Well done...I think the alternating Michigan and Sparty is a great idea and one that could make sense for all parties involved. Will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.
Mike Lantry, 1972
Some Big Ten supporters think the conference should stop scheduling Notre Dame, to "punish" the Irish for joining the ACC. They're making a fundamental error: thinking like a fan, rather than thinking like an athletic director.
Here are some basic facts:
Michigan and Notre Dame have played annually since 1978, aside from a couple of two-year hiatuses planned long in advance (1983-84, 1995-96, and another coming in 2018-19). Michigan has had seven athletic directors during that time, starting with Don Canham, who reinstated the series after a 35-year absence. You'd think that if playing Notre Dame were such a terrible idea, one of those ADs would have stopped it by now.
Even Bo Schembechler, who famously said "To hell with Notre Dame," didn't cancel the series during the three years that he was Athletic Director. Given his control over the program, it is hard to believe that Bo couldn't have put an end to it, if he'd really wanted to.
So, why does Michigan play Notre Dame?
The series has numerous benefits. It's a high-profile game that is always nationally televised. Travel costs are low. The game is competitive but winnable. Even in years that the Irish are terrible, the media always act like beating them is a Big Deal. The last three games, all won by Michigan, have created iconic moments that very few opponents could supply: Tate Forcier's coming-out party in 2009, Denard Robinson's in 2010, and Under-the-Lights last year. Since the series resumed, most of the games have been very entertaining, with 19 out of 28 contests decided by 8 points or less.
You might think that Michigan could easily replace Notre Dame with comparable opponents. You'd be wrong. A lot of those opponents don't want to come to Ann Arbor. (Dave Brandon recently tried to schedule Oklahoma, and was refused.) And outside of the Big Ten, most of the premier programs play in hot-weather climates, where a September game would put Michigan at a significant disadvantage. If you thought it was bad playing Alabama indoors, imagine what it would be like in Tuscaloosa.
In short: if Notre Dame fell off of the schedule, Michigan would be hard pressed to replace them annually with acceptable games against high-profile home & home opponents. Of course, somebody would come to play Michigan, but if you think the replacement game would regularly be as good as Notre Dame (in terms of prestige, TV viewership, excitement, or any way you measure it), you're kidding yourself.
The case for playing Notre Dame is even more compelling for Michigan State and Purdue. The Boilermakers have played Notre Dame every season since 1946. It is more important to them than any rivalry in the Big Ten, as it's the only game they play that is guaranteed to be televised nationally. No other Purdue game attracts so much interest. And there are probably no major football programs that would consider a trip to West Lafayette worthwhile. Cinncinati in 2016 is the most prestigious non-Big Ten, non-ND home game the Boilermakers currently have scheduled, supplementing a diet of directional schools, MAC programs, and the like.
The situation is quite similar for Michigan State. Remember their memorable overtime win vs. Notre Dame, which was the featured night game on ABC two years ago? They're doing it again tomorrow. Who else could the Spartans play, that would generate that kind of coverage? The Spartans have been elevating their schedule lately: they have future home & home series with Miami (YTM), Alabama, Oregon, and Boise State. But of that list, only Alabama matches Notre Dame in prestige.
I have no interest in helping Purdue and MSU recruit, but the fact is: to kids who might be considering playing football at those schools, an annual game with Notre Dame is a perk.
So I can only laugh when people suggest that the Big Ten ought to refuse to schedule Notre Dame, to "punish" the Irish for not joining the conference. It's a big like "punishing" Kate Upton for refusing to date you. Kate will do just fine, and so will Notre Dame. Oklahoma, Texas, Northwestern, and Arizona State, are among the teams that have scheduled the Irish in future years, in addition to their usual rivals (USC, Stanford, Brigham Young, Navy) and various ACC teams.
I'm not aware of any athletic director who resents the Irish for choosing to be independent. Athletic directors realize that games with Notre Dame are good business. Whether or not the Irish deserve their popularity, the fact is they are popular, because two large ethnic groups — Irish and Catholics — consider Notre Dame their de facto home team. This is why the major conference commissioners treat the Notre Dame athletic director like an equal; why they have their own network TV deal; and why they have their own entrée into the BCS, under conditions granted to no other school.
So to the extent that Big Ten schools for decades have found it useful to schedule Notre Dame, what exactly has changed? The answer is: nothing. Notre Dame always made clear that they intended to remain independent in football. All they've done is to leave the rotting Big East, as numerous other schools have done when the opportunity arose.
The match-up makes sense for both parties. As the weakest of the "Big Five" football conferences, the ACC wanted to make itself more attractive to television and the bowls. Notre Dame's strong academics are also an attraction, in the only available conference that is academically as strong as the Big Ten. Notre Dame gets access to the ACC's bowl tie-ins and a far better home for basketball and its olympic sports. It will play 5 ACC teams in football every year, but many of those teams have regularly played the Irish anyway.
Culturally, the ACC is a better fit for Notre Dame than any conference, including the Big Ten. The ACC already has five other private schools (if you count Syracuse, joining next year), including the only other Catholic school that plays FBS football (Boston College). The ACC footprint includes large Catholic and Irish populations, and Notre Dame alumni historically have tended to migrate east. Outside of the midwest, the East is Notre Dame's most fertile territory for recruiting. That's a big reason why the Irish chose the ACC over the Big 12, which was the only other major conference willing to admit the Irish on similar terms.
Numerous news stories have mentioned that the Irish will probably be re-evaluating their future schedules, now that they're committed to play five ACC teams per season, starting in 2014. If you add Navy, USC, Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue every year, that would leave the Irish with just one "flex" game, or none in the years Brigham Young is on the schedule.
So which rivals might Notre Dame play less often? The Irish consider USC and Stanford their most valuable rivalry games, because it ensures they play in Califorina every year, an important selling point for West Coast recruits. The Navy game has been contested every season since 1914, making it the oldest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football. It's also practically an automatic win for Notre Dame. There's no way they're giving that up.
The three Big Ten rivalries have different costs and benefits for Notre Dame. They've played Purdue every year since 1946, and it's another game they usually win. However, very few people other than Notre Dame fans and Indiana residents care about the game, so it doesn't really help them with recruiting. Of all Notre Dame's rivals, Purdue really needs the game. Canceling it or playing it less often would really screw Purdue.
Michigan is the best known of Notre Dame's Big Ten rivalries, and the one that's the best media draw, but it's also the toughest for them. Michigan is one of the few schools (and the only one the Irish play regularly) that has a winning record vs. Notre Dame.
The Michigan State rivalry goes back to 1897, and since 1948 the two schools have missed each other just four times (1953, 1958, 1995-6). Historically, Notre Dame dominated the series (other than the 1950-63 period, when MSU was good), but since 1997 the Spartans have given Notre Dame fits, winning 10 out of 15. If Notre Dame decides that it doesn't need to play two state-of-Michigan schools, you'd think Michigan State would be seen as the dispensable game.
There is very little doubt in my mind that if the Irish want to keep playing, the Big Ten will continue to welcome them with open arms. In an interview with CBS Sports, Purdue's athletic director almost seemed to be pleading: "You have two schools in the state of Indiana with shared values -- their close proximity is a mutual benefit when it comes to travel and potential missed class time by the student-athletes -- so it only makes sense that we will continue to compete against them."
Dave Brandon told the Associated Press that Michigan wants to keep the series going, but that it would be up to the Irish. MSU AD Mark Hollis said that the school has a contract with Notre Dame out to 2031 that calls for four years on, two years off. So that ought to dispel the idea that Big Ten teams have any notion of kicking Notre Dame off their schedules.
Perhaps one scenario is that the Irish will continue to play Purdue every year, while alternating the Michigan and Michigan State series (2 years on, 2 years off). That's just one way it could play out. Because of the continuous tradition, the in-state proximity, and the fact that the Irish usually win, it's harder to imagine them playing Purdue less often.
For Michigan fans, the question isn't whether we want to play Notre Dame, but whether Notre Dame wants to play us. If the Irish are available, David Brandon will schedule them, just as the last six athletic directors that preceded him have done, over and over again.
Well done...I think the alternating Michigan and Sparty is a great idea and one that could make sense for all parties involved. Will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.
was Oklahoma approached by DB? I've never heard this, do you have a link, or just a rumour?
