- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Fighting Irish notified the Wolverines that they are exercising a three-year out in their series contract, meaning the last meeting between the historic rivals will occur in 2014.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Associated Press obtained a letter Tuesday from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan AD David Brandon, canceling the games from 2015 to 2017.
The schools had extended their contract in 2007, taking the series through the 2031 season. But it was on a three-year rolling basis, giving either side the chance to opt out with three years' notice.
Notre Dame and Michigan announced this summer that a two-year break is coming in the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, but that they intended to resume the series in the years following.
"Our contract with Michigan has an automatic rollover provision -- with a year being added each time a game is played," Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler said in a statement. "We needed to avoid the automatic addition of additional games until we can get a better understanding of our available inventory in those years -- an understanding that will develop as we implement our five-game scheduling commitment to the Atlantic Coast Conference."
"The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame's and not ours," Brandon said in a release. "We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series. This cancellation presents new scheduling opportunities for our program and provides a chance to create some new rivalries."
The Irish beat the Wolverines 13-6 over the weekend in the latest game of a storied series that dates to 1887. They've played every year since 2002 and regularly since 1978 after not meeting from 1944 to 1977 or 1910 to 1941.
The final two games of the rivalry with take place Sept. 7, 2013 at Michigan Stadium and Sept. 6, 2014 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Brandon told the AP he was handed the letter on the field in South Bend, Ind., about an hour before Saturday night's game.
"I put the letter in my pocket and didn't bother to read it right away because I was focused on the game we were about to play," Brandon said. "I read it on the way home Sunday morning."
"It's unfortunate and a great rivalry and all those things," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said during Tuesday's Big Ten conference call. "But they have to do what they think is best. We'll move on and add some new scheduling opportunities for us."
Hoke said he and Brandon have not met yet to discuss potential future opponents now that Notre Dame is officially off the schedule, but figures they will in the future.
Notre Dame announced Sept. 12 that it would be moving all of its sports except football and hockey from the Big East to the ACC, with the football team agreeing to play five games per year against ACC schools.
Swarbrick said then that he hoped the football scheduling agreement could begin in the 2014 season, and he stressed that Navy, Stanford and USC were the rivals he felt were most important for the Irish to keep on an annual basis.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said Tuesday that he has had "no contact" with Notre Dame regarding their series, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Purdue coach Danny Hope also said that he knows of no talks between the Irish and Boilermakers on whether that series will continue.
"In my mind it's a no-brainer," Hope said, according to the Indianapolis Star. "The schools are so close together, and it's a great rivalry game."
In Swarbrick's letter to Brandon, he wrote: "While this move is a necessary precaution as we begin the process of meeting our new scheduling commitment to the ACC, please know that Notre Dame very much values its relationship with Michigan and we look forward to working with you to ensure that our great football rivalry can continue."
Swarbrick's letter is dated a day before the schools met on the field and cites last year's contract.
"Because I am providing you with this notice prior to the commencement of this year's football game on September, 22, 2012," Swarbrick wrote, "there is no liability to Notre Dame for canceling those games."
No. 10 Notre Dame (4-0) is in the top 10 for the first time since 2006. Michigan (2-2) started the season No. 8 and has dropped out of the poll after losses to No. 1 Alabama and then the Irish. Both teams have a bye this week.
Brandon said he hopes to work with Swarbrick on another contract to extend the series.
"The ball is in their court because they've triggered the three-game notice," he said. "We'll play them next year at Michigan Stadium for the last time in a while -- it appears -- and we'll make our last scheduled trip to South Bend in 2014. There will likely be nothing on the board for five years after that. Beyond that, I don't know what will happen."
The Wolverines have an NCAA-best .735 winning percentage in football, and the Irish (.732) are second. Michigan leads all-time series 23-16-1.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna