Why Would Notre Dame Drop Michigan?

Submitted by Fort Wayne Blue on September 25th, 2012 at 9:45 PM


So an hour before the kick off of the annual Michigan vs Notre Dame game the other night, Michigan’s Athletic Director David Brandon was handed a letter from Notre Dame. When he opened it the next day, he learned that Notre Dame was canceling the annual series between the two schools after their meeting in 2014..... 

This is sad for me, because I live 20 minutes from Notre Dame, and I’m a HUGE Michigan fan. The result of this is that the chance I get for yearly bragging rights in my community is gone. Its also sad because Notre Dame and Michigan are two of the oldest football traditions in the country, and they’ve got the oldest rivalry in the nation - which like .... awesome! So Notre Dame is pulling the plug on something I think is pretty cool and pretty important to me.

Why would they do this? 

They say that its to protect their coastal important rivalries. I think they’re lying through their teeth when they say this.


Well, Notre Dame - a school with a proud of being independent in football (which makes absolutely no sense to me!) is looking to protect its brand. Now hopefully you’re asking, “What does that mean?!?” Well its about about visibility and recruiting.

College sports are a really weird way that schools build their reputation and influence. Example: Pennsylvania State University. In the 1960’s Penn State was a rather insignificant school, but in the next few decades, Joe Paterno, through the power of his football tradition, built up the school’s reputation. Today, “State College” is one of the more respected academic traditions in the country, a member of the prestigious AAU (a collection of the top research institutions on the continent), and national brand. All of this way made possible by the fame and the cash flow brought in by the football team. 

Notre Dame, in much the same way as Penn State, has been propped up by its football tradition. The exploits of their traveling football team in the early part of the 20th century put this midwest school in the front of the nation. They would play anybody, anywhere. As a result Notre Dame has strong connections with major cities on either coast. As a result, many of the students that attend the school are from states far away from the school. And you cannot separate the rise of their academic tradition to a top 20 school, from their football tradition. 


Now in the past few years decades Notre Dame’s football tradition has become a bit ..... stagnant. They have not finished in the top 25 for the past 6 seasons, they have failed to win a BCS game since the BCS was started in 1998, and they’ve failed to win a National Championship since 1988. Some have dubbed the phrase, “Notre Dame, returning to glory since 1993.”

Winning 1 National Championship in the past 34 years is something that is tough for the proud alumni of the schools, a fact drilled deep into the awareness of many of the alumni from Notre Dame. They insist that their school do everything possible to return their alma mater back to the level it once was. They have gone through multiple coaches looking for the man who can be their messiah; the chosen one capable of winning it all.

There have been several reasons why their brand has suffered; academics, location, the number of schools getting on TV, and the rise of the SEC have all contributed to Notre Dame’s dip in prominence. These factors have weakened Notre Dame.

There is also the way that the National Championship teams build their schedule. You want to have a strong schedule, yet you need to win the majority of your games. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to do these things in recent years. Either they have played teams that were much superior to them in strength, they have lost to their rivals, or they have played teams that were so poor that it did not prepare them/boost their strength of schedule. 


Notre Dame has always fiercely maintained their independence from a conference. The main result would be that this would limit their influence. The problem with the major football conferences is that they end up being tied down to a geographical region. (The SEC mainly recruits students to their school from south eastern, the Pac(ific) 12 recruits the west coast, the Big Ten (12) recruits the midwest, and the Big 12(10) recruits Texas.)Notre Dame knows this, and doesn’t want to become geographically limited; they want to make sure that they maintain their national brand. 

Notre Dame is located in the midwest part of the country, near Chicago (the region’s largest metropolitan area). They are very visible in this city, so much so that they aren’t worried about recruiting in their own back yard. They are comfortable with their fan base in the middle area of the country.

To be present on the west coast, Notre Dame has played Stanford and Southern Cal. They rotate the years that they play them, so every year Notre Dame makes a trip out to California. They have also been affiliated with the Big East for the past few decades; full members in basketball & the Olympic sports and playing a number of Big East opponents in football. Thus, Notre Dame is visible on both coasts.

