The Fighting Irish notified Michigan that they are exercising a three-year out in their series contract, meaning the last meeting between the historic rivals will occur in 2014.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Associated Press obtained a letter Tuesday from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan AD David Brandon, canceling the games from 2015 to 2017.
“It’s unfortunate and a great rivalry and all those things,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said during Tuesday’s Big Ten conference call. “But they have to do what they think is best. We’ll move on and add some new scheduling opportunities for us.”
The schools had extended their contract in 2007, taking the series through the 2031 season. But it was on a three-year rolling basis, giving either side the chance to opt out with three years’ notice.
Notre Dame and Michigan announced this summer that a two-year break is coming in the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, but that they intended to resume the series in the years following.
“Our contract with Michigan has an automatic rollover provision — with a year being added each time a game is played,” Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler said in a statement. “We needed to avoid the automatic addition of additional games until we can get a better understanding of our available inventory in those years — an understanding that will develop as we implement our five-game scheduling commitment to the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
“The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame’s and not ours,” Brandon said in a release. “We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series. This cancellation presents new scheduling opportunities for our program and provides a chance to create some new rivalries.”
The Irish beat the Wolverines 13-6 over the weekend in the latest game of a storied series that dates to 1887. They’ve played every year since 2002 and regularly since 1978 after not meeting from 1944 to 1977 or 1910 to 1941.
The final two games of the rivalry with take place Sept. 7, 2013 at Michigan Stadium and Sept. 6, 2014 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Brandon told the AP he was handed the letter on the field in South Bend, Ind., about an hour before Saturday night’s game.
“I put the letter in my pocket and didn’t bother to read it right away because I was focused on the game we were about to play,” Brandon said. “I read it on the way home Sunday morning.”