The ACC released its 2015 schedule the other day, which once again included the latest games to involve Notre Dame on a rotating schedule for ACC members. With another year on the ACC schedule for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are now entering the next phase of parting ways with former traditional rivals in the Big Ten. For the first time since the 1916 season*, Notre Dame will not face a single opponent from the Big Ten.
Notre Dame and Michigan went through a rather messy divorce to those who had been paying attention. Michigan thought they got the last zinger in the series with a 2013 victory capped by the speakers in Michigan Stadium playing The Chicken Dance song as Notre Dame players left the field in the final Michigan home game in the series for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame had opted out of its contract with Michigan the previous season, which ruffled a few feathers in the Michigan community. Notre Dame ended up getting the last laugh in the series with a dominating victory over Michigan in South Bend last September.
Notre Dame is also not playing two other Big Ten opponents that have been somewhat routinely on the schedule; Purdue and Michigan State. Michigan State returns to the schedule in 2016 for the first in a home-and-home agreement for 2016 and 2017. The Irish and Spartans have played more games in their series than Notre Dame has with Michigan, but it tends to receive less notoriety. There are no games between Notre Dame and Michigan State currently scheduled beyond 2017.
Purdue will return on Notre Dame’s schedule in 2020 and 2021 in a home-and-home deal. After a two-year break, the Boilermakers and Irish will resume the series again in 2024 and 2025 in another home-and-home deal, and there are tentative plans for a 2026 game that could be played on a neutral field (potentially in Indianapolis).
Notre Dame has made no secret about where it places the most emphasis on rivalry games. Notre Dame prefers to continue annual rivalries with Navy and USC, as well as Stanford. Doing so makes sense for Notre Dame, as playing in those games allows for more of a national audience than staying within the Big Ten footprint Notre Dame currently resides. Fans from Michigan and Michigan State may scoff at the notion, but Notre Dame will do what makes the most sense for it as a university and football program.
It is not that Notre Dame will shy away from Big Ten competition though. In addition to the future games against Purdue and Michigan State, Notre Dame has scheduled a future home-and-home with Ohio State (in 2022 and 2023) and Northwestern appears back on the schedule in 2018 as well. Notre Dame is not necessarily phasing out the Big Ten on its future schedule, but it is stepping away from past traditional rivalries to make rom for other options.
Helmet sticker to Reddit.
* Notre Dame played Michigan State in 1916, but the Spartans were not a member of the Big Ten — then known as the Western Conference — at the time.