It's a pay site, so I can't link it. Their source was anonymous, but they usually have pretty good access to inside information, so I would consider it pretty credible.
This is all I could come up with from a simple search:
Second hand posters here but no link, so just rumor from what I can find. But in a thread about Brandon scheduling high profile games.
...because two large ethnic groups — Irish and Catholics — consider Notre Dame their de facto home team.
That's highly debatable. As a Catholic, I do not know of anyone that rooted for ND "by default" just because of their religious preferences. ND fans, that I knew, were either alums or rooted for ND because they were good (band-wagon fans). And, I grew up in the Midwest but spent some time in the Northeast. The ND attraction in NYC always puzzled me.
I'm going to guess that the Big 12 wasn't as attractive as the ACC because it's "Texas-centric", as it were.
I strongly agree with the OP. The overwhelming majority of ND fans that I know do so because they are catholic OR because their 1st or 2nd generation Irish fathers rooted for them and this is what they grew up with.
It is fairly well documented that the ethnic/religious groups are a large reason behind their popularity. With immigrants who came to the country who were descriminated against (know-nothing party, "Irish need not apply", etc.) saw a team who was refused affiliation because of who they were (Coach Yost being a large factor in this) and started identifing with ND as a matter of pride. The fact that we never fought a major war against them (as opposed to say Germany or Italy) allowed an uninteruped time of ethnic pride.
In my hometown in PA, which has a very high percentage of Catholics, they used to tell a joke: A lady was bragging to her friends "My son was just accepted to Harvard!" One of her friends interjects "My condolences. He couldn't get into Notre Dame?"
Except for Texas and Oklahoma, there aren't a lot of Big 12 schools the Irish are particularly eager to play. This contrasts with the ACC, where Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Florida State have all been on ND's schedule from time to time (and several of them a lot more often than that).
It need hardly be added that for basketball, Notre Dame would far rather be playing the ACC schools than the Big 12 schools.
Academically, the ACC is much more of a fit, and remember that the people making these decisions are school presidents, who care about academics a lot. Obviously, the ACC is much more stable. South Carolina, in 1971, is the only school ever to leave the ACC. The Big 12 has lost four schools in the last two years alone.
Whatever may be the Irish and/or Catholic concentration in the ACC footprint, I think it's pretty clear that there are more Irish fans in the East than in the corn and oil belt. Notre Dame recruits far more successfully in the East than in Big 12 territory.
Lastly, I'd say that even if the attraction to Notre Dame in the East is "puzzling," what matters is that it exists, not whether it makes any sense. Lots of fan preferences do not necessarily have any rational basis.
South Carolina loves to leave things, the ACC once, the Union twice.
Maybe few people have chosen to follow ND as a religious matter, i.e., because they are Catholic, however , numerous people who attend a Catholic school for grade school or high school do follow ND as their de facto representative in the university ranks. In footbal it is them or BC, whereas in basketball, there are several more good Catholic university programs, such as Georgetown, Marquette, and Providence College.
I went to a Catholic HS myself, and ten percent of my graduating class went to Georgetown and ten percent went to Boston College, so I can definitely say that the whole Catholic education thing can last throughout the years for some people.
I really really hate that you're right though I would disagree on how one-sided the UM-ND balance of power is...UM gets enough national attention already, that while its a great bonus we definitely dont need to play ND at all
Well done. There is still a part of me that would love to see ND become a member of the B1G, but this looks as though it will never happen. I suspect in the future they will become a football member of the ACC, making the idea of an annual game with them even more difficult. I do like the idea of alternating hom-and-home games with MSU. Certainly we will need a plan to accomidate their current scheduling issues (5 commited ACC games) , but it would be nice as well to be prepared for if (or when) they start playing an 8-9 game full ACC schedule.
Catholic is a religion, not an ethnicity.
Enjoyed the post and agree with what you're saying. I hope and expect we'll continue to play ND for years to come.
I hate to spend so much time analyzing Notre Dame's schedule, but you're exactly right. From now on, I expect ND's schedule to look like this:
5 ACC games (3 home, 2 away)
USC/Stanford (1 home, 1 away)
Navy (home/away alternating)
2 out of the 3 B1G schools (1 home, 1 away)
That leaves three open spots, 1 for a high-profile home-and-home (Texas, Northwestern, etc.)
