The news of the Michigan-Notre Dame football series resuming in 2018 brought forth many cheers and jeers from the Michigan fan base.
Cheers that an old rivalry will, eventually, be reignited for a more long term presence on the U-M schedule and jeers because of the sheer imbalance it now adds to the away schedule in 2018.
The Wolverines will have to face Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road, not the best road to take to say the least.
U-M athletic director Warde Manuel made an appearance on WTKA 1050 Friday morning to discuss the addition of Notre Dame as well as the schedule imbalance it brings.
“This is not the perfect set up,” Manuel said. “Obviously it is on my mind and I’ve had conversations, and will continue to have conversations, to look at the imbalance of particularly Michigan State and Ohio State in the same year. In this particular case, it was what we needed and Notre Dame needed and you work through it trying to figure out if you can balance the schedule.
“It would’ve been perfect, for example, if we could’ve started the series in a later year or reversed it, but it just couldn’t happen. We looked at all the scenarios and it just couldn’t happen.”
Manuel said the preliminary discussions to bring the series back with the Irish started with Jim Hackett, as well as head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly having conversations about bringing it back as well.
With the addition of Notre Dame some sacrifices had to be made. In order to add Notre Dame to the schedule, U-M had to remove Arkansas from the schedule entirely and move the game with Rutgers, which required approval with the Big Ten.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has a relationship with U-M and Manuel and it wasn't a pleasant phone call to make.
“That was not an easy conversation,” Manuel said. “We got through it, we figured it out and we will live up to the contract terms.”
As far as fixing the schedule goes, there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight for U-M. However, Manuel is focused on getting the Michigan State and Ohio State games to flip and believes it will happen eventually.
“I’m hopeful (it will change),” Manuel said. “It’s something I’d like to work towards to have that balance. Particularly they are our two biggest rivalries and are on our schedule every year. You love the fact that you have them at home when you have them, you hate the fact you have both of them on the road when you have to go on the road in those even years like this year.”
For now, the Notre Dame-U-M series is set for two years. Manuel is working towards more of a long term agreement with the Irish to resume the series on a more permanent basis.
“We’re talking about future opportunities on both of our schedules and when could we make more of a long term commitment,” Manuel said. “Four years, six years, a few series of games on the schedule long-term and lock it in now. Those discussions have been great, we’ve been trying to get through this.
“We’re in conversation and our staff is in conversation about future years in terms of a longer terms series of games to bring our Notre Dame and Michigan where it should be, consistently on the schedule, maybe not every year but knowing Notre Dame and Michigan playing consistently.”