After Notre Dame finalized its arrangement with the ACC last fall, it decided to suspend its annual series against Michigan. It begs the question: What will become of Notre Dame's other two Big Ten rivalries against Purdue and Michigan State?
All three schools have decisions to make. The Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016 makes it harder for Purdue and Michigan State to play Notre Dame annually in a home-road alternation. For example, Michigan State's 2017 slate includes a home game against Alabama, a road game against Notre Dame and five Big Ten road games, limiting the school to just six home dates, one below its stated minimum to meet the budget. Purdue also says it needs to play seven home games per season, and its Notre Dame home-road schedule doesn't match up with when it will play five Big Ten home games and five Big Ten road games. "We're off cycle," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
Notre Dame has its own scheduling concerns with guaranteed ACC opponents every year and a desire to play a true national schedule.
Although Michigan-Notre Dame gained the most national attention in recent years, both Purdue and Michigan State have more historic rivalries with the Irish. Purdue and Notre Dame first met in 1896 have played every season since 1946. Michigan State and Notre Dame first met in 1897 and have played in all but two seasons since 1959.
What will happen to these two series? We gave our takes on the three teams.
Adam Rittenberg on Purdue
The buzz around much of the Big Ten is to cut ties with Notre Dame altogether. The Irish didn't want to be in the Big Ten. They got a deal from the ACC they'd NEVER get from the Big Ten. So why should Big Ten teams keep playing Notre Dame? While it seems easy to tell Notre Dame what it can do with that Shillelagh, it's not so simple for a program like Purdue. In fact, I think the Boilers should do whatever they can to keep the Irish on the annual schedule as often as possible.
Purdue fans might skewer me for this, but Purdue needs Notre Dame more than Notre Dame needs Purdue. Why? National attention. When Purdue plays Notre Dame, the Boilers get the national spotlight. When Notre Dame visits Ross-Ade Stadium, ABC/ESPN immediately chooses the game for prime time. When else does that happen for Purdue?
The Notre Dame game resonates for Purdue fans. It fills the stands at Ross-Ade Stadium, which has looked like a ghost town on fall Saturdays in recent years. When Purdue beats Notre Dame, people pay attention. Sure, Purdue can add some other strong non-league opponents. I liked the Oregon series from a few years back. But playing Notre Dame and beating Notre Dame has tremendous value for Purdue, its program and its recruiting efforts.
Burke says Purdue can't have six home games for budgetary reasons. Well, Michigan had six home games last year, so it can happen from time to time. I'm OK with Purdue taking a short break from Notre Dame here and there, but the Boilers would be foolish to completely cut ties with their in-state rival. This series is good for Purdue fans and good for the program. Purdue should fight to keep it going.
Brian Bennett on Michigan State
Much like with Purdue, there is a lot of history in the Megaphone series between Michigan State and Notre Dame. That includes 75 all-time meetings, the so-called Game of the Century in 1966 and, more recently, the Little Giants miracle of 2010. Only four years since 1949 have the two schools not played during the fall. It's a great series and one that should be kept if possible. Now here comes the but ...
... But the two schools are already scheduled to take two-year breaks after every four games between now and 2032, with the first two-year hiatus starting next season. So playing Notre Dame every single year is already a moot point. With the coming nine-game Big Ten conference schedule and the Spartans' agreements to play high-profile nonconference opponents like Oregon (2014 and '15) and Alabama (2016 and 2017), athletic director Mark Hollis has some tough decisions to make. Michigan State will face a very difficult road in the stacked East Division during Big Ten play as it stands. Does it make sense to play the Irish along with another strong program in the nonconference schedule? No, probably not.
The Spartans should try to work things out to where they can play Notre Dame in years when they don't have other marquee nonconference opponents while taking on those other high-profile teams during breaks with the Irish. Michigan State fans wouldn't really miss the Golden Domers that much when they're playing a team like Oregon or Alabama instead. The Spartans should strive to keep Notre Dame on the schedule frequently, but not so much that they handicap their own seasons in the process.
Matt Fortuna on Notre Dame
Much like a team in a conference, Notre Dame has eight annual games from 2014 on that will be set for the foreseeable future: USC, Stanford, Navy and five against ACC opponents. The Irish have already canceled their series with Michigan from 2015 on, leaving the status of the Michigan State and Purdue series up in the air.
Both of you make fair points: The Boilermakers, frankly, need Notre Dame more than Notre Dame needs them, and the Spartans already have quite the nonconference slate on-deck in the coming years.
Where does this leave the Irish?
Some will argue that the program gets whatever it wants, whenever it wants and, like Adam alluded to, should be left alone. But there is no denying that this program moves the needle, especially when playing Big Ten teams.
Every Notre Dame game at a Big Ten stadium since its Sept. 20, 2008, tilt at MSU has been in prime time, save for a 2009 game at Michigan ... which just began playing home night games in 2011, the only two of which were scheduled against Notre Dame.
But there is history to be saved in these series, and efforts from all sides should be made to keep these two, along with the Michigan one, going on a rotating basis. Notre Dame has played Purdue 84 times, which is the same number of times it has played rival USC (which it is keeping on the schedule for West Coast exposure) and only two fewer times than it has played Navy (which it is keeping for history).
Notre Dame's cancellation of its series with the Wolverines was a matter of necessity for the Irish, who needed to create as much scheduling flexibility as possible. The program's series with MSU already has scheduled two-year breaks for 2014-15, 2020-21 and 2026-27. And if the Purdue series does not match up with when the Boilers will play five Big Ten home games and five Big Ten road games, I'm sure smart men like Burke and Jack Swarbrick can get creative, though the onus should fall primarily on Burke.
The irony should not be lost: In keeping with a true national schedule and bringing its brand to different parts of the country, Notre Dame cannot abandon its Midwestern home.