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Published: 9/13/2008

UM-ND linked in many ways

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

SOUTH BEND, Ind. The football programs are old and historically but not recently dominant.

The institutions are prestigious and located inside America s Rust Belt.

The fight songs are catchy. The stadiums are big bowls.

Almost any way you look at it, Michigan and Notre Dame are inextricably linked, especially on the gridiron. There are always connections be they on a personal or team level between the Wolverines and Irish that make it special when they play one another.

Today s meeting, set for 3:30 at Notre Dame Stadium between college football s two winningest programs, is no different.

Consider:

• Three current Wolverines Mike Massey, Tom Pomarico and Jimmy Potempa are the sons of former Irish football players.

• Corwin Brown, a defensive back on four Big Ten championship teams at UM, is now Notre Dame s defensive coordinator.

• Wolverines quarterback Nick Sheridan s father, Bill, was an assistant under former Irish coach Bob Davie.

• Seventeen players between the two teams are either from the same hometowns or attended the same high schools.

I m aware of the rivalry but I guess fortunately for me when my dad was at Notre Dame we didn t play Michigan, so I don t have to say I rooted for Notre Dame over Michigan ever in my life, said Sheridan, whose father coached with the Irish when Nick was in the eighth grade.

UM safety Stevie Brown is a junior from Columbus, Ind., which is just south of Indianapolis. It reads funny in an Ohio newspaper, but Brown said Columbus is full of Notre Dame fans and acknowledged how important it is for him to play against the Irish.

I mean, Notre Dame-Michigan, it doesn t get any bigger than that in Indiana, Brown said.

Irish sophomore kicker Brandon Walker is a Findlay High graduate and said his hometown is largely a mix of UM and Ohio State fans. Walker said his mother is from Michigan and convinced his two sisters to root for the Wolverines when they were younger, but one of them ended up attending Ohio State.

As for Walker, who led Notre Dame with 40 points as a freshman and saw action in every game except against the Wolverines last year, he said he grew up cheering for the Irish and Buckeyes. He said there are some people who went to Findlay with him who now attend UM.

I hope they re rooting for Notre Dame this week, Walker said.

Of all that has traditionally linked the Wolverines and Irish, here s a relatively new one: For the second straight season, UM (1-1) and Notre Dame (1-0) are unranked the day they play each other.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis earlier this week considered all of the facets of this rivalry, including the combined 85-21 pounding the Wolverines have laid on his Irish the last two years.

I understand the magnitude of playing against Michigan, Weis said. It s a rival in several ways. It s not just the traditions of the school. It s locale. It s recruiting. There s a whole number of factors that are involved in it besides just the winning and the losing.

I think there s a lot that could be gained by going and putting [forth] a good performance against a tough opponent.

Contact Joe Vardon at:jvardon@theblade.com or 419-410-5055.



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