Published Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm / Updated at 4:42 pm
Kelly: Michigan game a great, historic rivalry

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly reversed fields on Tuesday, calling the Fighting Irish series against Michigan "a great and historic rivalry."

The proclamation in the opening statement during his weekly news conference was contrary to what he said during a teleconference Sunday, when he said: "I really haven't seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries," going on to call it a "big regional game."

Many Notre Dame fans probably agree more with his statement Sunday, considering the Irish have played Navy (86 games), Southern California (84), Purdue (84), Michigan State (76) and Pittsburgh (68) far more often than the 40 times they've faced the Wolverines.

But nationwide, outside of the annual Notre Dame-USC game, few of the other rivalry games get the same attention as the Fighting Irish vs. the Wolverines. The scrutiny Kelly's statement Sunday received is proof of that.

After all, it's Michigan's winged helmet against Notre Dame's golden helmets; "Hail to the Victors" vs. the "Notre Dame Victory March;" the school with the best all-time winning percentage in college football (Michigan, at .735) vs: No. 2 (Notre Dame, at .734).

The series started pleasantly enough, with Michigan students traveling to South Bend in 1887 to teach Notre Dame students how to play the game. The relationship turned sour after Notre Dame beat the Wolverines 11-3 in 1909, ending an eight-game losing streak. The game was canceled the next season when the Irish wouldn't play without two players Michigan contended were ineligible.

The Wolverines canceled the series, but things worsened when Michigan coach Fielding Yost left Notre Dame's Knute Rockne off his All-American team in 1913. It escalated when Yost and Rockne had a dispute at a track meet in 1923, and then Yost urged Big Ten teams not to play Notre Dame and several other independents because he said they didn't follow the Big Ten's strict eligibility rules.

After Rockne died and Yost retired, the two schools agreed to play each other in 1942-43. The Wolverines won the first game 32-20, as the Irish gave up their most points in 37 years. The next season, top-ranked Notre Dame beat No. 2 Michigan 35-12. Michigan coach Fritz Crisler called the Irish a dirty team after the game and vowed never to play Notre Dame game again.

The series finally resumed in 1978 and they've played most years since. But Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick handed Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon a letter on the field before last season's game, canceling scheduled games in 2015-2017. In May, Michigan coach Brady Hoke told a luncheon crowd in Grand Rapids in May that Notre Dame was "chickening out of the series."

Kelly said he hasn't spoken to Hoke about the series since Notre Dame announced it was ending it, but said he doesn't believe Hoke meant any disrespect.

"He's never been one to show disrespect to anybody or anything. It's really, for me, about two programs that share a border, that it makes sense to play. I get that," he said. "It's just there's so many complexities with our schedule and our agreement with the ACC that it's difficult and frustrating. I can see the frustration that would be there."

The Michigan series isn't the only one in jeopardy. With Pitt now in the ACC, the Irish aren't expecting to play the Panthers each season. Notre Dame hasn't announced whether it will continue to play Michigan State and Purdue.

The Irish schedule is expected to include five ACC teams a year, Navy, USC and Stanford (giving it four home games and four road games), as well as an opponent it will face at a neutral site. Since the Irish play only five road games each season, that only leaves one spot a season for a school looking for a return visit from the Irish.

Kelly said playing a tough schedule is important, noting that the Irish replace Michigan with Texas in 2015-16 and 2019-20. He said strength of schedule is important heading into the playoff era, when a committee decides which teams will be playing for a national championship, Kelly said.

"That they can look at our schedule and say, `That's a deserving schedule,'" Kelly said.

Read more related stories
Nightlife notes: Storz beer is being served again
Midtown bar will open in new location Friday
UNL students make dancing robot drones
Nebraska prep girls track leaders
Westside scores 14 in sixth inning to win 16th straight
Husker hit parade rolls Mavs
Huskers land Chicago-area receiver who 'fell in love with everything' in Lincoln
Mavericks strike early to drop Iowa State
Bellevue West’s Chloe Akin-Otiko jumps in where she left off
Lefties give Express edge over Chasers
Bellevue sweeps College of St. Mary
Tim Miles: Tarin Smith an 'impact' player for NU
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
New treatment offers a less invasive option to repair bulging aortas
NU’s Malone could do a quick 180 in javelin
Reivers split doubleheader with Indian Hills
Mav women sign center
UNO's Guentzel named NCHC rookie of month
Murren leaves Huskers for Wayne State; Tvrdy to CSU
USDA official tours Waverly ranch as disaster assistance program begins
Teen facing Nebraska murder charge to get mental tests
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
  Nancy's Almanac, April 16, 2014: Yes, it's been drier and colder than normal
By Nancy Gaarder / World-Herald staff reporter • Apr 16 at h:nn am/pm
Nancy's Almanac, April 15, 2014: Where did snow, rain fall? Nancy's Almanac, April 15, 2014: Where did snow, rain fall?
By Nancy Gaarder / World-Herald staff writer • Apr 15 at h:nn am/pm
Jump to a blog:
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »