Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said they wanted the return of the Michigan-Notre Dame football rivalry, and it will resume with a home-and-home series beginning in 2018.
Michigan will play at Notre Dame in the season opener on Sept. 1, 2018 and Notre Dame will play at Michigan on Oct. 26, 2019, it was announced Thursday.
This change makes the Wolverines’ 2018 schedule challenging with their three rivalry games – Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State – all on the road. But resuming the Michigan-Notre Dame series had been gaining momentum because of the interest from both coaches.
The teams last played in 2014, with the Irish winning, 31-0 in Notre Dame Stadium. They have played 42 times since 1887 and each year from 2002-14. This will be the longest series absence since after 1943 when the teams did not face each other again until 1978.
“This is a game that holds great significance for the student-athletes and coaches who compete on the field,” said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel in a release. “A great deal of credit goes to Coach Harbaugh and Coach Kelly for initiating the discussion of scheduling this series."
Manuel had to make scheduling adjustments to accommodate adding the Irish. Michigan has cancelled the two-game series with Arkansas that was set to go in 2018-19, and a Big Ten home game against Rutgers that had been scheduled for Oct. 26, 2019 was shifted to Sept. 28 so make room for Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan will pay Arkansas $2 million to break the deal.
“Two of football’s premier programs, Michigan and Notre Dame, playing each other makes sense on every conceivable level and is good for football, good for the players and good for the fans,” Harbaugh wrote in a text message to the AP.
Manuel said in a release that he and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are discussing extending the series and thanked Arkansas and Rutgers for making adjustments.
“While it’s never easy to change football schedules, I appreciate Arkansas’ (athletic director) Jeff Long understanding of the need for this change, as well as Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs and Coach (Chris) Ash for agreeing to change the date of our conference game so we could bring this Notre Dame rivalry back to the field,” Manuel said.
With Notre Dame and SMU now on the 2018 schedule, Michigan still must add one non-conference game that season.
Swarbrick, in a Notre Dame release, called it a “great day” for Michigan and Notre Dame and college football fans.
“Shortly after Warde Manuel was hired as Michigan’s athletic director, he and I began working to make this renewal of the series possible. That we could get games on the schedule as soon as ’18 and ’19 required a lot of work by our staffs and some great cooperation by the Big Ten, ACC and other schools that were on our future schedules.
“While the schedule commitments of both Notre Dame and Michigan make an annual series impractical, we’re optimistic that additional games can be scheduled in the future.”
Harbaugh offered his endorsement in the Michigan release.
“The competition between Michigan and Notre Dame has created a fair, healthy and productive rivalry over time, and it brings out the best in both programs,” Harbaugh said. “We look forward to facing Coach Brian Kelly and the Irish in the coming years.”
Kelly said he is thrilled to see the two schools back on the schedule: “Both programs have a long and storied history of success. We’re talking about the two winningest programs in all of college football. We’ve wanted to make this happen for quite some time. This is a win for everyone involved, not just those at either institution but both fans bases and fans across the entire college football landscape.”
Talk of resuming the Michigan-Notre Dame series first surfaced last season when Kelly said on a national podcast with Rich Eisen, a Michigan alum, that it appeared the wheels were turning that direction. Harbaugh, then in his first season last fall, said he would be on board with seeing the rivalry back.
Manuel, a former Michigan football player, had made clear almost immediately after taking over as athletic director earlier this year he wanted the rivalry to return and last month at the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy in Detroit, Harbaugh and Kelly spoke of the importance of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry and also made it clear the series was close to resuming.
“It’s moving along toward a conclusion,” Harbaugh said last month at SMSB.
Kelly, also at SMSB, spoke of how important Michigan-Notre Dame is to college football.
“The classic rivalries in college football are so much about rivalries geographically,” Kelly said. “The Power Five has had the tendency to pull some of those apart. Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State are some of the classic rivalries we all remember. I certainly did growing up. We’re going to try hard to get those back together.”
Harbaugh was 2-0 against the Irish as Michigan quarterback in 1985 and 1986. He said the series represents so much and is meaningful.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “To all of college football. We’re so close (geographically). It’s very meaningful.”
A schedule rotation that has Michigan-Notre Dame playing two years and taking two years off might be ideal, but clearly scheduling far into the future has levels of challenges that Swarbrick and Manuel are negotiating.
“Ideally, if we’re just taking a step back and looking at it, we don’t want a gap,” Kelly said, shortly before delivering the final remarks to the SMSB participants. “It doesn’t make sense to have a huge gap. There were other factors that forced that gap, that was the impending move to the ACC, the uncertainty of what the landscape of college football looked like and two ADs that were not on the same page. That has all changed. We have a stable ground. We have two coaches who want to play. I think we’re moving more toward something that makes sense.
“We want to play.”
FUTURE MICHIGAN SCHEDULES
Sept. 2, Florida (at Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 9, Cincinnati
Sept. 16, Air Force
Sept. 23, at Purdue
Oct. 7, Michigan State
Oct. 14, at Indiana
Oct. 21, at Penn State
Oct. 28, Rutgers
Nov. 4, Minnesota
Nov. 11, at Maryland
Nov. 18, at Wisconsin
Nov. 25, Ohio State
(One game to be added.)
Sept. 1, at Notre Dame
Sept. 15, SMU
Sept. 22, Nebraska
Sept. 29, at Northwestern
Oct. 6, Maryland
Oct. 13, Wisconsin
Oct. 20, at Michigan State
Nov. 3, Penn State
Nov. 10, at Rutgers
Nov. 17, Indiana
Nov. 24, at Ohio State