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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 08, 2017 1:00 am

IU-Notre Dame rivalry competitive, 'cordial'

Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

Soccer

Who: Indiana vs. Notre Dame

What: Shindigz National Festival

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Bishop D'Arcy Stadium

Tickets: $7 for high school students and under; $10 adults

When Bobby Clark was hired as Notre Dame men's soccer coach in 2001, he quickly noticed eight-time national champion Indiana was not on the schedule. It didn't take long to change that.

“That was the first phone call I made when I arrived in the state of Indiana,” Clark said. “I asked, 'How do we not play one of the best teams in the country when they're in our state?' For me, (Indiana's) our yardstick. They're a good guide to tell us where we are. It's very competitive, but it's very cordial.”

Now, the two programs find themselves intertwined quite frequently. Each team travels to the other's regular-season tournament, and both participate in the fall and spring sessions of the Shindigz National Festival.

While the fall festival has grown to the point where the Hoosiers and Irish rarely face each other, the spring iteration features just one match – Indiana vs. Notre Dame – in an annual exhibition showcasing the state's top two schools.

Today's festival matchup, while just an exhibition, still has plenty on the line for both teams.

Indiana leads in national championships 8-1, the last coming in 2012, but Notre Dame lays claim to the most recent title (2013). It's not a rivalry built on anger and hatred. Rather, as both coaches explained, it's great competition and a matchup steeped in respect for the opponent.

“It's a great game, it's really well played, both teams leave everything out there, and it's so different than what people would say about the Indiana-Purdue rivalry,” Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said. “There's a lot of respect and admiration for what they do.”

Today's goal is to re-create the excitement and importance of a regular-season contest. But if the NCAA adopts a National Soccer Coaches Association of America proposal to convert to a so-called academic year season model, it could very well become a regular-season game.

Currently, the 17-game regular season spans just nine weeks each fall, followed by conference tournaments and the national tournament. As Clark said, there are several positives to the current calendar – namely, player development.

“I love the spring,” Clark said. “For me, it's just a true teaching time. If you take that away, it just becomes about competing and recruiting. I like to think is that the spring is when we develop our players.”

If you ask Yeagley, the full-year schedule would better promote development not just for the younger players, but the roster as a whole. With multiple games each week during the fall, coupled with the travel that accompanies such a truncated schedule, training time is also limited.

Take the case of freshman Spencer Glass, who redshirted last fall. The Carroll graduate did get to play in exhibition games last fall but was held out of the regular season as the IU roster included several seniors who would have severely limited his playing time. If the NCAA approves the proposal, keeping all players involved – redshirts, injured and healthy alike – becomes much easier.

Teams would play just once a week instead of loading up on mid-week games, and all athletes would find more time for training, classes and studying.

“It's too much too quick, and players are stressed with the nature of our games in the fall,” Yeagley said. “One injury may knock you out of four to five games, and that could be a third of your season in just two weeks.

“We don't really get to train in the middle of (the fall) season. The younger guys, we can train them separate, but it's not with the whole team. We'll be able to train more and have a more integrated schedule with the balanced schedule.”

But many hurdles stand in the way of the proposal's passing, so the spring exhibition season remains in place for at least this year. That gives both teams a chance to connect with alumni in the area, as well as a leg up in recruiting.