In the past few years, Big East football has become diluted. Many of their traditional football programs have left the conference, and Notre Dame has been left to schedule a number of weak teams instead. As a result, ND has chosen to change is conference relationship to an East Coast conference with some football muscle: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Notre Dame will now play 5 or 6 games a year against ACC opponents. These ACC opponents will be quality football teams stretch up and down the East Coast. So their move to the ACC is good for their level of competition AND it gives them a presence on that coast. Its a win-win for Notre Dame. 

This year, Notre Dame is already playing 4 ACC schools, so to add another game or two against these conference teams means that Notre Dame will need to drop one of its non-coastal, midwest opponents; they chose to drop Michigan.


The problem with Notre Dame saying they are stopping the Michigan rivalry because they value their more important coastal rivalries, is that Michigan isn’t the only non-coastal, midwest school that Notre Dame plays; Michigan State and Purdue are also regular opponents. So to say that Notre Dame canceled their series with Michigan is simply because they’re looking to protect their coastal reputation - which was Notre Dame’s reason for dropping the Michigan series -  is to miss the point. There are three schools they could have chosen to stop playing. Now if you look at these three schools and their football rivalry with Notre Dame you’ll see something else. 

Purdue: Notre Dame has dominated its series with Purdue. Since 1970, Purdue has only beaten the Irish 10 times; only 2 of these wins being in South Bend! (This includes an 11-game winnings streak by Notre Dame.) This rivalry has been completely one sided. 

Michigan State: Michigan State is viewed as a thorn in the side of the Irish. They’re the pesky underdog that usually gives them fits. MSU has always been a 2nd level program in the midwest, surviving on the football players that were rejected by the region’s elite programs. The series is a bit more even than the ND/Purdue series (with Notre Dame winning 2/3rds of the games), yet its still a series where Notre Dame is the favorite. 

Michigan: In the non-coastal midwest region, there are three big dogs in the football world: Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan. Not just the biggest in the region, they’re three of the biggest football traditions in the country! They are near the top of the of the totem pole in wins, national championships, budgets, stadiums, Heisman Trophy winners, etc. etc. etc. If there is a stat that can be compared, these three schools are among the leaders in those stats. 

While Ohio State and Notre Dame don’t have much of a rivalry, Michigan and Notre Dame have a very fierce rivalry that stretches back to the earliest days of organized college football. Some students from Michigan, were the first to teach ND students how to play the football. Michigan was ND’s first opponent in 1887 (an 8-0 UofM win). And Notre Dame was first described as “the Fighting Irish” by a Michigan newspaper. There is also a long period of time between 1909 and 1978 where the two schools refused to play each other. 

Since resuming playing one another (in 1978), Notre Dame and Michigan have played 29 games, each team has winning 14 and tying in 1992. Its as even as it possibly could be. And while both teams like to think they’re a better tradition, they’re the same tradition; Notre Dame == Michigan.

[Also, we should note that since resuming this rivalry, Notre Dame has only won one national championship. 10 of their 11 championships were won during the years the teams did not play each other (1909-1978).]

So what we see is that Notre Dame canceled the rivalry with the midwest rival they’re equal with; while keeping the rivalries that they dominate.


I think we should see this move by Notre Dame as nothing short of the Irish cutting the strongest of their non-coastal, midwestern rivals as they amp up their strength of schedule by moving into a relationship with the ACC. This has nothing to do with protecting their coastal allegiances. They want to avoid a strength of schedule that will limit their ability to compete consistently for the national championship. 



September 25th, 2012 at 10:09 PM ^

that NBC is cool with this.  When I say cool with this, I mean willing to pump millions of dollars into the school.

NBC with the Michigan series was either guaranteeed a USC game at home or Michigan.  Both huge football traditional powerhouses with large fan and alumni bases.  Now NBC is guaranteed USC on odd number years and uh Stanford on the evens?

I know ND may demand that FSU be scheduled instead, but  I still think thats a step down in potential tv draw from Michigan.  Also, I thought the ACC was choosing the scheudule each year.

