Aug 31, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; General view of Michigan Stadium during the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Central Michigan Chippewas. Mandatory Credit: Sage Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football: Notre Dame at Michigan -- No Longer A Rivalry

GBMWolverine Coach's Corner2Posted at 5:30am — 9/5/2013

Michigan Football: Notre Dame at Michigan — No Longer A Rivalry

Now do not get too excited. According to Head Coach Brian Kelly, the Notre Dame Michigan game is not really a big deal and the game is only a regional game. This storied and much watched rivalry is not really a big time rivalry, and if it is, it is because of the presence of Notre Dame. As Kelly states, Michigan is not really a rivalry for Notre Dame.

Aug 31, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Prince Shembo (55) tackles Temple Owls halfback Zaire Williams (23) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 28-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Irish minor league blog propagandists have set forth several “interesting” positions. First, Notre Dame does not need Michigan. Well, that position has been put forth dozens of times. Now let us move on to point two, which is, that Michigan needs the Notre Dame game to get a national television audience. Oh, really, Michigan may not have its own worshipping NBC (Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation) network but Michigan ends up on television just fine and is not one of Gordon Gee’s famous Sister’s of the poor. Finally, one really bizarre “line of thought” links this canceling of the series to anti-Catholic sentiment by one Fielding H. Yost. It seems that Yost “blackballed” Notre Dame, according to the time machine gurus. This may be so, or maybe Yost did not like the domers, this is not an uncommon phenomenon even in today’s societal workings.

Well, none of the above counts for a hill of beans come Saturday. Two of the best teams of 2013 will play in Michigan Stadium, and one will lose. Such an early loss removes plenty of glitter from high expectations. This is the disadvantage of playing such a game annually so early for both teams.

The two teams with the most wins in a long history of college football play are apparently not a rivalry and the game is of moderate significance, really? The field will be filled with NFL-level talent. The game will honor the greatest of Michigan legends, Tom Harmon. But yet according to the humble Notre Dame Irish, this is just a regional level game that is not a real rivalry. Do not get too giddy, the Notre Dame players know better, and certainly the Wolverines do as well.

Aug 31, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) drops back to pass in the second quarter against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan played Notre Dame in the university’s first game in 1887. Many historical sources credit Michigan for teaching the game of football to Notre Dame students, which enabled a team to be formed. The result of the first game was an 8-0 Michigan win. In 1888 Michigan and Notre Dame played three times, with Michigan winning all three games. Then came the Rockne era and Notre Dame football was off to some glorious accomplishments.

After many Michigan wins, Notre Dame cracked through in 1909. No further games were played between the two giants until 1942. Perhaps, this was the Yost bias. Or perhaps Yost hated losing to anyone, Notre Dame included. After two major games in the early 1940’s (split), the “non-rivalry” was put on hold until 1978.

With the success of the Rockne era, Notre Dame, a small institution back in the day, built a massive stadium modeled after Michigan Stadium. The seating of the new stadium was not as large and the entrance was different than Michigan Stadium.

Since 1978 several of the best college games played were between Michigan and Notre Dame. While there have not been many top ten matchups the last few years, the entertainment value has been outstanding. The best case in point may be the 2011 night game in Michigan Stadium.

This rivalry almost came to a conclusion a few years ago. Notre Dame pretty much had Bill Martin on his knees and the Notre Dame administration graced Michigan with the good fortune of signing a contract extension to keep the series going. Well, Martin’s groveling goes out the window, as does the series.

The event of 2012, when Notre Dame athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, walked across the field immediately before the game and gave David Brandon a written notice cancelling the games of 2015-2017, sparked the beginning of the end. Brandon’s response was very polite, many would say too polite. Any other conclusion other than that of Swarbrick spitting on Brandon and Michigan would need quite a bit of support. It will be disappointing to many if Michigan agrees to any future games beyond 2014 with Notre Dame.

A long time ago, a guy named Bo Schembechler had it exactly right about Notre Dame.

Here is a news flash: Michigan could actually survive and fill Michigan Stadium without the benefit of Notre Dame. And perhaps this philosophy should entail minor sports as well.

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