- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Two night games could be coming to Notre Dame Stadium in a single year. Labor Day and Thursday night games will not be coming to South Bend, Ind., though the Irish could find themselves playing such games on the road against their ACC brethren. And a series with an SEC school might even be on the horizon in the not-so-distant future.
Speaking of future, Jack Swarbrick said Notre Dame will be playing on either a new grass field or a new synthetic field by the beginning of next season. The end of next season would also be the best-case scenario for the start of construction on a stadium renovation plan that the school has openly discussed studying. Such a project would take two more seasons to then complete, the athletic director said.
"Thrilled with how it's progressing," Swarbrick said. "You don't get a lot of opportunities to do something like this at a university where you have a project that touches almost every element of it. So you've got the academic units who will be in the building, very engaged, the academy -- who is playing a big role --student affairs, rec sports, digital media, athletics, the administration. All of these functions will be incorporated in these buildings as currently conceived. This has been really fun and exhilarating for everybody involved.
"The progress has been great. Getting to a real level of detail. That's where we need to be as we head into the winter trustee meeting, where we'll do another review of it. There's no set deadline for it, but we hope we come out of that with the ability to move forward in a substantive way. So it's full speed away."
As for who will be outfitting the Irish, Swarbrick confirmed with ESPN.com in a text message what he had told The Observer on Friday, writing: "Going through a full review that has included discussions with the three major players. Despite reports to the contrary, no decision had been made and likely won't be made until after the first of the year. Have been very happy with adidas, but it is just good business to use the expiration of a contract to review all options."
With that, we bring you what we believe are the five most intriguing games unveiled as part of Friday's announcement. (And bravo to Aaron Horvath and his design team for its thorough job detailing the logistics of this schedule.)
5. Oct. 3, 2015 at Clemson
Have you seen the Tigers' intro? Their atmosphere? The program has left little doubt about why it received a pair of trips from ESPN's "College GameDay" this year, and as far as new visits go, a trip to Death Valley is easily the most intriguing among the ACC campus venues that Notre Dame will be visiting during the next three years.
4. Oct. 18, 2014 at Florida State
The rematch of the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl that we've all been waiting for! More importantly, this is the Irish defense's chance to face the defending Heisman Trophy winner. And face what could possibly be the defending national champions. It is also, remarkably, Notre Dame's first true road game of the 2014 campaign — and it comes in Game No. 7. (The Irish do travel to East Rutherford, N.J., on Sept. 27 for an off-site road game against Syracuse.)
3. Nov. 21, 2015 vs. Boston College (at Fenway Park)
I said that Death Valley was the most intriguing ACC campus venue Notre Dame will visit in the next three years — emphasis on the word "campus." A Boston trip is nothing new for Notre Dame, and for many subway alumni throughout the New England area, the sight of their beloved Irish is nothing new, either. But this one, at the home of the Red Sox, will surely be different. And the late-fall, prime-time kickoff that accompanies this edition of the Shamrock Series will only add to the atmosphere. Good luck finding, or affording, a ticket in a place that seats less than 40,000. (Boston College also announced in its release Friday that the Irish will visit Alumni Stadium in 2017.)
2. Sept. 6, 2014 vs. Michigan
This one obviously was on the schedule for some time, so nothing really changes with Friday's unveiling, other than that it will now be a night game. Still, think of all the hype there was leading into this year's game, which was the teams' last meeting in the Big House. Now think of the fact that this is the final meeting for the foreseeable future, regardless of venue. This one will be huge, and the intensity will only grow after the Michigan Stadium speakers blared the chicken-dance song after the Wolverines' win last year.
1. Sept. 5, 2015 vs. Texas
Everything is bigger with Texas. These moneymakers will finally clash at Notre Dame Stadium, and it will be to open the season, no less. Can't think of a much better way to ring in the new football year. Who knows who will be roaming the Longhorns' sideline at that time, either. This one also was on the schedule for some time, but it won't make the matchup any less exciting.