September 4, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Terry Foster

Notre Dame-Ohio State series shows Irish don't see Michigan as a big-time program

Saturday marks the final game in the Notre Dame-Michigan football series. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

Harlan Huckleby broke out into uncontrolled laughter when he heard Notre Dame signed to play a home-and-home series with Ohio State just two days before its final game with Michigan.

The first name that came to mind was his former coach, Bo Schembechler, whom Huck won two Big Ten championships with in the late 1970s.

“Let me tell you, Bo would really be ticked off,” Huckleby said. “He would be like, ‘Let’s put a foot up their butts and twist it.’ He’d be like, ‘We need to put a good (expletive)-whipping on them and take that to your new rivalry. Let’s give them a good-old fashion Michigan butt-whipping in their home and in their backyard.’ That is what people are always going to remember.”

Notre Dame and Ohio State announced Thursday morning a home-and-home series beginning in 2022. Two years ago, Notre Dame announced just before the Michigan-Notre Dame game in South Bend, Ind., that it was ending its historic series with Michigan after 2014. The Fighting Irish later committed to play five ACC schools each season.

Now, Notre Dame has stabbed Michigan in the back by signing a deal with arch rival Ohio State, another team not far from South Bend.

This should add to the heat of the final game between the schools Saturday night at Notre Dame. If this announcement isn’t plastered all over Schembechler Hall, then Brady Hoke should be immediately replaced as head coach.

Notre Dame is sending another message to Michigan: The Wolverines’ program isn’t on the level it used to be. The Fighting Irish needs a big-time, nationally-televised game that will earn money and help it reach the national championship semifinals.

Michigan no longer matches up. Ohio State does.

Not on their level

“Obviously Ohio State and Notre Dame do not like Michigan," said former Michigan running back Stan Edwards, whose son Braylon also starred as a receiver for the Wolverines. “There is nothing at Michigan that Ohio State wants. There is nothing about Michigan that Notre Dame wants. They feel pretty good about where they are and what they are to college football, and that has nothing to do with where Michigan is now.

“National pundits are beginning to look at Michigan as a regional program. They don't respect Michigan. They (Ohio State and Notre Dame) not only don't respect them, but they kind of don't like them. So that might be one way of them saying, ‘We don't need you.’"

This is more than a business deal. This is personal. Ohio State is not just another school. It is Michigan’s chief rival. Buckeyes hate Wolverines so much that every Big Ten flag flies in its stadium except Michigan’s. Even Notre Dame has a flag in the stadium.

Hoke won’t even use the term “Ohio State.” He calls it “Ohio.” It might be time for the coach to come up with a new name for Notre Dame.

“That does kick a little sand in your face,” Huckleby said. “That is a little dig. They announced it right before the game.”

Jilted jocks

People across the country look forward to Michigan-Notre Dame. This game produced the first million-dollar gate, and ticket scalpers are making a fortune off this final game.

Everybody thinks Michigan and Notre Dame has played every year for the last 100 years. It only seems that way. Huckleby played in the “Reunion Game” in 1978 when the Michigan-Notre Dame series began in earnest. Michigan won, 28-14, that day against a team Huck described as one of the dirtiest he ever played against.

Now Notre Dame is being dirty off the field.

“I guess it is kicking us to the curb a little bit,” Huckleby said. “I guess I feel like a jilted girlfriend because we have not been on the upper echelon like we used to be. I am a little sensitive to this. If we were winning like we used to I would not feel as jilted. This is bull.”

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
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