Thursday, April 14, 2011
Northwestern-ND reunion makes sense
By Adam Rittenberg
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly summed it up perfectly Thursday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show.
"It just makes sense," Kelly said.
A Northwestern-Notre Dame series makes a lot of sense for both schools, and the two teams announced Thursday they will play in 2014 and 2018. Both Kelly and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald appeared on "Mike & Mike" to make the announcement.
This is obviously a bigger deal to Northwestern than it is to Notre Dame. The Wildcats will host Notre Dame in 2018, which will mark Notre Dame's first trip to Evanston since the 1976 season. Some are already wondering if this game will be moved to Soldier Field. Not happening. Northwestern wouldn't agree to the series if it didn't get a true home game. By then, Ryan Field will be renovated, and Northwestern is hopeful its recent success on the field, combined with its recent marketing push, means the crowd will be more purple than green.
The teams first will play on Nov. 15, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium. It will mark their first meeting since the 1995 opener, when Fitzgerald led Northwestern to a historic upset that propelled the Wildcats to the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance. The game marked the end of a four-year run of games between the schools, and Notre Dame had little incentive to play the Wildcats after the 1995 loss.
Things have changed for both programs in the past 16 years. Notre Dame now schedules the likes of Tulsa and Western Michigan. Northwestern, meanwhile, has become a consistent bowl participant. Although a Notre Dame loss to Northwestern wouldn't go over well among the Irish faithful, the shock value of the 1995 loss probably won't be there. Notre Dame also benefits from a trip to Chicago, given its fan base and its recruiting base in the area.
It's no secret how this series came about. Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips previously served as an associate athletic director at Notre Dame and knows Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick well.
"Northwestern and Notre Dame represent two of the finest academic institutions in the nation, and it's only fitting that we renew our rivalry on the football field," Phillips said in a prepared statement.
No arguments here.
The Notre Dame addition also continues to beef up Northwestern's nonconference schedules, which will feature Cal, Boston College and others in the coming years.
Notre Dame still will face three Big Ten teams in both 2014 and 2018. The Irish take a break with Michigan State in 2014-15 and take a break with Michigan in 2018-19. They will face Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue in 2014 and Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern in 2018.