I know I hate NBC because of the announcer and how they manage to shove a commerical into every posession change and heck after every kickoff Saturday.

Also  ND broke up with Michigan the same way a 5th grade girl does with her boyfriend.  Calling LSU freak.


September 26th, 2012 at 4:28 AM ^

I sense a certain "in your face" component to dropping Michigan the way they did.  From the perspective of viewership, what ND did makes zero sense, as the game gets very significant national coverage.  Even with NBC doing the game this year, this was the game that drew the largest viewership by a long shot. 


The prime-time matchup helped make the NBC telecast the highest rated college football game of the weekend. According to USA Todaythe game drew a 4.0 overnight rating and according to sportsmediawatch.com, those numbers were the second lowest in the series since the 2007 game on ABC (2.7). Michigan’s last-second win over Notre Dame last season scored a 4.8 overnight for ESPN.


September 26th, 2012 at 10:31 PM ^

While it may not make immediate sense to NBC, with the Irish not being in the National Championship picture for a long time, maybe the corporates realize that ND can only beat UM 1 out of every 4 years. That early season loss is usually memorable (heartbreaking, ass-kicking, or both). It stays in the minds of recruits and pollsters. Eliminating UM bu t keeping the West coast teams maintains the Irish exposure there. Midwest exposure may not be that important because that is where ND lives.


September 26th, 2012 at 9:41 AM ^

I'm surprised about NBC as well. Last weekends game had the highest ratings ever for an Irish primetime slot. Not the USC game in 2005, or any others they had since the NBC contract, ours. I mean the game had 6.4 million viewers, which crushed the ESPN game by about 1.5 million people

Moonlight Graham

September 25th, 2012 at 10:36 PM ^

Sorry, there are some interesting facts and trivia in there, and I do agree with you. Notre Dame is overhauling their scheduling playbook in an effort to make the Final Four. However their logic is flawed, and the ACC played right into it. 

What I don't understand is this: at the end of the 2014 season a selection committee is going to choose four teams to play in the semifinal game. By all accounts these four teams will probably be conference champions, with two possible exceptions: A situation like Alabama last year where a conference runner-up simply outshines all other candidates; or a Notre Dame team with an 11-1 or 12-0 record. So every year the "pool" of candidates for final four is going to be one of the five major conference champions, a really, really good runner up that could be considered better than all but one or two conference champs, and ND (or in a flukey year, an unbeated MWC or Big East champ). That's 7-8 teams vying for 4 spots. 

On the surface it seems like ND might be trying to reduce that "pool" by 1. Are they really thinking that the committee will consider the ACC champ OR Notre Dame? What if Notre Dame and Florida State both go 11-1, and weren't on each other's schedule so there was no  head-to-head game. What if the committee takes the SEC, Big 12 and Pac 12 champs and ND and FSU or vying for that fourth spot? How does the ACC feel about this?

Anyway, it seems like ND's move to the ACC is driven by the glaring proof over the last 16 years of the BCS that they will never sniff the national champtionship game again as a true independent. They think that this half-baked conference affiliation will help their cause with this committee, which now holds all the cards. I just don't understand fully how they think aligning with the ACC helps. Where it WILL help -- and I think the ACC knows this -- is a scenario where they become full members and win the conference at 11-1 or 12-0.

As far as scheduling, I don't think you'll see many more Oklahomas or Texases on ND's schedule. It'll be MSU, Navy, ACC teams, USC, Stanford, and a couple "beatable" one-offs like (cough cough) USF or Tulsa. It came down to USC or Michigan and they decided to keep Michigan on. Having them both on the schedule along with at least a Clemson or FSU or Va Tech was going to be just too much to handle. 


September 25th, 2012 at 10:40 PM ^

Regarding not joining a conference, I'm pretty sure ND not wanting to join the Big Ten is for a bunch of non-football reasons way more important than not wanting to be tied down to the midwest.


