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Football: Notre Dame suspends Michigan series

Chris Allen | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Last Saturday’s 13-6 Irish victory over Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium may end up being one of the last memories the rivalry generates for the foreseeable future. Multiple sources reported Tuesday that Notre Dame will cancel three scheduled games in the series, suspending the matchup for the 2015-2017 seasons.

Combined with a scheduled break in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the move ensured that the 2014 meeting between the historic rivals will be the last until 2020 at the earliest.

In a letter delivered to Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon shortly before kickoff of last weekend’s football game, Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick declared his intention to cancel the three future contests to give Notre Dame scheduling flexibility under its new agreement with the ACC. Notre Dame will play five football games per season against ACC opponents once it joins the conference as a non-football member.

“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 text of Swarbrick’s letter to Brandon – delivered before kickoff of the 2012 contest to comply with the three-year notice necessary to cancel the 2015 matchup – was obtained by the Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.

“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 wrote.

The rivalry between the Irish and the Wolverines, one of the oldest in college football, dates back to 1887 when the Irish played the Wolverines in the first game in Notre Dame program history. In total, the two schools have played 40 games over the years with Michigan holding a 23-16-1 edge. Though 2013 and 2014 will now be the final games for a considerable amount of time, Brandon left the door open about the possibility of the relationship continuing beyond the 2020 season.

“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.”

Contact Chris Allen at
callen10@nd.edu