even broadcast television itself. NBC Sports Network became Peacock. And Notre Dame’s in-house media arm — Fighting Irish Media — evolved beyond press conferences and coaches shows. The resulting symbiosis has seen NBC serve Notre Dame and vice versa.

Notre Dame has pushed for alumni to get broadcasting opportunities — the school pitched Kyle Hamilton as sideline reporter for the spring game — and found a receptive partner in NBC. And the network’s production chops have helped Notre Dame’s own video team do more on the video board while giving players branding opportunities on national television.

It went as far as Mike Tirico sitting in on a Notre Dame broadcast journalism class for three hours, critiquing his call of the Clemson game in 2020 before helping sophomores and juniors improve their calls of Irish soccer.

“That’s something literally no other school and network can offer,” said play-by-play announcer Tony Simeone, who called the Blue-Gold Game with Rudolph. He also does Irish coaches shows and calls Notre Dame men’s basketball.

This part of the NBC relationship matters to Notre Dame but doesn’t show up in the financial terms of the contract. NBC is open to Notre Dame’s suggestions, no matter how much it attempts to be objective in calling the games themselves. And Notre Dame understands the power of the pulpit, from Lou Holtz’s run at ESPN to Brady Quinn at Fox, to the bench of Notre Dame alumni working in the NBC ecosystem.

“It’s hard to overstate its importance, because we’re seeing the benefits of it,” Swarbrick said. “They have a feel for Notre Dame, they have an understanding, they have some passion for it. Doesn’t change their objectivity. But, gosh, it’s great to have your people doing that.”

In some cases, NBC’s people become Notre Dame people as an extension of the contract. Former NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer sent three children to Notre Dame. Former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol sent his son Charlie to Notre Dame. Bevacqua is a Notre Dame graduate and former football walk-on. His father also graduated from the university. Swarbrick’s daughter Kate has worked in creative partnerships for Peacock. And Notre Dame alumnus Jac Collinsworth replaced Tirico in the booth last season at 27 years old.

Rudolph, whose NBC connections began in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a five-star prospect, doesn’t hide from the fact that without Notre Dame, the doors at NBC wouldn’t have opened quite as wide, if they opened at all.

“One-hundred percent. It was without question the reason why,” Rudolph said. “I’m an anomaly, played 12 years in the NFL before starting my next chapter, but Notre Dame was still there opening doors and giving me opportunities.”

Rudolph said he’ll call select Big Ten games for NBC this fall, steps toward a life after playing football. It’s the kind of path Notre Dame wants designed. It’s one NBC hopes to pave.
He hasn't officially retired has he?
Listened to a podcast the other day where Kyle was a guest. One of the hosts used the word retired. Kyle did not. Maybe it was just an assumption but it did seem like he was ready to move on to the next chapter in his life. Kyle stated that he had a conversation with his son who stated he'd rather have Kyle at his games than to watch Kyle play more. Either way, Kyle has had a heck of a career and I think he'll be a fantastic broadcaster in the same way Eric Wood has transitioned nicely into that role.