It’s understandable what Michigan football coach Brady Hoke is trying to do, stirring up some controversy with his remarks that Notre Dame is “chickening out” of the two teams’ rivalry after the 2014 season.
The game is a guarantee that the Wolverines will be on national television, and a win over the Fighting Irish, whether Notre Dame is good like in 2012 or bad like the rest of this century, still looks good to recruits, boosters and the BCS.
What Hoke may not know is that the University of Michigan is one of just many schools that Notre Dame has had rivalries with in it’s tradition-rich history. With the Fighting Irish taking on more ACC opponents as a part of the agreement between the school and the conference in a partial-membership for football, Notre Dame had to take a step back and analyze its schedule and find a balance between tradition and the current competitive nature of college football.
Something had to give in order for Notre Dame to accommodate it’s new schedule and whether Hoke likes it or not, it was the Michigan game that had to go.
The Wolverines and the Fighting Irish have played 40 times over the past 125 years, or (on average) once every three years or so. The games have come in spurts, with hiatuses between 1910 and 1941 as well as between 1944 and 1977. Since 1978, the teams have met 29 times, with 14 wins for each team and a 17-17 tie in 1992.
You can’t ask for much more out of a rivalry over the past 35 years, but the years of tradition between Michigan and Notre Dame don’t match up to the other schools that the Fighting Irish play on an annual basis. Hoke mentioned the fact that Notre Dame is going to continue playing out-of-conference rivals Michigan State and Purdue. If Hoke was up-to-date with his facts and figures, he’d have known it’s not a stretch that the Fighting Irish chose those two programs to play continually.
NOTRE DAME VS. MICHIGAN STATE
Including the Game of the Century, the Fighting Irish and the Spartans have met 75 times since 1897, or nearly double the amount of games that Notre Dame has played against Michigan.
NOTRE DAME VS. PURDUE
Not only are the Boilermakers a rival within the state of Indiana, but Notre Dame and Purdue have met each and every year since 1946. The teams have met 84 times and the Fighting Irish hold a 56-26-2 advantage, including a 10-3 record over the last 13 years. The Boilermakers have certainly had their ups and downs, but the two teams have generally had very competitive games in recent history.
You can even go a step further and look at a few of Notre Dame’s other rivalry games.
NOTRE DAME VS. STANFORD
The Fighting Irish and the Cardinal have played 27 times, but 23 of those tilts have been since 1988. The series does date back to the Four Horsemen in 1925. What the rivalry does is give Notre Dame even more exposure in the talent-rich state of California, a place where the Fighting Irish rely on (with 10 players in 2012 as California natives).
With the recent success that the Stanford program has had under Jim Harbaugh and now David Shaw, it’s completely understandable why Notre Dame wanted to hang on to this specific rivalry.
NOTRE DAME VS. USC
In the same vain as the West Coast games against Stanford, the rivalry against the Trojans provides a great deal of exposure for the Fighting Irish, usually in a prime-time television match-up. The two schools have met 84 times, with Notre Dame holding a 44-35-5 historical advantage. However, each school has had stretches of dominance (Notre Dame had 11 straight wins from 1983 to 1993, USC had eight straight wins from 2002 to 2009), but the teams have split the past four contests. Held late in the season nearly every year, it’s a much anticipated annual match-up that was never going to go away.
NOTRE DAME VS. NAVY
Even though the Fighting Irish have thoroughly dominated the series historically, the two teams have split the past six matchups in an increasingly competitive rivalry. And given the fact the two teams have played every year since 1927 – making it the longest uninterrupted rivalry in college football – the Notre Dame-Navy game simply had to stay.
With the Fighting Irish having to play ACC schools like Virginia, Miami, Louisville and Clemson on a more consistent basis, something had to give on the Notre Dame schedule. And whether Brady Hoke likes it or not, the Michigan rivalry was a logical one for the Fighting Irish to have to give up.