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A Rivalry as Old as Time: The Story of the Notre Dame-Michigan Rivalry

Notre Dame versus Michigan is a rivalry that will never age or become stale.

Notre Dame versus Michigan is a rivalry that will never age or become stale. The hatred, even though the schools may not have known it yet, started way back in 1887. Though Michigan technically introduced Notre Dame to football, it was more or less a ploy to have another opponent for their season.

With only weeks notice to Brother Paul, Notre Dame’s athletic director, the Irish had to put together a team and prepare a field to welcome Michigan. After a brief tutorial taught by the Michigan players themselves and a scrimmage, they started their contest. After a whopping half an hour and an 8-0 lead over Notre Dame, Michigan decided they had enough of the poor field conditions. On November 23, 1887, nearly half a thousand Notre Dame students came out in the cold to watch Notre Dame get stomped by Michigan, a university that had established their football team in the spring of 1879.

The point I’m getting to is the modern-day hatred between these two teams and their fanbases. An argument Michigan fans will always resort to in an attempt to claim supremacy is the all-time head-to-head record, but there is so much more to it. This is a rivalry of many cheap shots, fights, pranks, on-field, and off-field battles that occur when these teams cross.

In 1909, Notre Dame became the Notre Dame we all know and love. They finally did it, they beat Fielding Yost’s Michigan team. In the ninth meeting of the rivalry, after losing the first eight by a combined score of 121 to 16, Notre Dame finally conquered Michigan on the gridiron. They earned their name of the Fighting Irish.

Set for the rematch in 1910, Yost protested two Notre Dame players for being ineligible and canceled the game. Yost refused to schedule Notre Dame in any upcoming seasons. Fielding Yost, the director of the Western Conference (modern-day Big Ten), refused to bring the Irish into the conference and suggested that other teams should not schedule them as well. The hatred ran so wild between these teams and coaches, and thanks to that hatred, the next time the teams would meet wasn’t until 1942.

Michigan finally agreed to schedule two games in 1942 and 1943. In 1942, the game was played in South Bend. Both teams ranked in the top ten that year, however, the Wolverines defeated the Irish 32–20. The next year, they decided to switch to Michigan’s turf. Being led behind by their Heisman quarterback, Angelo Bertelli, the Irish were able to defeat Michigan 35–12.

Even with the long drought between games, the rivalry was still at full force. Another successful boycott arose, leaving the rivalry in the ashes again until September 23, 1978. This led to the big “Reunion Game,” in which Michigan conquered Notre Dame by a final score of 28–14 thanks to three unanswered second-half touchdowns.

However, the Irish reigned victorious the following season. The rivalry has kept steady since 1979 even though the two schools don’t play every year. The Irish pulled ahead slightly, with the record being 16-14-1 since 1979, which brings us to this year’s game.

October 26th is the day. This is always one of the most anticipated games of the year. There is so much beauty to the hype surrounding the game. The ESPN debates, the non-stop trash talking between you and your not nearly as bright Michigan friends, the social media debates — it all helps feed that burning fire, symbolizing the hatred between these two historic programs. During the game today, let’s hope Harbaugh and the rest of the Michigan program want to boycott again after pure Irish domination.


Go Irish!

Featured Photo: Fighting Irish Wire/USA Today Sports

I talk about the White Sox, Notre Dame, and pop culture. @DaGerbs on Twitter and Instagram!

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