A day after Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly described – and likely downplayed – the rivalry between the Irish and Michigan, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke expressed his own perspective, and avoided adding fuel to the fire.
”It is for us,” Hoke said of the historic significance of the rivalry. ”Everybody looks at everything differently.”
No. 17 Michigan hosts No. 14 Notre Dame at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday at Michigan Stadium, the 41st meeting between the two teams and the final tilt between the Irish and the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
Earlier, Kelly said he doesn’t regard the rivalry as a historic or traditional one for his school or for his program.
”I’ve seen it as one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played,” Kelly said. ”For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, so I’ve always felt that the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game, but in the Notre Dame history books, this game has played itself.”
Michigan holds a 23-16-1 lead in the series, which dates back to 1887. It went on hiatus twice, from 1910 to 1942 and from 1944 to 1978. Notre Dame will host Michigan on Sept. 6, 2014, in South Bend before the series will be put on hold for at least five seasons.
”It must have some sort of national appeal,” Hoke said. ”From the standpoint of coaching a lot of places, and maybe it’s just me, but I know one thing: When Michigan-Notre Dame is on TV, I was going to be watching it. And I know people out in Corvallis, Oregon, were going to be watching that game, for one reason or another.”
Hoke also stood behind the comments he made in May about Notre Dame ”chickening out” of the series.
”I said it,” Hoke said.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner didn’t hesitate to add superlatives to the matchup.
”It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college football, or else (ESPN’s ’College GameDay’) wouldn’t be there,” Gardner said. ”It wouldn’t be such a nationally televised game. It fits right up there at the top.”
It will soon disappear.
About a year ago, Notre Dame announced it will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football and men’s hockey. Notre Dame’s football program will join the ACC’s bowl rotation in 2014 and the Irish will have a contractual obligation to schedule five football games each season against ACC opponents.
”We’re trying to do the best we can maintaining our independent status and our relationship with the ACC,” Kelly said. ”We’d like to play everybody. Unfortunately, we can’t. There’s going to be a little bit of hiatus on the game, but we’ll work hard to get them back on the schedule.”
Michigan cornerback Blake Countess briefly considered the impending end of what many consider one of college football’s storied rivalries, then succinctly put it in context.
”We just play who’s on the schedule,” Countess said. ”If they’re taking themselves off the schedule, then so be it. That game will be filled.”