The Michigan-Notre Dame series, which resumes Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, is a fun and meaningful one, but it probably doesn't make the first page of college football's most heated rivalries. Has anyone poisoned a tree in Ann Arbor or South Bend? Don't think so.
While each program saves most of its venom for other schools -- Ohio State and USC, respectively -- the series was sparked by plenty of tension, even hatred, between iconic coaches Fielding Yost of Michigan and Knute Rockne of Notre Dame. You might have heard of them.
As colleague Ivan Maisel wrote this spring:
Yost believed Rockne cut corners in recruiting, promising employment and scholarship aid that the rules did not allow and looking the other way when Irish players participated in pro football games on the side. Rockne believed Yost to be a hypocrite and grew to despise him. As a reform movement swept the Big Ten in the 1920s, Yost not only led the opposition to Notre Dame's membership, he pressured Minnesota to end a series of games with the Catholic institution.
When Yost attempted to institute some reforms through the American Football Coaches Association at its 1927-28 convention, Sperber wrote, Rockne led the opposition that overwhelmed him.
Rockne attributed some of Yost's feeling against Notre Dame to the native West Virginian's religious discrimination. After the 1929 season, when Yost quashed yet another attempt to arrange a game between the schools, Rockne responded to a fan's letter by calling Yost "the Senator [Tom] Heflin of Middlewestern athletics." Heflin, from Alabama, was so anti-Catholic that it cost him his Senate seat in a 1930 election.