The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 51 stop the contract from rolling over," Swarbrick said. "Once we made the ACC commitment, we knew we had to stop the rollover while we figured out what we were doing. "That was a pretty easy decision, the first one to make. For what it's worth, we did not communicate by handing the AD a letter on the sideline. A letter on the sideline came after a phone call that said, 'I'm going to give you a letter to commemorate this conversation.'" "That plays a part of it," Somogyi said. "It's sort of like getting the 'Dear John' letter. Some viewed it that way. I can understand that. Everyone has their own side of it. Jack presented his side, that it wasn't quite as dramatic as it was made out to be. "It was something, he indicated, that was discussed before. So it wasn't something totally out of the blue." Brandon, meanwhile, insisted through an athletic department official that he and Swarbrick never engaged in prior conversations about ending the series. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke inadvertently tossed a bit of fuel on the fire in the summer of 2013, noting to an alumni gathering that Notre Dame "chickened out" of the series. Given a chance by the media to recant his re- laxed, semi-private-gathering verbiage, he did not. When the Wolverines knocked off the Irish a few months later, the jaunty ditty of "The Chicken Dance" reverberated through Michigan Stadium, U-M fans joining in the motions that accompany it. Irish fans proved less than thrilled. "I can understand the sentiments on both sides," Somogyi said. "That was a good tweak by Brady last year, talk- ing about chickening out. That was a perfect foil to use at that time. "And he can say that because they've won four of the last five games. That's kind of the ammunition. That's why this year's game is especially ultra crucial to Notre Dame fans. You've got to end it at home with a win." Win or lose, it ends for now come Sept. 6. The feelings on both sides run the gamut of emotions with regard to seeing the series go away for the foreseeable future. Good Riddance Or Goodbye? A host of Michigan fans have expressed various versions of Schembechler's terse dismissal regarding the Irish. Some want to see the Wolverines branch out into playing a wider variety of top-tier non-conference competition, rather than watching the Irish and Wolverines trade blows each September. Others in the same vein simply absorbed the latest perceived slight between the pro- grams with impatience. They took the "who needs Notre Dame" stance, one echoed in reverse by some of the Irish faithful. "Many think it's just horrible that the series has been discontinued," Somogyi said. "That was always so much a part of things. Septem- ber is Notre Dame-Michigan. That was kind of like college football at its finest. "Others are like, 'We don't need them. The heck with it. It's run its course.'" Other anti-Michigan arguments are longer running, or even more pointed, the longtime observer of the series noted. "It runs the full gamut," Somogyi said. "Sometimes there are still people who bring up 1909: 'They cancelled the series on us, so we're going to cancel the series on them!' What's that got to do with anything? It's like I'm not going to go to a Japanese restaurant because they bombed Pearl Harbor." In response to Michigan complaints about Notre Dame wanting to soften its schedule, thus ditching U-M while keeping Purdue and Michigan State on future slates, some brought out the heavy artillery. "The Notre Dame fans react with, 'Well, Michigan State has become the real power of the state. They've beaten Michigan four out of five times,'" Somogyi noted. "It's things like that, and it gets chippy." He noted that from Notre Dame's stand- point, the Irish want to put more emphasis on their "Shamrock Series" game, and go into more recruiting territories that make sense to them — California, Florida, Texas and Georgia. The Midwest will always be a recruiting base, whether or not the Irish play Michigan. Beyond the sniping and scheduling logistics, it's simply a fact: Michigan- Notre Dame has been a closely con- tested, riveting series for the better part of the past four decades. In the 30 games played from 1978 on, 20 of them have been decided by a touch- down or less, and 13 have been within four points. Those who have played in the series generally aren't among the good-rid- dance crowd. "At first, I was a little upset," noted Remy Hamilton, whose 42-yard field goal beat the Irish 26-24 in 1994. "Ev- ery year, it brings me back to the great memory and experience I had there. It's something I always look forward to — the rivalry, the game. "If I couldn't make the game, I'd have a bunch of people over to watch it. It's always been a great rivalry, and I'm sorry to see it go." "You get up for those games," Irons assured. "Playing at Michigan, there are so many different rivalries we have. Notre Dame is up there. You love to play that game. You know you're going to play it early in the season. It's always going to be a smash-mouth game. "You're playing for the tradition. There is a lot riding on that game. I hope one day it comes back. There have been a lot of great players from both teams that have been instrumental, throughout college and pro football, and there's a lot of rivalry they feel." There's no lack of rivalry even in the Irons household, with regard to Michigan-Notre Dame. While Jarrett Irons chose Ann Arbor, younger brother Grant wound up in South Bend. Those two go back and forth every year, come September. They concur that they'll miss those times when the series slides off the schedule. "It's one of the best rivalries in college football," the younger Irons offered. "Two great schools academically and athletically … U-M/ND By The Numbers .7330057 — That is Notre Dame's all-time winning percentage, which rep- resents the finest in college football history. Michigan's is .7324388, second best all time. With wins in its first two games this year, including at Notre Dame, the Wolverines can retake the lead they held for a decade before losing it at the end of last season. 7 — The number of times Michigan has shut out Notre Dame over the course of the series, most recently in 2007. The Irish have never shut out the Wolverines. 10 — The combined number of Heisman Trophy win- ners between the two schools. 15 — The number of Michigan victories in the series since its resumption in 1978, set against 14 losses and one tie. The Irish need a win this year to avoid going into the hiatus behind in the modern-era series. 24 — The combined number of football national cham- pionships (recognized by the College Football Data Warehouse) earned by Michigan and Notre Dame. 710 — Michigan's point total against Notre Dame since the resumption of the series in 1978. The Irish have scored 635, to make an average score of 23.7-21.2 in Michigan's favor over that 30-game span. 910 — The number of all-time Michigan victories, marking the highest total in college football his- tory. Notre Dame stands third all time among Football Bowl Subdivision schools, with 874. 115,109 — The attendance at the 2013 Mich- igan-Notre Dame game, under the lights at Michigan Stadium. That figure represents the high- est single-game attendance total ever for a college football contest. 6.4 million — The number of viewers watching Mich- igan-Notre Dame on television in 2012, making it the most-watched Notre Dame prime-time game ever on NBC. 8.65 million — The number of television viewers watching the Wolverines and Irish square off in 2013, which ranked fifth among the most-witnessed regular- season showdowns of the fall. Alabama-Texas A&M captured No. 1, at 13.59 million, while Michigan-Ohio State came in No. 4, at 9.5 million. 48-53.End Of ND Rivalry.indd 51 6/18/14 3:50 PM

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