1 cupcake game at home (Western Michigan, Tulsa (lol) and similar schools are examples that they have scheduled recently)
That leaves Notre Dame, like Michigan, with 6-8 home games every year, guarantees they play the national schedule they love to talk about (games with at least 3 of the 5 major conferences, 4 if the home/home is against a Big XII or SEC team), and is not that difficult, as the ACC is weak if you can avoid FSU/VT/Clemson.
EDIT: Looks like from Brian's front pager that the ACC is picking the teams. So that changes a lot. That's what I get for speculating.
I don't even know if ND will view it this way - and by that, I mean "5 ACC games". There aren't any concrete details on how the ND vs. 5 ACC teams will be scheduled. So here are a few of the more prominent ones being tossed around (I came up with names):
I don't really know how much this is worth, if any. If I'm Burke Magnus, WWL VP of college programming, you were already playing 4 ACC teams against Notre Dame. How much more is one guaranteed game worth to me?
I would bet a few dollars it ends up being Round Robin, with potentially a hybrid that guarantees a marquee game at an ACC location each season for TV/spotlight purposes. I expect this because a third of the ACC is now former Big East teams ND consistently schedules - BC, Pitt, Cuse, Miami - and I don't think ND wants to just drop playing those games with some regularity.
The Round Robin schedule still leaves Notre Dame playing a significant amount of teams that might as well count as baby seals - Duke, Wake, BC again - and teams that aren't quite baby seals but don't put the fear of God into anyone - NC State, Virginia, Pitt-GT-Maryland again.
If Notre Dame plays the Media Maximum schedule, I can see them wanting a baby seal to club while not playing USC, Stanford and some other tough non-ACC team. If they aren't, do they really want a game against the MAC teams of the world?
I won't recap what's in it for ND by playing Michigan bcause Oakapple did a great job, but it's significant enough that it's a mutually beneficial game for both. Here's how I see the schedule shaping up (on typical years when MSU/UM are currently contracted to play):
On an average year, 4-5 of those teams will be below average to bad. MSU and Stanford are not consistently this strong. Navy is Navy. Purdue is Purdue. And average to sucky ACC teams will be average to sucky. The good ACC teams aren't even guaranteed to be that good (looking at you, FSU and Clemson).
I just have a hard time thinking ND wants to give up Michigan, the opponent that has partnered to give 2 of its 3 highest-rated games the past two years (looking for where I found that), just so they can play another guaranteed win.
Your years are wrong. This is us playing ND in 1997.
And to hell with ND. We didn't play them for several decades, we'd have no problem not playing them again.
It was '95-'96 that the second hiatus was taken.
Yes, obviously there was a long period the two schools did not play. But once it was renewed, a long string of ADs on both sides clearly considered it advantageous to continue. I thought it might be worthwhile to examine the reasons why.
For shame, sir! This is great stuff!
Killing the messenger is the lamest form of stupid. And there are a really lot of those.
Wouldn't be surprised if ND nixes the UM/MSU deals, and just keeps the purdue one. The two Michigan schools gaurantee an early loss (or two) for them every year.
Notre Dame will be playing five ACC games per year as assigned by the conference probably as early as 2014. In Year A, three of those games will be in South Bend and two on the road. In the follow year, that flips with two games at Notre Dame Stadium and three on the road.
Couple that with the two games against California-based teams and Navy and you essentiallly have four home games and four away games already in place on the schedule.
Seeing that ND is planning on keeping its television deal with NBC, that means Notre Dame will be compelled to play seven home games per year in South Bend. A neutral site game may be substituted for one of the home games (such as ND's season opener with Navy in Dublin, Ireland--although that game was on CBS), but it will likely stay at least seven.
That means among the four remaining games ND has to schedule each season, three will have to be home and one on the road. That translates into two home-and-home series plus two buy-in games per year being the new normal.
If Notre Dame wants to play major teams outside the Big Ten in the month of September (from the SEC or Big XII, for example), that means they could very well be down to one Big Ten team on the schedule each year. The new normal could be this:
Navy, USC, Stanford (Three total)
Five ACC teams (alternating between three and two home games per year)
One Big Ten team (home-and-home)
One SEC or Big XII team (home-and-home)
Two buy-in teams from MWC, Big East, C-USA, MAC
We'll see what happens between David Brandon and Jack Swarbrick, but one of the possibilities thay may also happen is for Michigan to play ND two years out of every six with Michigan State, Purdue or perhaps some other Big Ten team in the rotation.
