Notre Dame drops Michigan after 2014

BY foxsports • September 25, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Notre Dame's football program started with an 1887 game against Michigan. In fact, the Irish players had been taught the rules by students from Ann Arbor.

Now, 125 years later, the Irish are pulling the plug.

Moments before Saturday's kickoff, Notre Dame officials told Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon that they would be using an out clause in the contract to end the series after the 2014 game.

“The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame’s and not ours,” Brandon said in a statement. “We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series.

"This cancellation presents new scheduling opportunities for our program and provides a chance to create some new rivalries.”

The move is not a shock. Notre Dame needed to open spots in its schedule because of its new commitments to the ACC. The teams will play in Ann Arbor in 2013 and South Bend in 2014, then not play again until at least 2020.

"While this move is a necessary precaution as we begin the process of meeting our new scheduling commitment to the ACC, please know that Notre Dame very much values its relationship with Michigan," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick wrote in his letter to Brandon obtained by the Associated Press. "(We) look forward to working with you to ensure that our great football rivalry can continue."

It's far from the first break in the rivalry, which has seen the schools play 40 times in 125 years. The schools played on a fairly regular basis until 1909, but after that year's game -- Notre Dame's first victory -- Fielding Yost cancelled the series.

The teams met again in 1942 and 1943, splitting the wartime games, but Michigan chose to end the series once again.

Peace was finally made in the early 1970s, with close friends Bo Schembechler and Ara Parseghian agreeing to a new contract. The schools have faced each other 29 times since that contract began in 1978, including games that set Desmond Howard, Raghib Ismail and Denard Robinson on the path to stardom.

"It's unfortunate because we very much enjoy the rivalry," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said at his weekly news conference. "But they have to do what they think best.

"We'll move on, and it will give us some new scheduling opportunities."

For all but Michigan's freshmen, the rivalry will outlast their college careers, but some were still disappointed at the news.

"That game is tradition," offensive lineman Patrick Omaneh sad. "It's a great rivalry for college football, and it is one that we look forward to every year. It's a shame that it is going away."

So, for now, one of college football's oldest rivalries ends Sept. 6, 2014, under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus.

COMFORTING DENARD

Denard Robinson apologized to Michigan's fans after turning the ball over five times in Michigan's 13-6 loss to Notre Dame, and he also apologized to his teammates. They weren't about to accept the apology, though.

"We told Denard that this is a team game and that we all needed to get better," defensive tackle Will Campbell said. "That game wasn't on him. It was on all of us.

"We told him that Saturday, and we've kept telling him that."

Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint said that it didn't take Robinson long to bounce back.

"He's our brother, and he's got our support," said Toussaint, who has talked about how much Robinson helped him during his suspension for a drunk-driving arrest. "He's back to being Denard now. He's got that smile back, and he's ready to move forward with us."

BYE WEEK

Hoke and his players weren't sure if a late September bye week was ideal scheduling, but it does provide a distinct line between non-conference play and the Big Ten season.

"We're done with the preseason now," safety Thomas Gordon said. "Now we've got an extra week to get ready for Purdue and the Big Ten.

"We know we can still smell roses at the end of the year, and that's always been our goal."

Hoke said that, along with some time to rest, the team will focus on the basics this week.

"My feeling has always been that you use the bye week to get back to fundamentals," he said. "This is when we work on our techniques and get them closer to where they need to be."

Most of the players plan to spend Saturday in front of a TV, watching college football.

Toussaint has a different plan, though.

"I'm going to be here watching film and working," he said. "I don't care about college football unless Michigan is playing. I've got too work to do."


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