September 1, 2014 in Sports

Michigan-Notre Dame series to end after Saturday

Tom Coyne Associated Press
 

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry will go dormant again after this Saturday’s game in South Bend.

The series dates to 1887 when Michigan students traveled to South Bend to teach Notre Dame students the game.

The game has featured exciting games, standout players and feuding coaches from schools 150 miles apart that are both coming off easy opening victories.

Michigan defensive end Frank Clark doesn’t like what’s happening.

“That’s one of the big rivals. You got Notre Dame-Michigan. You got (Michigan) State-Michigan. You got Ohio (State) vs. Michigan. For a team to opt out of that contract, and to opt out of playing another team that is a great rival and is one of those great games, it’s almost like a slap in the face,” he said. “We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to get the job done.”

In 2007, the two schools announced they would play annually through 2031. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said he was blindsided when Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick handed him a letter before the 2012 game informing him Notre Dame was ending the series. Brandon said he didn’t read the letter until riding back to Ann Arbor.

Swarbrick, though, said Brandon knew the notice was coming, saying he told him in a phone conversation. Swarbrick said it was necessary because Notre Dame had agreed to play five games a season against Atlantic Coast Conference teams when it joined the league in most other sports while staying independent in football. Swarbrick said the university had to get some games off its schedule and the Michigan contract had an automatic rollover provision with a year being added each time a game was played.

It’s not the first time the series was abruptly ended. In 1910, the year after Notre Dame beat the Wolverines for the first time, Michigan canceled the game the day before the game, claiming the Irish were using ineligible players.

In part because of a feud between Knute Rockne and Fielding Yost, the two schools didn’t play again until 1942, and then it only lasted two seasons.

The series didn’t resume again until 1978.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and Michigan coach Brady Hoke stoked the fire last year. Kelly initially said he didn’t see the game “as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” going on to call it a “big regional game.” He flip-flopped two days later, calling it “a great and historic rivalry.”

Hoke accused the Irish of “chickening out” of the series. After the Wolverines beat the Irish 41-30 last season, Michigan played the “Chicken Dance” over the stadium sound system.

Hoke said Saturday he’s disappointed the series is ending.

“It’s always been a great football game. Always. … I just think for college football, it’s a great rivalry. The significance of being the last one down there, yeah, there’s signifi- cance to it,” he said.

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