THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
One of college football's more storied rivalries will be put on ice. But not immediately and not permanently.
Michigan released its nonconference football schedules for the 2014, '15, and '16 seasons on Wednesday, and the Wolverines will face an FCS opponent, a Mid-American Conference opponent, and have a home-and-home series against a Pac-12 opponent.
Michigan also announced that it will put its annual rivalry game against Notre Dame on hiatus for the 2018 and '19 seasons, a clause instituted in 2007 when the previous athletic directors at the schools agreed to extend the series for 25 seasons.
"I think, in the past, everybody agreed from time to time to take a deep breath from the intense rivalry and take a two-year period off," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "That was in the thinking of the two athletic directors who negotiated this arrangement."
Notre Dame associate athletics director John Heisler said the series will resume in 2020.
"In our role, it's a challenge as an independent because we don't have a conference handing us games to schedule," Heisler said. "That's part of what we do, try to adjust, respond to and understand what various conferences do. There have been so many changes in membership, that's prompted other conferences to change how they're doing business. We have to understand that's what's going to happen."
Yet local Michigan and Notre Dame alumni have differing opinions on the break in the series.
Aug. 30 Appalachian State
Sept. 6 at Notre Dame
Sept. 13 Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 20 Utah
Sept. 3 at Utah
Sept. 12 Notre Dame
Sept. 19 Oregon State
Sept. 26 UNLV
Sept. 3 TBA
Sept. 10 at Notre Dame
Sept. 17 Colorado
Sept. 24 TBA
Dick Ketteman, a 1958 Michigan graduate who lives in Sylvania, considered the historical perspective of the series, which resumed in 1978 after a 35-year break yet dates back to 1887.
"I don't think a two-year break will be of disruption to the intensity," said Ketteman, who is the outgoing president of the U of M Club's Toledo chapter. "It actually revs up the anticipation. It also gives both schools a chance to schedule other strong opponents, of a sectional and across-the-country nature. I know that's what Michigan wants to do."
Dan McKernan, a 1981 Notre Dame graduate who lives in Toledo, was surprised to learn of the hiatus.
"It's one of the only games I look forward to seeing every year," McKernan said. "Notre Dame kind of plays a full Big Ten schedule, since they play Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State every year, and have done that for many years. But it will be sad if they discontinue doing that, in my mind. Notre Dame plays a very national schedule, but they've played Michigan forever."
In 2007, Michigan and Notre Dame agreed to extend the rivalry series -- initially expected to expire in 2011 -- to 2031. In 2010, Brandon said that a contract had not been formally signed.
"I don't know if we have a signed document," Heisler said. "But there have definitely been dates exchanged as far as the future goes."
The contract automatically renews for three years after each Notre Dame-Michigan game, and 2018-19 will be the fourth break in the rivalry since it was renewed in 1978. Michigan and Notre Dame did not face each other in 1983-84, 1995-96, and 2000-01. Michigan leads the all-time series 22-15-1, and is 14-13-1 since 1978.
"It's an extremely exciting national rivalry that we're very proud to play," Brandon said. "Now, we have the opportunity to schedule someone different. This opens up a home-and-home [series]. It's important for people to understand that."
While the hiatus with Notre Dame was most noteworthy, Michigan's nonconference schedule from 2014 to 2016 will include a home-and-home series with Utah, including the first Thursday night season opener for the Wolverines when they face Utah on Sept. 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City. Michigan hosts Utah on Sept. 20, 2014.
Michigan hosts Central Michigan in its season opener Aug. 31, 2013, then hosts Appalachian State in its season opener Aug. 30, 2014.
Michigan has two open dates and two nonconference opponents on its 2016 schedule: Sept. 10, 2016 at Notre Dame and Sept. 17, 2016 at home against Colorado.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.