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Michigan-Notre Dame Hiatus Opens Door for 'Dawgs to Schedule Wolverines

(Image courtesy The M Zone.)

It is no secret that I began pushing for a Georgia-Michigan home-and-home series in football a year and a half ago. When I initially approached Damon Evans about scheduling the historic Big Ten power, the Georgia athletic director offered this response:

As far as a home and home with Michigan, I actually think it is a great idea. In fact we have been in contact with Michigan trying to arrange a series however it has not yet worked out. I do believe such a series would bring a lot of national exposure.

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin, while also seemingly receptive to the suggestion, gave a more qualified reply, writing (with emphasis added):
We do indeed view Georgia as one of the outstanding football programs in the country. It would be a wonderful game; our challenge is scheduling enough home games to "pay the bills". It's hard to leave 110,000 loyal fans with no football in the nonconference schedule. We have a long term contract with Notre Dame. We'll discuss and I'll chat with Damon in the near future.

Subsequently, Dawg Post's Josh Kendall confirmed in October 2006 that "Evans ha[d] talked to both Notre Dame and Michigan about future matchups within the last two months, but both schools declined to enter into discussions."

The idea thereafter was left to languish until developments two months ago offered some hope that the restoration of Notre Dame's "barnstorming" tradition might bring about a break in the series between the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines, thereby freeing up space on the Maize and Blue's schedule which might be filled by a two-game set with the Red and Black.

Four years ago, Notre Dame made the institutional decision to play seven home games, four road games, and one neutral site contest each season. As a result of the independent's contractual arrangement to play home-and-home series with a trio of Big East teams, the Golden Domers are making some adjustments to their annual slate, as was recently reported:

[T]he Fighting Irish will take a short break from their Big 10 rivals in the future, replacing Michigan with Oklahoma for a two-year period, then facing Arizona State instead of Michigan State for two years.

MGoBlog's Brian Cook notes that "it sounds like this is more Notre Dame's choice than Michigan's" to put the series on hiatus. The Detroit Free Press's Mark Snyder adds the following clarification:
The current U-M/Notre Dame contract expires in 2011 and, according to Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, the teams will take at least two years off. . . .

Martin has also said he would like to begin playing games in other parts of the country, tapping into various alumni bases.

It is not entirely clear whether the two-year swap of the Wolverines for the Sooners would coincide precisely with the conclusion of the current Michigan-Notre Dame contract, however, as The Blue-Gray Sky reports that the Oklahoma series is slated for 2013 and 2015 rather than for 2012 and 2013, the two years immediately following the end of the Irish's existing deal with the Maize and Blue.

Georgia's marquee non-conference games after 2011 are as follows:

2012: at Louisville
2013: at Clemson
2014: Clemson
2015: at Oregon
2016: Oregon

Georgia plays Georgia Tech in Atlanta in odd-numbered years and in Athens in even-numbered years. In addition to the annual neutral site contest against Florida in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs play three S.E.C. teams (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and one rotating Western Division squad) between the hedges in even-numbered seasons and four conference opponents (Auburn, Kentucky, South Carolina, and the other rotating Western Division foe) in Sanford Stadium in odd-numbered autumns.

In 2014, for instance, the 'Dawgs will play five home games against A.C.C. and S.E.C. opponents and five league outings in venues outside the Classic City. That leaves two games yet to be determined, both of which will be at home and neither of which will be against a team from a B.C.S. conference.

Personally, I'd like to see us use one of those spaces on the slate for a big-name road game, what with the Tigers and the Yellow Jackets both traveling to Clarke County, but that simply isn't the way scheduling works in the 21st century . . . and, based upon the Blue-Gray Sky report, it is unclear whether 2014 is a year in which the Wolverines will or will not be playing the Fighting Irish.

What about 2017, though? Evans has done an admirable job of arranging home-and-home exchanges for the Bulldogs, scheduling series against Colorado in Athens in 2006 and in Boulder in 2010, against Oklahoma State at home in 2007 and on the road in 2009, against Arizona State in the Copper State in 2008 and in the Peach State in 2009, against Louisville in Sanford Stadium in 2011 and in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 2012, against Clemson by the shores of Lake Hartwell in 2013 and in the Classic City in 2014, and against Oregon in the Pacific Northwest in 2015 and in the Southeast in 2016.

The next logical step in that progression is to meet Michigan between the hedges in 2017 (when the Bulldogs will play Georgia Tech in Atlanta and the Wolverines will play Ohio State in Ann Arbor) and in the Big House in 2018 (when the Red and Black will face the Yellow Jackets in Athens and the Maize and Blue will face the Buckeyes in Columbus).

When ambassadors from Bulldog Nation reached out to Bill Martin last year, the Michigan athletic director declined to enter into negotiations, providing this as his reason: "We have a long term contract with Notre Dame." That is no longer the case.

Now that the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines are on the verge of putting their series on hiatus for the fourth time since 1983, Martin has, as the Free Press's Snyder has reported, indicated that "he would like to begin playing games in other parts of the country, tapping into various alumni bases." That seems like a perfectly sensible policy.

The U.M. alumni presence in North Georgia is sufficiently strong that there is both a University of Michigan Club of Atlanta and a Ross School of Business Alumni Club of Atlanta, the former of which offers annual scholarships to incoming U.M. undergraduates from the metropolitan Atlanta area.

If Martin wants the Wolverines to begin playing games in other parts of the country, there is a Michigan alumni base in North Georgia that is well worth tapping into by playing a game in Athens. (Ere some wag asks why the Maize and Blue should not play the Yellow Jackets at Grant Field instead, I should hasten to point out that Georgia has more alumni living in metropolitan Atlanta than Georgia Tech has alumni anywhere. Georgia and Michigan, public universities with significant enrollments which are the flagship institutions of their respective states, have much in common, including but not limited to large on-campus stadiums and elite football traditions which persist in the 21st century.)

Accordingly, I will dispatch to the addresses listed for the aforementioned Atlanta-area Michigan alumni organizations the following e-mail (together with a link to this posting) immediately following the publication of this article:

Dear __:

I hope this message finds you well. My name is Kyle King and I am the proprietor of an unofficial University of Georgia athletics weblog called Dawg Sports. I am writing with respect to recent developments regarding the University of Michigan which I believe are of interest, and could be of benefit, to the alumni of both schools.

The University of Georgia athletic director, Damon Evans, approached Michigan last year about the possibility of arranging a home-and-home football series between the Bulldogs and the Wolverines. Michigan declined to enter into discussions with Georgia, due to the long-term contract that kept the Fighting Irish on the Maize and Blue's schedule.

However, Notre Dame has announced that it intends to put the series with Michigan on hiatus after the current contract expires following the 2011 season. This coincides with a statement from the Michigan athletic administration expressing an interest in scheduling games in other parts of the country in which alumni of the school are to be found in significant numbers.

The existence of your club attests to the strong Michigan presence in North Georgia, where I suspect many of the Wolverine faithful may be found who would welcome the opportunity to see the Maize and Blue play in Sanford Stadium, just a short drive from Atlanta. Accordingly, I am writing to ask for your assistance.

I would be most grateful if you and the members of your club would be gracious enough to contact the University of Michigan athletic director, Bill Martin, at to express your support for a Georgia-Michigan home-and-home football series in the next decade.

Attached below is a link to a recent posting published at my weblog outlining the rationale for such a series between our respective schools. I thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


T. Kyle King
Dawg Sports

Go 'Dawgs!