Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Brady Hoke has not ever tried to soften comments he made last year regarding Notre Dame "chickening out" and ending the series between the teams.
Before the 2012 Michigan-Notre Dame game in South Bend, Ind., Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was handed a letter by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick that indicated the series would be terminated after the 2014 game.
Michigan plays at Notre Dame in a prime-time meeting on Saturday in what is the final game between the teams for the foreseeable future. The teams have played 41 times.
Hoke spoke at a luncheon in west Michigan in May 2013 and said Notre Dame was “chickening out” of the series. His players, with a 52-14 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday in the season opener behind them, said they support their coach’s feelings on the subject.
“I agree with him — that’s my coach, and I’m behind him all the way,” senior defensive lineman Frank Clark said.
“Everything he said is correct. It’s a slap in the face when you end one of those great rivalries for whatever reason you choose to. This is something for the people, something for the fans, one of those games everyone expects to watch every year.”
Clark said it’s important for the players at both schools to have an opportunity to play in the game, and he relishes the opportunity to play in South Bend one last time. During the Big Ten Football Media Days at the end of July, Clark told reporters the welcome at Notre Dame Stadium isn’t exactly warm and cuddly.
“I’ve never seen so many middle fingers,” Clark said. “I thought that was a Christian school.”
Clark said the Wolverines who have never been to South Bend can’t quite know what to expect.
“Some of the young guys don’t understand it,” Clark said. “I played there before, I know the environment. ... We’re going in there to play the game and win.”
Senior linebacker Desmond Morgan grew up in Holland, Mich., a big Michigan fan. He is sorry to see the series end.
“It’s a huge game, it’s a night game, it’s a rivalry game, the last one, and, obviously, that’s something very important to us and it’s going to be a big stepping stone for our team,” Morgan said. “It’s a rivalry game that dates back a long time, something that’s been very important to both programs, in my opinion, and something we love being a part of.
“It’s unfortunate it’s coming to an end but we’re looking forward to playing the game Saturday.”
Hoke said after the Appalachian State game that the end of the Michigan-Notre Dame series is sad for college football.
“It’s always been a great football game. Bo (Schembechler) would say, it kind of lets you know where your team was early in the season because of the similarities of the athletes on the field.
“For college football, it’s a great rivalry. The significance of being the last one down there, yeah, there’s significance to it.”
Michigan has a 24-16-1 lead in the series against the Irish. The Wolverines are 9-9-1 at Notre Dame Stadium. Here’s a look at the last 10 games in the series — Michigan is 6-4 — that will end after Saturday’s game in South Bend:
2013 Michigan, 41-30, Michigan Stadium
2012 Notre Dame, 13-6, Notre Dame Stadium
2011 Michigan, 35-31, Michigan Stadium
2010 Michigan, 28-24, Notre Dame Stadium
2009 Michigan, 38-34, Michigan Stadium
2008 Notre Dame, 35-17, Notre Dame Stadium
2007 Michigan, 38-0, Michigan Stadium
2006 Michigan, 41-27, Notre Dame Stadium
2005 Notre Dame, 17-10, Michigan Stadium
2004 Notre Dame 28-20, Notre Dame Stadium