September 25th, 2012 at 11:21 PM ^

This is one of the few instances where the CIC would actually be a negative for a prospective new member. Also, the administrations of Big Ten members take a much more involved role in the conference than most other conferences. I can see ND not wanting to deal with Michigan and Wisconsin (who hold a lot of power). Even if you don't accept reasons like these though, there are still a bunch of other (football related) reasons that have nothing to do with protecting brand/ avoiding being tied to the midwest. NBC TV deal, scheduling flexibility, special BCS consideration, that kind of stuff. 


September 25th, 2012 at 11:34 PM ^

I know things change, and I know there is a strong desire from a lot of people in power at ND to keep it an undergraduate focused school, but the faculty senate there voted 25-4 in favor of going after CIC membership in 1999.

If I had to guess, they're basically just concerned with your second paragraph. They want their tradition and their one/oneths of a vote in their independent world basically no matter the consequences, unless that precludes the possibility of a national championship in football.


September 25th, 2012 at 11:57 PM ^

Thank you for linking the article, I was unaware of this information. It does seem like your interpretation is correct and that I'm wrong, though this quote from the president is interesting: 

"Notre Dame always will be Catholic and always will be private," Rev. Edward A. Malloy, the university's president, read from a statement. "Even in terms of size, we will not become appreciably larger. Given these realities, we have had to ask ourselves the fundamental question: Does this core identity of Notre Dame as Catholic, private and independent seem a match for an association of universities--even a splendid association of great universities--that are uniformly secular, predominantly state institutions and with a long heritage of conference affiliation?

"Our answer to that question, in the final analysis, is no."


September 26th, 2012 at 12:00 AM ^

saying the senate wasn't representative enough, which were both interesting.

I'd just add that their association with the ACC in every other sport kind of makes me doubt that sentiment. I know they don't see basketball or softball or swimming the way they do football, but the ACC has one Catholic member, and is only 1/3 private.


September 25th, 2012 at 10:55 PM ^

fairly obvious. They ARE gonna need some guaranteed wins on the schedule. ND is seeing a sliver of daylight right now after being on the ropes for 24 years--they're running for it. 


September 26th, 2012 at 3:16 AM ^

I'm sure in several years when the NCAA gets a finalized playoff system in place and ND doesn't have to worry about finishing 11-1 or 12-0 to make the limited playoff format they will want to resume the series. My guess is by 2020 we will have another decade agreement playing a home and away series with ND in the non conference schedule. I don't mind playing them every year but I think I'm ready for a break! I remember when the series resumed after a long hiatus in '78. Everyone was so excited about reviving the ND series and I'm sure the same will occur again in the future.


September 26th, 2012 at 8:25 AM ^

I like this analysis.

as john kryk talks in his book about the mich-nd rivalry, notre dame learned to play football from michigan, was a tiny regional school that begged to play michigan in the early days to build prestige, and then as they got better at football, translated that to national visibility. 

now, in today's world, they probably want to continue to play on the coasts for continued exposure both for athletic and academic recruiting purposes. i completely agree that playing michigan state is their chance to keep a regional rivalry going that they dominate rather than playing one that has traditionally spoiled their shot at an undefeated season 50% of the time in september

Wolverine 73

September 26th, 2012 at 9:17 AM ^

ND couldn't join the Big Ten because the league would never buy the half-assed "partial membership" the pathetic Big East and the almost as pathetic ACC went for.  ND wants to hold onto its NBC deal and the money it gets and doesn't share.  And ND wants a softer schedule that makes it more likely it can run the table now and then and be in the mix for the BCS bowls.  Spurning the Big Ten and dropping Michigan from the schedule (while keeping Purdue and MSU) is wholly consistent with ND's financial self-interest.  It's their right to do that.  Just don't insult our intelligence by pretending this is something other than a financially-driven decision.

Wolverine 73

September 26th, 2012 at 12:04 PM ^

It seems a bit complicated.  Supposedly ND gets $15M from NBC right now, and is in line for a new contract conservatively estimated at $20M in 2015.  Supposedly, the BTN paid each school $7M this year, and each got another $10M from ESPN/ABC/CBS.  Not sure when those contracts expire.  The Big Ten distributed a total of $24.6 in shared revenue to the 11 old members and a lesser amount to Nebraska.  Not sure where the additional money came from--bowl games?  Basketball tournament?  Still strikes me as ND gambling that it can do better on its own.  Add them to the Big Ten, and you slice the pie in one more piece.  Plus, they might object to being phased in like Nebraska.  Would they bring more value and a higher overall return?  (Sorry, tried to embed the links an failed.)

