Minnesota, Michigan discuss non-league games

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin mentioned last month how he tries to fill out his nonconference schedule with the two Big Ten teams that the Wolverines don't play in a given season.

He wasn't kidding.

According to the blog MVictors.com, Michigan and Minnesota recently discussed scheduling a nonconference game in 2010 at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines are still looking for an opponent for the Sept. 4 opener, which will mark the first game in the renovated Big House. Minnesota has open dates on Sept. 4 and Sept. 25 and needs to add a 12th game for 2010.

The Gophers and Wolverines don't play in 2009 or 2010.

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi confirmed the discussions and explained to MVictors.com why the plan ultimately didn't pan out.

We had already scheduled Southern Cal for next year [2010]. I'm not a real brilliant guy, but I'm not so sure it's in the best interest of Minnesota football to play Southern Cal and Michigan in back-to-back weeks. Non-conference, so-to-speak. As a result, if we had not scheduled Southern Cal I would have been very interested. But we had already inked Southern Cal, which again I applaud coach [Tim] Brewster for improving our schedule, but you don't want to improve it too much. I'm not so sure Ohio State or Michigan would do that either.

Bill proposed it. I thought it was intriguing because the honest truth is, I still needed a game for next year and so did he.

A Big Ten spokesman said the league would have no objection to two of its members scheduling a non-league game. In 2002, Purdue and Indiana scheduled a nonconference basketball game in December because they were scheduled to meet just once during the regular season.

You can't fault Minnesota for avoiding a trip to Ann Arbor in addition to a game with USC, though it will be interesting to see if more Big Ten teams look at this strategy.

This could be a way to add flavor to the nonconference schedule and help fellow league members (Minnesota would have pocketed a hefty sum for visiting the Big House). Fans would certainly welcome more non-league games against big-time teams, especially familiar ones.