When Notre Dame announced its impending move to the ACC, a great deal of consideration was understandably given to whether the annual rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue would be preserved. At the time, it actually looked rather promising considering how much scheduling flexibility Notre Dame would be afforded by taking on five ACC games a year.
Nuts to all that, though, because Notre Dame has canceled its rivalry with Michigan—easily one of college football's best rivalries of the last 30-plus years—effective in 2015.
Here's more from an official Michigan release:
"The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame's and not ours," said [Dave] Brandon, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. "We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series. This cancellation presents new scheduling opportunities for our program and provides a chance to create some new rivalries." ...
The final two games in the rivalry will take place on Sept. 7, 2013, at Michigan Stadium, and the following year on Sept. 6, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium. Both schools agreed to a break in the series during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The future of games scheduled to be played in 2020 and beyond has yet to be determined.
So yes, this is a three-year cancellation, but with no further games on contract, it is effectively a cancellation of the entire rivalry until further notice.
Now, a three-year out would technically mean that three more games would have to be played before Notre Dame could get out of the contract, and since Michigan and Notre Dame already played this year, that means the 2015 game would still have to be played, right?
Ah, funny thing. Here's what Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press reports:
"The Irish informed Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon prior to kickoff of the match-up Saturday in South Bend."from U-M release— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) September 25, 2012
That is literally the last possible moment they could do that and still get out of the 2015 game given the 3-year notice.— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) September 25, 2012
Sure, that's technically within the rules. It's also slimy, sleazy and stupid—and no school or athletic department that purports to pride itself on "values" should conduct business that way.
By doing this, Notre Dame is throwing away its second-best game of the year behind the annual tilt with Southern California. With the Big Ten scrambling to add quality non-conference opponents for the playoff era, Michigan would have been happy to accommodate Notre Dame in scheduling as best as it could.
And for what? What's Notre Dame going to replace this game with? Unless, say, Texas comes calling and says it can offer a recurring series anytime in the season that the Irish please, the Michigan game is going to be gone in favor of an inferior game—and one that assuredly carries less historical value and tradition with it than the Michigan rivalry.
Now, Notre Dame prides itself on being a "national brand," and there's something to that. You don't see any other school with its own network TV deal, after all. But Notre Dame is first and foremost a Midwest brand, and it has cultivated that identity by 1) being in the Midwest, obviously, and 2) maintaining rivalries against high-profile Midwest teams, both now and in decades past.
We know about Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. But did you know Notre Dame has played Northwestern 45 times in its history? Or Indiana 29 times? Did you know about 26 games against Iowa? Nineteen against Penn State? Sixteen against Nebraska?
Being that Midwesterners love the Big Ten to an even larger extent than they love Notre Dame (a rather unfair fight, being 12-on-1, but still), what does Notre Dame stand to gain by thumbing its nose at said Midwesterners, the ones that still comprise a great deal of not only its fanbase, but its basis of relevance?
If Notre Dame truly believes it's better than the Big Ten, that's fine, but nobody in South Bend can be stupid enough to think that canning rivalries in the Irish's home region is going to do any good for its popularity.
Presumably, Notre Dame knows what it's doing. You don't just throw away a scheduling asset like this without a plan. But there's virtually no way that that plan—whatever it might be—doesn't just stink to the high heavens (where Touchdown Jesus is currently lecturing his apostles on sportsmanship or something) compared to what Notre Dame already had. It's stupid, stupid, stupid.