Edit: Also, what is their deal with the ACC on bowl revenue? Do they keep it all themselves?


September 26th, 2012 at 9:17 AM ^

didn't know about this beforehand. More importantly, having ND on our schedule was kind of a pain. They were crappy before, so it was fine, but going forward, they will be pretty good to very good. That limits us.

We have 4 non-conference games per season (maybe 3 if the B1G goes to 9 games). Ideally, I would like 2 cupcakes, 1 top 5-15 team and 1 team ranked 25-35. That plus OSU, MSU, Wisconsin/Iowa is a pretty solid schedule. Having ND (5-15 team) plus Alabama (1-5 team) in a year where MSU and OSU are better is just too much. Add in an annoying surprise good team (maybe Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin) and our schedule becomes the toughest in the nation.


September 26th, 2012 at 9:31 AM ^

It's obvious that the Irish can't play five ACC teams per year, maintain all of their current rivalries, and still have seven home games a year (the standard for most FBS teams).

There was no way Notre Dame would drop Purdue. It's an in-state rivalry, and it's the Big Ten team they've played the most often. And more than any other school on their schedule, Purdue really needs the game. Purdue would be really screwed if the Irish dropped them. Of course, you're right that it's close to an automatic win on the Irish schedule, so Notre Dame doesn't mind playing it, just as much as Purdue (economically) doesn't mind that they almost always lose.

Michigan State is already off the Irish schedule in 2014-2015, so dropping them wouldn't have solved their problem, insofar as clearing away the space to play five ACC teams per year. The Michigan State deal is also more flexible, because going forward it's structured as 4-on, 2-off, as opposed to the Michigan deal, which is every year aside from a 2018-19 hiatus.

As you've noted, the pesky Spartans have given the Irish fits. In the last 15 years, the Spartans have actually beaten Notre Dame more often than Michigan has. So it's kind of silly to suggest that Notre Dame is scared of Michigan.

Several people have noted that the Michigan-Notre Dame game was the highest-rated game of the weekend. Notre Dame needs games like that to make their NBC TV contract more valuable. For that reason (among others), I suspect that Notre Dame will be back on the Michigan schedule sooner than most people think. Brandon clearly likes the game, and Swarbrick's letter sounded like he is very open to rescheduling it.


September 26th, 2012 at 10:13 AM ^

1.  Notre Dame is no longer a football independent.  

At best, given its five game per year agreement with the ACC, Notre Dame can best be considered a semi-independent in football.  The ACC also tells ND which five teams it will play each season, so ND has to work with the conference to get the type of schedule it wants in the long term.

2.  Notre Dame has a four-game agreement to play Texas starting in 2015 and 2016.  If they had kept the agreement with UT and UM, ND would have started those seasons with back-to-back games with the Longhorns and the Wolverines.  Strategically speaking, that's not a smart way to start any season, especially one with a four-game playoff at the tail end.

In essence, ND has replaced Michigan with Texas for at least the 2015/6 seasons.  

3.  The ACC is a mixed bag of programs right now.  Florida State looks like they've gotten back to their old swagger and Clemson plus Virginia Tech are looking good as well.  Miami-FL (which plays ND later this year) is due for some major sanctions, so they may go back into a tail spin here shortly.

Here are the other 10 teams in the ACC from north to south:  Boston College, Syracuse,  Pittsburgh, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, N. Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech.  To be frank, none of them are screaming out "football power" at this time.  ND will likely be playing each of these teams at least twice over the next four years.

4.  Is NBC happy about this?  While the UM-ND game has had big ratings, the other thing that has helped is that the game is played early in the season when the hype and expectations are still in place.  What we've seen in the past is that ND's television ratings drop off during the season once they start playing the season and when they play the types of teams listed in the second part of (3) above.

