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A Little Perspective: Football Scheduling

Sep 26, 2012, 2:10 PM EDT

Based on some of the tweets and Facebook posts I’ve been reading, you might think the “end” of the Notre Dame-Michigan series is the sign of an impending apocalypse.

Relax, friends.

Yes, Notre Dame announced yesterday that it has canceled games against Michigan for the 2015-17 seasons, thereby signaling the end of the big series. However, this announcement should not keep you awake at night.

While the matchup with Michigan garners similar media attention and excitement among fans as Notre Dame’s annual meeting with USC, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions about the history between the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines.

When Notre Dame played its first football game in 1887, it took on Michigan at “senior campus field.” Believe it or not, however, Saturday marked just the 40th game between the two schools.

After Notre Dame topped Michigan in 1909, the teams did not play again until 1942. The following year, 1943, the #2 Irish beat the #1 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, and the series took a break until 1978.

On the other hand, the Irish have played Navy in each season dating back to 1927, and have met USC every year since 1926 (except for 1943-45 during World War II).

The Trojans and Midshipmen aside, Michigan is not even the most common Big Ten opponent. Notre Dame has taken on in-state foe Purdue 84 times and the Irish have also had 76 gridiron meetings with the Michigan State Spartans.

Notre Dame has played Pittsburgh 67 times, and though they don’t show up on the schedule much anymore, Army (50) and Northwestern (47) have also been more frequent opponents.

Notre Dame and Michigan have played quite a few classic games over the years, but dropping the Wolverines from future schedules does not signify the end of Irish football as we know it.

With the football scheduling agreement that accompanied the university’s recent decision to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, it seemed inevitable that one of Notre Dame’s common opponents would have to go by the wayside.

Save for 2013, Irish football fans may not be making trips to Ann Arbor any time soon.

But consider the possibilities.

The Fighting Irish are one of four FBS independent teams. Opening a spot on the schedule will allow Notre Dame to do what is best for Notre Dame (Having that freedom is one of the major advantages of being independent).

With Michigan out of the mix, the Irish may be able to pursue a home-and-home series with a Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 or perhaps a different Big Ten opponent. Who knows? Maybe those fantasy trips to Autzen (Oregon), The Swamp (Florida) or Camp Randall (Wisconsin), could soon become reality.

And don’t forget, Michigan and Notre Dame are ranked first and second, respectively, in all-time NCAA winning percentage. Even with yesterday’s announcement, I have a tough time believing we’ve seen the last of the Wolverines.

  1. jkamins4 - Sep 27, 2012 at 12:17 AM

    This is absolutely asinine. This is nothing but irrelevant reasoning for a stupid decision by the ND Athletic Department. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve played Michigan or how much longer we’ve been playing Navy. When’s the last time you heard a fan say “the game against Navy this weekend is the biggest game Notre Dame has played in years”? I heard several people say that about the game against Michigan this past weekend. The bottom line is that Swarbrick and Company messed up. They ruined a rivalry that people cared about. Michigan vs. Notre Dame was one of the biggest rivalries in college sports regardless of how long it’s been going on. This hardly explains a decision that has embarrassed the program nationwide.

    • Josh Flynt ('11) - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      jkamins4 – The decision to end the series is not about ending a rivalry. It’s about freeing up room on the schedule. It’s Notre Dame giving itself an opportunity to be flexible with future schedules. No one said that the two programs are never going to play again. Sure, ND and Michigan aren’t scheduled to play between 2015-2019, but we didn’t play the Wolverines in 1995-96 or 200-01, so it’s not like this series has absolute continuity.

      I don’t know when or where, but I’m confident ND and Michigan will play again, it just won’t be yearly, as it has been for the last decade. Such will probably be the case with the MSU and Purdue series as well. In no way has this decision embarrassed the program nationwide. That’s simply not true.

    • deepertruthblog - Oct 3, 2012 at 3:02 AM

      Absolutely agreed. Swarbrick is canning the great Michigan series so he can play in the ACC? What’s wrong with this guy?

  2. ctfivula - Sep 28, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    The reason for dropping Michigan is simple. Kelly and his coaching staff along with others involved with the program have eluded to the the front loaded schedule the Irish play every year and not getting the tune up games that everyone else gets every year before being tested against a rival or a big time opponent. I believe this year was the first time in quite a while they did not play Michigan in week two of the season followed by Mich St.week three. I believe the Irish were angry at Mich and the Big10 for not allowing them to play later in the year. Kelly and Swarbrick have seen the light and I am willing to bet that in 2014 you see a schedule that is very light in weeks 1-3 this is a recipe for early success and that means getting a couple warm ups. I think they are trying to give themselves the same advantages the other big time programs have by scheduling some easy wins in week 1 and 2. I like the strategy although the Michigan game was the number two rivalry game in my book behind USC. I understand keeping Stanford for the west coast game every year. I just wish Michigan could have stayed also. Rather see them not play Purdue or Mich St. myself. But that being said it is not about scheduling ACC games its about scheduling weaker games early in the season.

  3. dworon - Sep 28, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    “History… Tradition… Reputation… Pride… Integrity & Guts”… these are all (Terms) that make & keep (The University of Notre Dame) “Relevant”… in my mind, and millions of (Fans) around the country & abroad as well. ND is the most “Travelled-Team” in history (Respect). ND had the most “Wins” in history (from 1887 thru 1999), currently ranks (4th) overall (Respect). ND has the most (sold-out) games in history (Respect). ND plays on National TV — more than any other school in history (Respect). ND has (11) National-Titles & (7) Heisman-Trophies (Respect). ND has the highest-graduation-ratio of (Student/Athletes), more than any other school in history (Respect). This is just “One-Man’s” opinion… but I could be wrong!!! GOD-BLESS (ND)… our Mother!!! Go-Irish!!!

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