FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame’s annual game against Michigan is the first casualty of the Irish’s recent deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Notre Dame informed Michigan that it is exercising a clause in the team’s contract that allows it to opt out of the series. The Irish and Wolverines will play the next two seasons, with the final game coming in South Bend in 2014.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Associated Press obtained a letter Tuesday from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan AD David Brandon, canceling the games from 2015 to 2017.
Notre Dame and Michigan had extended the current contract, which has an opt-out clause every three years, in 2007 to keep the series going through 2031. The rivalry was already set to take a break for 2018 and 2019.
The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame’s and not ours, Brandon said in a statement on Michigan’s athletic website. We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series.
The AP reported that Swarbrick gave Brandon a letter notifying Michigan that Notre Dame wanted to opt out of future games before the No. 10 Irish’s 13-6 win over the Wolverines on Saturday night.
Notre Dame announced Sept 12 that it would join the ACC in all sports but football and hockey. Part of the Irish’s deal with the ACC requires Notre Dame to play five football games each season against an ACC opponent, starting in 2014.
We needed to avoid the automatic addition of additional games until we can get a better understanding of our available inventory in those years, Notre Dame senior associate athletic director John Heisler wrote in a statement, an understanding that will develop as we implement our five-game scheduling commitment to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
When Notre Dame’s deal with the ACC was announced, Swarbrick said he wanted to continue games against USC, Stanford and Navy every year and that other traditional rivalries would have to be adjusted.
Purdue, which first played Notre Dame in 1896 and has played the Irish every year since 1946, has not been contacted by Notre Dame about its series, Purdue associate athletic director Tom Schott said. The Irish and Boilermakers’ contract runs through 2021.
Michigan State, which first played Notre Dame in 1897 and has played the Irish every year since 1959 except the 1995 and ’96 seasons, has also not been contacted by the Irish about the series, Michigan State associate athletic director John Lewandowski wrote in an email. The Irish and Spartans have a contract to play through the 2031 season with the series taking a break in 2014 and 2015.
Notre Dame has taken breaks from playing Michigan seven times since the rivalry began in 1887. The longest break in the rivalry was from 1944 to 1977.
The Irish and Wolverines have had three hiatuses since the series resumed in 1978. Notre Dame didn’t play Michigan in 1983 and ’84, in 1995 and ’96 and in 2000 and 2001.
It’s unfortunate, and it’s a great rivalry and all those things, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said during Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference. But they’ve got to do what they think is best. We’ll move on and add some new scheduling opportunities for us.