ANN ARBOR — Michigan has a marquee opponent for the first night game at the Big House: Notre Dame.
The game is set for Sept. 10, 2011, and new Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said he expects an unprecedented atmosphere at Michigan Stadium for the latest chapter in the rivalry between two of college football's most storied programs. “For us, it's an experiment,” he said Thursday. “If all goes well, we'd like to have one game a year at night at Michigan Stadium.”
Coach Rich Rodriguez would be in his fourth season when the Wolverines host the Fighting Irish with second-year coach Brian Kelly under the lights on national TV.
“As coaches, we're very excited about it and our players will be excited when they hear the news,” Rodriguez said. “Saturday night prime-time college football is probably as popular as anything out there, it will be a great thing for our program and should be a great thing for the University of Michigan.”
The Wolverines have played the Fighting Irish at night three times — losing in 1982, 1988 and 1990 by an average of four points, all at Notre Dame Stadium.
Michigan leads 21-15-1 in the all-time series that started in 1887.
Notre Dame and Michigan are scheduled to play each year through 2017, then take two years off to play other teams, before resuming the rivalry in 2020 through 2031.
Brandon, officially on the job for an 11th day, said he started working on scheduling the night game two or three weeks ago and recently met with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick as part of the process.
“We did this pretty quickly and I'm proud of that,” Brandon said.
What would the late, great Bo Schembechler think about Brandon — one of his former players — breaking from tradition by hosting a game at night in the stadium that holds 100,000-plus?
“He'd say, ‘That Brandon guy believes that change is good and I'm going to support him,'” Brandon said after pausing for a few seconds.
“Why didn't it happen before?” he added. “I don't talk the past. I create the future.”