The 2015 college football season marks the first time in 13 years Michigan and Notre Dame haven’t squared off, but the head coaches of both programs—Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly, respectively—have both mentioned an interest in the series being renewed.
MLive’s Nick Baumgardner notes Harbaugh offered a basic starting point for the discussion of the rivalry possibly resuming. Harbaugh said:
“I’d probably have a conversation with coach Kelly about that before anyone else, that’d be the best course of action. But I would be open to it, yes.”
Kelly recently appeared on The Rich Eisen Show and said the resumption is “trending up.”
Now that both coaches have acknowledged a common interest, it’s exciting to consider a future meeting between Michigan and Notre Dame. Plus, the thought immediately conjures up memories of exciting clashes—like the thrilling finish to Michigan’s 35-31 victory in 2011 or Notre Dame’s 31-0 domination last season.
But at this point, this news doesn’t necessarily mean the rivalry is coming back within the next few years.
Back in 2012, Notre Dame exercised a right in the agreement that offered either program a window to cancel three meetings, which is why the series will not happen in 2015, 2016 or 2017. Later, Michigan announced it wouldn’t schedule Notre Dame in 2018 or 2019, either.
In the following years, Michigan has a tough nonconference slate already on the docket—including Washington, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Oklahoma and Texas—that complements its Big Ten action. Yes, Notre Dame also faces a collection of top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision teams each year, but it’s highly unlikely Michigan sacrifices having one “cupcake” game.
There’s a good reason Notre Dame doesn’t line up 12 games against power-conference schools every year: That would be dumb. Michigan shouldn’t be expected to do that.
Harbaugh and Kelly’s respective comments offered hope, but unless Michigan cancels already-scheduled nonconference games or takes on the toughest slate in all of college football, fans would be wise to contain their excitement about the rivalry resuming anytime soon.