If ND puts together a consistent double digit winning program, then NBC will probably be okay with this move.  If not, then the ratings for some future ND-Duke or ND-Wake Forest game played in South Bend isn't going to look so good.

5.  If Notre Dame is going to continue playing seven home games (or six home games and one neutral site game that would count as a home game), it doesn't have much scheduling flexibility.  ND will have to have two home-and-home contests with the four games it can schedule (since 5 ACC games plus Navy, USC and Stanford cover the other eight slots) in order to get those seven home games.

Right now, those home-and-home slots will be going to Purdue and Michigan State (who has a four-year on, two year off agreement with MSU) plus another team TBD for a two-year home and home series when ND isn't playing MSU.  ND will then have two buy-in games each year.  So this is how its sets up:

Five ACC Games (alternating year of two or three at home)

USC, Stanford, Navy

Purdue, Michigan State and another home-and-home series when not playing MSU (say a team like Brigham Young or maybe a team from the Big XII or SEC).

Two Buy in Games from the Moutain West, etc.

What this means for ND is that they'll get perhaps three marquee opponents per year--USC, one of the major ACC teams (ex. FSU) and one other major opponent when they're not playing MSU.  They'll also have a number of good teams on the schedule as well in Stanford, MSU and some of the mid-level ACC teams, but the schedule isn't going to be a killer.

That said, if a Notre Dame team runs the gamut and goes 12-0 (or even 11-1), they'll certainly be considered for the four-team playoff.  Lacking a conference championship game essentially puts them in the same boat as the Big XII Conferece, and no one thinks that if a team from that conference goes 12-0 or 11-1 that it will be exempted from the playoff.












September 26th, 2012 at 10:46 AM ^

They've ceded 5 of 12 games to the ACC commissioner's office; but that's still far fewer than any other team in any other league. What's most important (to them) is that they keep their NBC deal, can continue to play a national schedule, and can make the playoff or a top-tier bowl without having to play a conference championship game. Those are pretty important differences.

Many of the ACC teams are regulars on the Irish schedule anyway (BC, Pitt, Miami), or have played them periodically in the past (Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland). It isn't any great leap for them to play five ACC teams a year. Notre Dame also recruits heavily in ACC territory, and they have a lot of fans in the ACC footprint.

Also, they typically scheduled 2-3 Big East teams per year, so this isn't such a huge leap from what they did under their old arrangement.


September 26th, 2012 at 10:30 AM ^

I had just assumed that the Michigan contract was the easiest to get out of...?

I could be wrong.  I also want to believe that they're conceding the midwest to Hoke and Meyer, and look to recruit from the Southeast instead.


September 26th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

saying that nd "dropped michigan" is true in the short term, but i doutbt its what nd wants in the long term. given 5 acc games, usc, stanford and navy...that leaves 4 games and its pretty hard to imagine 3 of those being the b1g year in and year out. so, nd most likely wants to cut back to 1-2 b1g games per year.

nd has a history with msu, purdue and michigan. the ideal scenario from nd's perspective is to rotate, at least, those three teams (with an osu, psu, northwestern, etc.) mixed in there. but, if nd has a relationship in perpetuity with michigan, that means that they'll have very little room for the rest of the b1g. 

my guess is that nd wants a rotation of 2 b1g teams per year with most of those games going to msu, purdue and michigan and occasionally another b1g thrown in there. nd does not want to play michigan every year, because it limits what they have room to do with the rest of the b1g. nd probably does want to play regularly - maybe 4 or 5 out of every 10 years. michigan is a meaningful rival for nd and an obvious opponent, and i doubt nd wants to write them off forever.

this, by the way, seems like a reasonable scenario for um  as well — given that the conference schedule has expanded if um plays nd every year (particularly if nd sucks less) — there isn't much room for any meaningful non-conference opponents.  

Smash Lampjaw

September 26th, 2012 at 12:07 PM ^

including Golic today that Michigan, Purdue, and MSU will all be in the same boat- that ND will play each of them on a rotating basis. I don't know where they get that, but I sure do hear it consistently. (I assume Golic is closer to the AD than the others.) Ours was the first shoe to drop, perhaps because of the contract details and the chance to pull off that extra home game stunt.