Michigan and Notre Dame have a four-year rolling agreement that allows either party to cancel or modify the series. If ND were to notify UM this year, then the Irish would fall off Michigan's schedule starting in 2017. There is a break scheduled for the series in 2018/9.
Michigan fans also need to be mindful of the scheduling inbalance that is in place now and will go through at least 2016. Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State are either all home games (in odd numbered years) or road games (in even numbered years) for the next five seasons. Wisconsin joins that same rotation in 2015/6, so the schedule becomes even more unbalanced.
Now unless Notre Dame opts to change the years it plays Michigan at home or on the road or the Big Ten changes the conference schedule starting in 2017, this is going to continue to be a problem for UM.
One other note to consider is recent television ratings. The opening game this season between Michigan and Alabama had a 4.8 rating on ABC. Last season's Under the Lights Game on ESPN with Notre Dame scored a 4.5.
Now this isn't exactly an apples to apples comparison, but it certainly goes to show that there are teams other than Notre Dame in the college football world that have as much brand value in terms of ratings vis-a-vis Michigan in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
David Brandon does have options plus an exceptionally strong brand here that the author of the article seems to underestimate. He's mentioned that we'll be finding out shortly about some more games in the future, but obviously, he has to deal with the shakeout from the ND to the ACC deal. At the minimum, he will have an opportunity to put a quality opponent on the schedule for 2018/9 to replace ND. While he may not have been able to get Oklahoma, let's see what he does do in the end.
A couple questions and comments:
Also, how many times has ND even scheduled a marquee SEC team? Is anyone willing to do a home-and-home with them? Alabama is the only one that's made it North of the M/D line and that was for Penn State, with whom they have some weird 80's bond or something.
The Michigan-Alabama game was THE marquee game for all of college football in primetime of opening weekend, in which ESPN invested $15 million to pay the teams to play and was going to make sure they got return on their investment by hyping it up as much as possible. It hit 4.8.
UTL was still the highest-rated ND game last year and was ND's second highest in 2010 (to the USC game). Notre Dame averaged a 1.6 last year. USC-ND hit 2.1.
4.5 is huuuuge. Michigan is still huge for ND's ratings (and anyone's ratings, hence why ESPN said "WE WANT YOU" when looking for a Bama opponent). And as Oakapple pointed out, this will ultimately be ND's (and NBC's) decision. I can't see ND dropping us as easily as everyone thinks...
As you noted in your #1, the ACC is assigning the opponents to Notre Dame per this agreement. How the conference will actually do this is to be determined, but we can be fairly certain that each of the soon to be 14 teams in the ACC will play ND at least twice in a six year period.
I saw twice in a six year period because I don't know if ND will play a series of home-and-home games one year after the next or there will be a two-year break in games. For example, let's say ND played Maryland in South Bend in 2014. Would ND then play at Maryland in 2015 (the year after) or 2017? I imagine the former is more likely, but until details shake out, that could be a possibility.
You are correct on #2--that game in Dublin was technically a Navy home game. Notre Dame currently plays the USNA and USC on the road and Stanford at home in even numbered years. We'll see what happens with regard to scheduling the ACC games to see if ND will play two or three of them on the road in even numbered years.
If its's the former, then the five ACC games plus Navy, USC and Stanford will be four home/four road during the even numbered seasons. If it's the latter then those games will be three home/five road, which means ND would be looking for four home opponents those even numbered years in order to get seven home games.
Quick Note: ND doesn't play seven home games in South Bend until 2015 because they have neutral site home games with Arizona State (2013 in Dallas) and Syrause (2014 in Meadowlands).
It's been awhile since Notre Dame has played a big time SEC team, which is exactly why it might be a move they would want to make (not to mention that that part of the country has the highest college football television ratings). The last home-and-home with a major SEC team in the regular season was Tennessee in 2004/5. ND played the Vols in 1999 and 2001 as well.
