Weighing in on the Notre Dame/Michigan Series

In case you missed it, earlier this week former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was quoted in the Detroit Free Press saying Michigan should end…

Asked whether Michigan should continue its series with Notre Dame, Schembechler said: “We don’t need Notre Dame. They need us more than we need them.

“Hell, we’re playing all these Big Ten teams. When Penn State came into the league, then we should do everything we can to get this Notre Dame series over with. Now that’s the way I feel.” (Detroit Free Press)

I’ll hold back from the “Michigan is just scared of Weis and ND evening the series” argument and instead focus on why this series needs to stay active. This is a great series, one I look forward to every year, and when its not on schedule in a given year, its disappointing.

The Hatred
First off, Michigan and Notre Dame fans hate each other. It might not be Yankees-Red Sox of Eagles-Cowboys hate, but it’s definitely Eagles-Giants type hate. Like the Eagles and Giants, both Michigan and the Irish have bigger rivals, but just barely. Michigan has Ohio State and Notre Dame has USC, but there is definitely no love loss between the two.

The Traditions
Hate aside, is there a better match-up of traditional powerhouses or rivals with more compelling history than Notre Dame and Michigan. Hell, Michigan taught Notre Dame how to play football. Michigan had the head start on Notre Dame in terms of football and came down from Ann Arbor on the way to a Thanksgiving Day game with Chicago in 1887 to teach the Irish the game.

The History
Then there was the feud between Fielding Yost and Knute Rockne fueling the fire in this rivalry. Which was only added to by Fritz Crisler’s campaign to get the Big Ten to boycott playing the Irish. Things have become a bit more civilized between the Wolverines and Irish since then, but the history of feuds is part of what makes this series great.

And what other rivalry boasts the kind traditions on display between Notre Dame and Michigan? Hail to the Victors vs. the Notre Dame Fight song. The Wolverine helmet vs. the golden helmets of Notre Dame. 10 National titles for Michigan vs. 11 for Notre Dame – what other rivalry puts a combined 21 national titles worth of history on the field?

Currently Michigan sites first in total wins in NCAA history with the Irish second and the Irish sit first in overall winning percentage with the Wolverines a close second. Now, please tell me why the two winingest programs in NCAA History should NOT meet every year.

The Games and Moments

Rocket Ismails two returns in 1989, Desmond Howard’s catch in 1991, Harry Oliver’s 51 yard game winner in 1980, Reggie Ho’s four field goals in 1988, “The Tie” in 1992, and Rick Mirer’s first start in Notre Dame Stadium in 1990 are just a few of the great moments between these two schools.

Of the 24 times the Irish and Wolverines have met since the series was renewed in 1978, a span of 22 games, there have only been four games in which both were not in the Top 25, and there has not been a meeting since the advent of polls where both came in unranked. Furthermore, six times both teams have been ranked in the Top 10 and in three games one or the other was ranked #1.

Michigan is also the only school with a winning record against the Irish with a 18-14-1 advantage over the Irish – something that just adds to the tension in this series.

Michigan is currently on the Notre Dame schedule until 2011 which including this year marks at least six more meetings between these two, but let’s hope it continues after that.

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  1. Dude, thanks for the history lesson. I googled “Michigan taught Notre Dame Football” to settle a discussion between my roomate and I while watching this series. I found the answer on your website along with a whole lot more of the history than I’ve ever know.


  2. good post except for a couple major errors:
    First “The Catch” by Desmond Howard was 1991 not 1990. You mentioned Harry Oliver’s great kick AND thus should have mentioned Remy Hamilton’s last second FG for the Wolverines in ND Stadium back in 1994.

    Most Importantly, UM claims 11NCs, not “10” and, though you mentionmed UM is the all time leader in wins w/ Nd at #2, you incorrectly stated that ND is#1 in winning percentage. Actually, UM passed Nd in winning percentage, as well, 2 seasons ago and after some back and forth , UM is #1 and ND #2 in that category , as well.
    Finally, though Nd/UM are big rivals for the excellent reasons you stated and though you are correct that OSU/UM are the major rivals to each other, I would say that USC/ND as Nd’s biggest rival is arguable. MANY ND fans see UM as ND’s #1 rival -especially say those under 30 and over 75. Many Nd fans disagree and say USC is. The fact so many ND fans say UM is their most hated rival, however, is yet another reason this is such a rich rivalry.

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