September 26th, 2012 at 12:07 PM ^

Full disclosure - I'm an ND alum, and have lived in SE Michigan my entire life.  I got a grad degree from MSU and I'm enrolled in another grad program at UM-Dearborn.  So, I'm not just some arrogant ND slappy - I know that we've had a not great 15 years out in the wilderness.  I'm also not here to flame or troll or engage in internet combat, but I do feel compelled to add my $0.02 from the ND side of things.

The OP is pretty accurate in his reasoning.  The fact of the matter is that ND needs to maintain its national presence - it's our comparative advantage.  There are no other schools that have a national footprint like we do, and we can go play anywhere in the nation and sell out a stadium.  Without that footprint, we'd fall to a Northwestern-level football program.  This is why joining the BIG was never a legitimate option for us - it would isolate us as a midwestern school.

The ACC also makes more sense from a cultural standpoint, as there are numerous other small private schools, and also religiously-affiliated schools.  We'd be a fish out of water in the research-institution dominated BIG.  We simply don't fit in with the mission or academic strengths of the other BIG schools.

So, that's the cliff notes version of why the ACC made more sense for us.  The deal to play 5 teams every year isn't so bad or even much of a departure from our past schedules when you consider that we've regularly played 1-2 teams against traditional ACC teams and another 2-3 games against new ACC (and former Big East teams) like Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, etc.

So why are we dropping Michigan, and not (yet) Purdue or Michigan State?  Quite frankly, it's rooted in history.  Not to be pedantic (and I relize that using the word pedantic automatically makes me pedantic), but our shared history goes back a LONG way - I think I may have heard something about UM teaching ND how to play football, you guys ever hear that story?  Anyways, after ND beat UM for the first time Yost dropped us, refused to schedule ND for 30ish years, and blackballed us from the Big 10.  After two games in the 40s there was another 35 year break.  So even though our history goes back 125 years, we didn't play for 70+ of those.  Further, Yost's blackballing was the thing that led to ND having to barnstorm across the nation.  On the other hand, we've played Purdue consistently for decades, and MSU and ND also have a more institutionally-chummy shared history (not to be confused with our relationship with MSU fans these days).

So when it came time to decide which BIG team to drop, I suspect that our closer ties to Purdue and MSU outweighed carried the day against our contentious history with UM.  There are undeniable benefits to the ND-UM matchup, and I'll be very sad to see the game go as a regular event, but I think the historical aspect skewed the final calculus.  What I DO suspect is that we'll move to more of a rotating list of BIG teams to fill 1 or 2 scheudle slots.  We have a 4-on 2-off rotation with MSU starting soon, which probably helped their case for staying on the schedule, but also would certainly allow for future games against UM as part of a BIG rotation.  I hope that is the case.  At any rate, having 1-2 BIG games a year is definitely to our benefit and, emotional reactions aside, also to the benefit of the BIG teams we play.

As a final thought - I don't think this is about watering down our schedule.  We have early-season games scheduled against Texas in 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2020 which effectively replace the UM game those years.  We also added Oklahoma to this year and next years' schedule as a possible replacement for UM when there was uncertainty about the future of the UM-ND series a few years ago.  I'm sure we'll end up with replacements that are lower quality than UM in some seasons, but not as a general rule.

This ended up a lot longer than I wanted it to despite the fact that I didn't cover some aspects of things in the interest of "brevity."  I'll go put on my asbestos suit now, so flame away if you'd like.


September 26th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

I don't buy the historical hissy-fit angle to the story.  Yes there was some bad blood almost 100 years ago by people that have been dead for 50.  So what.

Forget hurt fellings, the USA and Japan were killing each other 70 years ago.  Now we are allies and I drive a Japanese car.  People move on.

I think that the Michigan contract was easier to get out of.  When MSU rotates off, we'll probabaly rotate on. 

