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Notre Dame opting out of football series against Michigan

This news story was published on September 26, 2012.
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By Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press –

DETROIT — The Michigan vs. Notre Dame football series is coming to an abrupt end.

Contrary to the indications Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick gave the Detroit Free Press after Saturday’s 13-6 Notre Dame win over Michigan in South Bend, Ind., a Michigan official said Tuesday that the Fighting Irish are opting out of the series as soon as they can: following the 2014 matchup.

The current contract states that a three-year notice is required to withdraw from the series. Michigan received a letter before Saturday night’s game regarding Notre Dame’s intention to cancel the scheduled games in 2015-17.

The letter was first reported by the Associated Press.

The teams have played regularly since 1978 — after a 35-year hiatus. They were scheduled to take a two-year break in 2018-19. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said Friday that he hoped to resume the rivalry in 2020.

After news broke Tuesday, Brandon released a statement: “The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame’s and not ours. 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.”

On the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said, “My reaction is Notre Dame made a decision and it’s not our decision. Dave told me on Sunday what was going to happen. It’s unfortunate, and that’s a great rivalry and all those things. But they’ve got to do what they think is best. We’ll move on, and it adds some new scheduling opportunities for us. I’m sure Dave and I will have conversations and do what’s right for Michigan.

“We’ve done a pretty good job here scheduling. Obviously, the national rivalry with Notre Dame, your strength of schedule was pretty good. We opened up with Alabama this year and played Air Force, a good Mountain West team. That’s all part of it.”

Notre Dame recently announced it would move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football. It will play five football games against ACC teams each season, meaning it would be nearly impossible to continue playing all of its traditional rivals.

The school released a statement Tuesday from senior associate athletic director John Heisler: “Our contract with Michigan has an automatic rollover provision – with a year being added each time a game is played. 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.”

But Swarbrick gave no indication that this news was coming when he spoke to the Free Press after Saturday’s game.

“It’s really important us, given the nature of the two schools, just the affinity between the institutions — forget football a minute — it’s really important to us, so I’m going to work real hard to keep it as lively and frequent as we can,” Swarbrick said after Saturday’s game. “It’s good for Notre Dame, too. We chatted a little bit tonight, talked about our mutual desire to get this done. I’ve got to get the ACC side of it set before I can figure the rest of it out.”

Swarbrick refused to rank the other rivalry games, only saying Notre Dame will make an effort to get to California once a year (vs. USC or Stanford) and maintain its tie with Navy.

Asked directly about Michigan State, he wouldn’t address that, either.

“Michigan is really important to us,” he said.

But MSU athletic director Mark Hollis said Tuesday that he hasn’t heard anything from Swarbrick.

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