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Fanning the rivalry flames

By now most readers have already heard how Michigan coach Brady Hoke stoked the flames of the Notre Dame-Michigan football rivalry.

But if you haven't, here's what has happened.

Hoke drew laughter from a crowd at the West Michigan Sports Commission luncheon Monday in Grand Rapids, Mich., when he said the Irish were "chickening out" of the series.

"We have unbelievable rivalry games at Michigan," Hoke told the crowd, according to mlive.com. "The Notre Dame, that rivalry, which they're chickening out of ... they're still going to play Michigan State, they'll play Purdue; they don't want to play Michigan."

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick informed Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon in letter before last season's game that the Irish wanted to put the series on hold after the 2014 season. Notre Dame and Michigan had extended their contract through the 2031 meeting but on a three-year rolling basis, which gave one side a chance to back out.

Swarbrick wrote in the letter that Notre Dame needed to stop the series because the Irish would be committed to playing five games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams each season, starting in 2014, as part of Notre Dame's deal with the ACC to join the conference in every sport except football and hockey.

Brandon told espn.com on Tuesday that the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry may be gone for a long time.

"We've both been busily scheduling out into years into the future," Brandon told espn.com. "And as I understood it from my counterpart at Notre Dame, they're making plans to go in a different direction. So the earliest we could schedule would be sometime post-2021, 2022, and when you start talking that far out, who knows. So it's going to be a while.

"The night game we have at Michigan Stadium this September, and then our last trip down to South Bend next year are going to be really exciting because it's going to be the end of the rivalry, at least for a considerable period of time."

The Journal Gazette columnist Ben Smith will weigh in on the situation in Wednesday's paper, check back here for his thoughts.

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