Which SEC teams would be likely to play Notre Dame in the future? Assuming the SEC goes to nine conference games, I would remove Florida, Georgia and South Carolina because of their annual interstate rivalry games with FSU, Georgia Tech and Clemson. I also don't think the two MIssissippi school or Vanderbilt or Kentucky would be desirable to ND. That leaves seven other teams that could be real possibilities--Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M and Missouri.
Now why would ND want to play a SEC team? Since strength of schedule is going to be a component of some measure for the national championship and since ND doesn't have a conference championship game, you could make the case for them wanting to strengthen the schedule. Here's what the future ACC (full members) will look like on a north-south axis--ND will play four of them per year:
North Carolina State
I assume ND will have one and maybe two marquee matchups from their ACC games per year. USC will be a second one. Depending on what happens with the Big Ten, Michigan would be the third. If ND wants to get a fourth major matchup on its schedule, it may need to reach out to the SEC to get it. Notre Dame already has a two game series with Oklahoma and a four-game series with Texas in place for the future (although they're playing OU this year and 2013), so they may not have to go the SEC route right away. But I could see it as a possibility.
I don't really see how you could say the Michigan-Alabama game from this year and the UM-ND UTL game from last year were in the vacuum you mention. Both were highly publicized, heavily marketed games played on prime time on a Saturday night. One was on ABC, the other on ESPN. I would also add that this year's game was between two Top 10 teams, although it was clear pretty soon that UM wasn't Alabama's calibre (what's interesting about that game that despite being a blow out, it still had the 4.8 rating).
My larger point is this--there are other teams in the world of college football that Michigan can pair up with and get comparable ratings as would a game with Notre Dame. It may not be a huge list, but it'd certainly include Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12, USC and Oregon from the Pac 12, a number of SEC teams (Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn) and probably Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami-FL from the ACC.
If you paired those teams up with Michigan on a Saturday night game in early September, I imagine you'd get the same 4.5 to 4.8 rating that we wrote about above.
Now this is not to say that Michigan should run to the exits and drop Notre Dame unilaterally. I think what the two schools will work out is some sort of setup where UM and ND play two years on and perhaps two or four years off. What will be very important for David Brandon to do is to secure a major name to replace those teams.
I actually don't expect him to do this overnight. He will ceratinly have been looking at who to play in 2018/9 when ND was supposed to fall off the schedule even before they joined the ACC, so that might provide us some clue as to what sort of major opponent he'll be able to get as a ND replacement (FWIW, Georgia has a hole in its schedule for those years, but they also play Ga Tech and who knows if the SEC will be playing nine conference games by then). Where Brandon will be able to set a new course for Michigan on the scheduling front might actually be the next decade after the scheduled two-year hiatus ends with ND. Brandon has said he'd like to continue the series (and having ND as a regular on the schedule makes his life easier), but this ball may be in Swarbrick's court right now.
on ND's scheduling, you forgot Boston College. Doesn't ND play them every year? the whole catholic rivalry thing.
Interesting post. One might conjecture that ND is pursuing an East
t Coast-West Coast strategy. Whatever.
I like the attitude of DB and Coach Hoke: "Michigan is an elite team." When we challenge to be the best, Notre Dame and Rose Bowls and everything else will work out. That's where going up against Alabama was a step in the right direction. We are blessed with a great tradition. We have the leadership to live up to this opportunity. Every Mgoblogger can suppot and be part of this team.
This is an innocuous comment. Whoever called it flamebait made innappropriate use of a pejorative designation. Care to explain?
Fr. Hesberg said that ND will always play Navy as long as Navy wants to. ND thinks the navy saved them when it agreed to set up an ROTC program during WW II. Attendance was so low then that ND was at risk of closing.
I think ND favors Stanford b/c they want a trip out to California for recruiting purposes.
I was assuming BC would be one of their five ACC games, but if the Conference does schedule teams randomly, it might be a sixth Conference game in some years. Notre Dame doesn't usually avoid scheduling tough teams, so I would expect them to continue a popular series like Michigan. They could maybe play 2 out of 3 Big Ten teams annually, meaning MI, Purdue and MSU would rotate. They might continue to play Purdue every year for a while, but eventually rotate them on the same basis as MI and MSU, since those games generate a lot more excitement.