State of the Rivalry: Notre Dame

Hey I have an idea, you know how Michigan and Notre Dame are two of the most storied programs in the country and how they play each other early in the year and its a huge hit with the fanbases and television networks and how every year its a great game with interesting story lines?

You know, that one? Let's screw it all up!

Two great programs. Two gigantic fanbases with a ton of mutual respect, with some mild hatred sprinkled in thanks to decades ruining your opponent's season by the 2nd weekend of September. Tradition, lore, coaching legacies, Heisman winners…all that awesome college football goodness. You can't fake this or concoct it in a lab somewhere.

This rivalry is the standard by which all non-conference rivalries are judged. Period.

Yeah…well, its not happening anymore.

Y'all know the story. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick hand-delivered Dave Brandon a letter about an hour before kickoff in South Bend in 2012 giving their contractually mandated 3-game notice that the final game for the foreseeable future would be in 2014 (in South Bend of course), and not 2017 as per the contract that was in place at the time. Swarbrick cited, among other things, that their ACC obligations and "national rivalries" with USC, Stanford, Michigan State, Purdue and, ahem, Navy were now the top priorities for Notre Dame going forward.

This was a problem. Brandon now had to scramble to fill a major hole on upcoming schedules. Oregon State, Colorado, Florida, Arkansas have all been added to future schedules starting in 2015…which isn't bad. Florida is a neutral site matchup in Dallas in 2017…which I don't agree with, but nonetheless, its something.

But none of those schools are Notre Dame. And that's a shame.

The state of the rivalry, aside from the off the field nonsense, is terrific…which makes the off the field nonsense even more nonsensical. And I don't just say that because Michigan has won 4 out of the last 5, which admittedly helps cloud my judgement. But recently, these matchups have been great for the series, and of course great for college football nationally. Primetime TV audiences have been treated to some tremendous games in recent years. It truly is a shame to see this series come to an end this season.

Brian Kelly, at a recent golf event, hinted very strongly that the rivalry may not be as dead in the water as we thought it was.
"When [athletic director Jack Swarbrick] and I sit down and we start discussing 'what do you want to do?' we don't start or end that without having Michigan or Michigan State part of that conversation, and there's an SEC school involved in that conversation, as well," said Kelly, who sounded optimistic that Michigan would be open to future games. "I can assure you that Michigan, Michigan State and an SEC school is involved in those conversations. How that pans out, I'm telling you, it's a very complicated deal."
By "complicated", he means that would take some monumental kissing up on the part of Swarbrick and Notre Dame to get Dave Brandon and Michigan into a room to seriously negotiate any sort of arrangement. My guess is that unless something crazy occurs, as long as Brandon is in office, the Irish will remain off the schedule.

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