Tuesday, September 25, 2012
ND says goodbye to Michigan ... for now
By Matt Fortuna
From 2009 to 2011, Notre Dame and Michigan produced three of the most thrilling finishes in college football. This past Saturday was far from picture-perfect, but Irish fans won't be apologizing, nor should they.
Don't cry about the absence. And don't get too used to it, either.
For one, these schools have met only 40 times. The rivalry originated 125 years ago, but it went through a number of hiatuses before producing some signature moments over the past three decades. More importantly, as friend Pete Sampson points out, both schools have bigger rivalries on their annual schedules, in USC and Ohio State.
The Navy rivalry for Notre Dame provides unmatched history as well, and the Irish hope to keep that along with an annual West Coast trip, which would mean having Stanford on the schedule every year in addition to USC.
The key point, however, might be in the letter Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick delivered to Wolverines AD David Brandon before kickoff Saturday.
"While this move is a necessary precaution as we begin the process of meeting our new scheduling commitment to the ACC," Swarbrick wrote in his letter to Brandon, according to the Associated Press, "please know that Notre Dame very much values its relationship with Michigan. [We] look forward to working with you to ensure that our great football rivalry can continue."
The Irish had to gain as much flexibility as possible after their announced five-game scheduling agreement with ACC schools, which is likely to be implemented in the 2014 season. And the school's contract with Michigan allows for a three-year opt-out clause, meaning Swarbrick had little choice but to deliver his notice before Saturday's tilt in order to maintain as much flexibility as possible.
"It's certainly something down the road we'll look at starting up again," Irish coach Brian Kelly told SiriusXM Radio on Tuesday, adding, "The reality is the schedule now is going to put us in a position where we've gotta start balancing with the teams we have."
So the winningest and third-winningest programs in the land will meet next Sept. 7 in Ann Arbor before reconvening at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 6, 2014.
Just hold off on the goodbyes for that one. So much remains up in the air with future schedules that writing off this rivalry would be premature.