|There won't be many handshakes between Brian Kelly and Brady Hoke in the future. (US Presswire)|
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick notified Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon that Notre Dame was canceling its games against Michigan from 2015 to 2017. The schools were required to give the other three years' notice as part of their scheduling agreement.
"The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame's and not ours," said Brandon through Michigan's Twitter account. "We value our rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series."
Brandon told the Associated Press he was handed a letter from Swarbrick on the field in South Bend, Ind., about an hour before Saturday night's game.
"I put the letter in my pocket and didn't bother to read it right away because I was focused on the game we were about to play," Brandon said. "I read it on the way home Sunday morning."
"While this move is a necessary precaution as we begin the process of meeting our new scheduling commitment to the ACC," Swarbrick wrote in his letter to Brandon, "please know that Notre Dame very much values its relationship with Michigan and we look forward to working with you to ensure that our great football rivalry can continue."
"Our contract with Michigan has an automatic rollover provision -- with a year being added each time a game is played," explained Notre Dame senior associate athletic director John Heisler. "We needed to avoid the automatic addition of additional games until we can get a better understanding of our available inventory in those years -- an understanding that will develop as we implement our five-game scheduling commitment to the Atlantic Coast Conference."
When Notre Dame announced it would be joining the ACC, it was only logical to wonder what would happen to Notre Dame's relationship with the Big Ten. With the school wanting to keep its annual game with Navy, as well as games against both Stanford and USC, scheduling all three of its Big Ten rivals became tricky for the Irish.
By ending the deal with Michigan, the Irish now have a little more flexibility with its schedule. Notre Dame and Michigan have met 39 times and produced quite a few memorable moments. Notre Dame and Big Ten rival Michigan State have played 75 times. Purdue and Notre Dame have met 83 times.
But Brandon said he hopes to work with Swarbrick on another contract to extend the series.
"The ball is in their court because they've triggered the three-game notice," he said. "We'll play them next year at Michigan Stadium for the last time in a while -- it appears -- and we'll make our last scheduled trip to South Bend in 2014. There will likely be nothing on the board for five years after that. Beyond that, I don't know what will happen."
The Irish beat the Wolverines 13-6 over the weekend in the latest game of a storied series that dates to 1887. They've played every year since 2002 and regularly since 1978 after not meeting from 1944-77 or 1910-41. Michigan and Notre Dame were scheduled to take a hiatus during the 2018-19 seasons.
"Michigan has always enjoyed and respected our national rivalry with Notre Dame," Brandon said. "We understand there have been periods of times that we've had a hiatus to take a couple years off to play other teams and that was something we expected along the way.
"It's unfortunate that it would appear we're going to go a substantial amount of time between games. But that is a decision Notre Dame has made. Our job is to find opponents that are exciting for our student-athletes as well as our fans to replace Notre Dame."
No. 10 Notre Dame (4-0) is in the top 10 for the first time since 2006. Michigan (2-2) started the season No. 8 and has dropped out of the poll after losses to No. 1 Alabama and then the Irish. Both teams have a bye this week.
The Wolverines have an NCAA-best .735 winning percentage in football and the Irish (.732) are second. Michigan leads all-time series 23-16-1.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report..