Northwestern University announced this week that its Nov. 3, 2018 game against Notre Dame will be played at Ryan Field — formerly Dyche Stadium from 1926-96 — instead of a larger venue in Chicago.
The last two times Notre Dame played Northwestern on the road they were held at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1994 (42-15 Irish win) and 1992 (42-7 Notre Dame victory) to accommodate a larger audience and better gate receipts. Those games attracted more than 64,000 fans, whereas Ryan Field’s capacity is listed at 47,310. Since its renovation, Soldier Field now holds 61,500.
The Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field also had been rumored to be an option because a Northwestern-Illinois game was played there in 2010, although the attendance was only 41,058. Unfortunately, the dimensions in the stadium for a 100-yard football field resulted in the offenses having to drive toward just one side of the field because of the proximity of the outfield wall to the back of the end zone on one side.
This will mark the first time since Sept. 25, 1976 Notre Dame will visit Northwestern’s home field. The Irish won that game 48-0 and the two previous visits in 1974 (49-3) and 1972 (37-0) for a three-game total of 134-3.
The Wildcats last defeated Notre Dame there in 1962 by a 35-6 count with future Fighting Irish head coach Ara Parseghian (1964-74) leading Northwestern to its fourth straight win over Notre Dame — and propelling them to the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll the following week after a 5-0 start.
The two teams played each other yearly from 1968-76 before the series went on hiatus for 16 years.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 37-9-2, but Northwestern has won the last two meetings, both in Notre Dame Stadium: 17-15 in the 1995 opener and 43-40 in overtime in 2014.
The Wildcats will be one of two Big Ten opponents Notre Dame will face in 2018, with the other the Sept. 1 opener at home versus Michigan.
In 2015, the Fighting Irish did not play an original member of the Big Ten conference for the first time since 1907. Since then, it has scheduled at least one member of the league through 2027:
2016: Michigan State
2017: at Michigan State (Sept. 23)
2018: Michigan (Sept. 1), at Northwestern (Nov. 3)
2019: at Michigan (Oct. 26)
2020: at Purdue (Sept. 19)
2021: Purdue (Sept. 18)
2022: at Ohio State (Sept. 3)
2023: Ohio State (Sept. 23)
2024: at Purdue (Sept. 14)
2025: Purdue (Sept. 13)
2026-27: Michigan State, dates, times and sites to be determined.
Notre Dame vice president/director of athletics Jack Swarbrick ideally would like representation from the Power 5 Conference group on each schedule, although getting all five at the same time might not be feasible. At least five games per season with the ACC are set through 2037, USC and Stanford remain mainstays as Pac-12 representatives, and the Big Ten is slated through 2027.
That leaves the SEC and Big XII as the main challenges to get on the schedule. The Irish did have a home-and-home with Oklahoma in 2012-13 and Texas in 2015-16 for Big XII representation.
As for the SEC, Georgia visits the Irish this Sept. 9, and Notre Dame will make the return trip to Athens, Ga., in 2019. It will be the first time since Tennessee in 2004-05 that Notre Dame will play an SEC team during the regular season.