FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly isn’t getting nostalgic about the Irish’s final trip to play Michigan in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future.
Kelly also isn’t feeling that sentimental about the series between the Midwest football powers going into hibernation soon.
The No. 14 Irish (1-0) travel to play the No. 17 Wolverines (1-0) on Saturday night, and after Michigan comes to Notre Dame Stadium next season, the series will take a break with no restart point in the future.
I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries, Kelly said during Sunday’s teleconference about the series against Michigan. I’ve seen it as just as one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.
For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But I think in the Notre Dame history books, this game has played itself, but obviously, there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years as well. So, I think if you ask some of the traditionalists and historians, this game has had many years where it hasn’t been played.
Kelly, who spent 20 years in Michigan coaching at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan, is right about the series taking extended breaks.
Notre Dame first played Michigan in 1887, and the programs played just eight more times after that until the Irish got their first win in the series in 1909. The teams didn’t play again until 1942, and the series took another long break after a 1943 meeting.
Notre Dame and Michigan renewed the series in 1978, but the teams have taken three two-year breaks since with the last stoppage coming in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The Irish and Wolverines have met every year since 2002.
But Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick exercised a three-year out clause in the series contract last season in order to provide flexibility to Notre Dame’s schedule as it agreed to start playing five Atlantic Coast Conference teams every season starting in 2014.
That football obligation was part of Notre Dame’s deal to join the ACC in all sports except football and hockey.
The decision to end the series after next year’s meeting led Michigan coach Brady Hoke to tell a crowd at a May luncheon: We have unbelievable rivalry games at Michigan. 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.
Kelly wouldn’t get into a war of words over the rivalry’s demise while the Irish kept Big Ten opponents Purdue, which it has played 84 times, and Michigan State, which it has played 76 times. Notre Dame and Michigan have played 40 times.
Everybody knows the challenges that we have as an independent when it comes to scheduling, Kelly said. We’re a team that a lot of people want to play, including Michigan, obviously, or Brady wouldn’t comment in that regard.
We’re trying to do best we can with maintaining independent status and fulfilling the obligations we have with the ACC. We’d like to play everybody. Unfortunately we can’t.
Note: Kelly said receiver DaVaris Daniels, who has a slight groin injury, should play Saturday.