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Pope: Enjoy ND-Michigan rivalry while it lasts

FILE - In this Sept. 22 2012 file phoNotre Dame's TJ Jones makes catch against Michigan's RaymTaylor during first half

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame's TJ Jones makes a catch against Michigan's Raymon Taylor during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. Nobody really knows how Notre Dame makes any of its decisions, though dropping a rivalry against the university that the Irish played their first football game ever against (Michigan) in 1887 would seem to be a mistake at first blush. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

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Updated: June 19, 2013 6:18AM



Is it too early to start the countdown to Sept. 7?

It’s only May, but with all the chatter this week, it sure felt like the latest football clash between Notre Dame and Michigan was just days away.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke began the fun with comments made at a luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We have unbelievable rivalry games at Michigan,” Hoke said Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press. “The Notre Dame, that rivalry, which they’re chickening out of … they’re still going to play Michigan State, they’ll play Purdue, they don’t want to play Michigan.”

The quote was an entertaining way to tweak a rival while acknowledging disappointment that the series was heading toward an extended break.

“It sounded a lot like Brady,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said at the Big Ten meetings on Tuesday, according to mlive.com. “I probably wouldn’t use those exact words, but we were disappointed. When I say we, our student-athletes, our coaches, all of us in athletic administration, we were all really disappointed to be put in a position where that rivalry is going to end.”

Michigan and Notre Dame will play this season under the lights in Ann Arbor and in South Bend in 2014.

After that, who knows? The schools had extended their series through the 2031 season, but it was on a three-year rolling basis. Either school had the option to opt out with three years’ notice. Notre Dame did just that before last year’s game in a letter from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Brandon.

Notre Dame will have five games against teams from the ACC, beginning in 2014. Future schedules are filling up, meaning it could be some time before the Wolverines and Irish resume the series after the 2014 meeting.

“It’s going to be a long time,” Brandon said Tuesday, according to ESPN.com. “We’ve both been busily scheduling out into years into the future. And as I understood it from my counterpart at Notre Dame, they’re making plans to go in a different direction. So the earliest we could schedule would be sometime post-2021, 2022, and when you start talking that far out, who knows. So it’s going to be a while.

“… The night game we have at Michigan Stadium this September, and then our last trip down to South Bend next year are going to be really exciting because it’s going to be the end of the rivalry, at least for a considerable period of time.”

That’s a shame. But it’s also a sign of the times.

I love rivalry games. And traditions. But I don’t get as fired up about retaining both as much anymore.

A few years ago, the thought of a jumbotron at Wrigley Field or Purdue and Indiana not meeting twice a year in men’s basketball would have made me crazy.

But I have to roll with the punches. Change happens.

Instead of complaining, I’m going to enjoy what’s left. That includes the Sept. 7 showdown and the smack talk.

It didn’t take much time for some sort of Notre Dame response after Hoke’s comments went national.

“Chickened out? #MeatChicken will taste delicious Sept 7th. #GoIrish,” Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix III reportedly tweeted Tuesday.

The smart and fun reply is just what reporters love during any time of the year, especially during this slow period.

Swarbrick also kept Hoke’s comments in the proper perspective.

“We all recognize that stuff you say at a booster club or a pep rally generally (can be like that),” Swarbrick said, according to CBSsports.com on Wednesday. “I take no umbrage at what someone says at either of those two functions.”

Swarbrick also told CBSsports.com that when it comes to scheduling, Notre Dame is and will continue to make tough choices.

“Being a guy from the Midwest and watching the rivalry and obviously being a part of it as a coach, we had 115,000 people at Michigan Stadium two years ago at night,” Hoke said on the “Mike and Mike in the Morning” radio show on Thursday. “That excitement, that landscape of that game on a national level, it’s going to be too bad when that series ends.”

Let’s enjoy the time we have left.



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