Blue Durham

September 26th, 2012 at 1:33 PM ^

Due to the long, checkered history between Notre Dame and Michigan, when the ACC agreement was announced I figured it was essentially the end of the Notre Dame-Michigan series.

People on this blog are quick to say the hell with Notre Dame when they turned down membership to the Big Ten, and now with them dropping Michigan off the schedule. But Michigan continually prevented Notre Dame's addition when they wanted to join the Big Ten during Yost's years as AD.

Since the series resumed in 1978, it has been contentious as each school has accused the other in trying to get an unfair advantage. Bo was under the impression that it was supposed to be the first game of the season for both teams and was hot when Notre Dame started scheduling a game prior our game, thus giving Notre Dame an advantage.

Given all of this, and the longer history ND has with Michigan State and Purdue, it was all but certain the Michigan was going to be the first to drop off of the schedule.


September 26th, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

1: ND isn't super duper special. Yes, ND will sell out every away game of theirs....but so would Michigan, Texas, USC, Alabama, Ohio State....etc etc. You're not the only school to have a large "National Footprint"

2: I'm sure both Dave Brandon and Jack Swarbrick can have their petty moments, but Brandon was born in 1952, and Swarbrick in 1954. I seriously doubt either one of them really cares what Yost's feelings toward ND were 40 years before they were born. What it came down to was that MSU has a more managable contract than UM, while ours was an easy out too.


September 26th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

ND lost to two MIchigan teams full of underclassmen during the RR era, and lost to a first-year Michigan coach last year.  They needed six turnovers to beat Michigan once in four years and only beat them by a touchdown, despite all of the turnovers.

ND knows, deep in their hearts, that the series is bad for them.  They want to schedule easier teams.  In other words, they are afraid of Michigan.  


September 26th, 2012 at 2:09 PM ^

The series is 14-14-1 since it resumed in 1978.  The3 years prior were bad (and weird) for ND, but this year karma came back around a little bit.  You can easily say that we dominated the game last year, gaining more yards than UM, but lost becuse of bad turnovers.  But the fact of the matter is that points are all that matters, and the other stuff evens out over time.

And the series isn't bad for us, any more than it's bad for UM.  Nor is it fear - we have Texas lined up in 4 of the 8 coming seasons and I guarantee that we'll try to add other top tier opponents.


September 26th, 2012 at 8:50 PM ^

play ND anyways.  No one really cares about ND anymore and the TV ratings prove it.  It takes M or USC to give them a bump.  Games against Purdue and Navy are barely noticable.


September 27th, 2012 at 9:24 AM ^

Actually, if you really want a history lesson, Michigan players did not "teach Notre Dame how to play football". Indeed, for a period of time, Michigan refused to play ND because they were afraid of losing. UM even tried to stop ND and MSU from playing each other to avoid giving their rival programs any prestige at all. The ND-UM "rivalry" didn't really exist until the 80s, while MSU and ND have been playing since the early 20th century fairly regularly.

MSU has not "always been" a second tier Midwest program. In fact, since the end of World War II, MSU has six national championships to UM's one. The 50s and 60s, the first era of modern college football, saw a period of unprecedented MSU dominance that ended only when Bo and Woody - legendary "rivals" - worked together to turn in MSU for violations that the NCAA wouldn't even bat an eye at these days.

The way I see it, your glory days of the 70s and 80s (in which you didn't win anything of significance) were fleeting, and MSU's recent rise is a regression to the mean. Biggie and Duffy made MSU into a national power, far beyond anything Bo did with UM. The difference is, UM has always been better at media spin and deceitful backroom deals. That's why you folks have this idea that UM is some kind of relevant national power, despite laying claim to only a single national championship since the Truman administration. At least ND has accomplishments in the 20th century; UM's glory days died with leather helmets and club football programs.


September 27th, 2012 at 10:16 AM ^

Seriously? The 20th century includes all dates with a 19xx. That includes a whole lot of national championships. Secondly, in the current relevance trend, who has been to 5 BCS bowl games? Surely not those Spartans.

Win the conference before you run your mouth.

Outright non shared b10 titles since 88? 6-0 Michigan.