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Kelly downplays talk of an Irish rivalry with Michigan

Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

If you were to talk to an average college football fan, or perhaps even a segment of the Notre Dame fan base, some would consider the Irish-Michigan series as a “rivalry.”

One of those people who see a rivalry there, though, wouldn’t be the Golden Domer’s current head coach, at least not in the historical sense.

This Saturday, the Irish and Wolverines will renew their rivalry series at Michigan Stadium for the second-to-last time before it goes on hiatus following the 2014 season.  During a conference call ahead of that game, Brian Kelly attempted to deemphasize the rivalry aspect of the matchup.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

While some people may not appreciate how he couched it — he later described it as a “great rivalry” — Kelly certainly has a point.

According to the school’s 2013 media guide, Notre Dame and Michigan have faced each other in football 40 times.  While the two programs first met in 1887, the series has been sporadic and seen a couple of significant breaks between games (1910-41; 1944-77).  Since 1978, a span of 35 years, they have met 18 times.

Conversely, Notre Dame has played Navy every season since that rivalry kicked off in 1927; Michigan State every year since 1959, with 76 games total in the series; Purdue every year since 1946, with 84 total games; and what’s considered the Irish’s biggest rival, USC, which have squared off every year but three (1943-45) since 1926 for a total of 84 games entering the 2013 season.

Toss in other series such as Pittsburgh (68 games), Army (50) and Northwestern (47), and it’s easy to see why, from Kelly’s perspective, any rivalry talk when it comes to Michigan is downplayed.

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22 Responses to “Kelly downplays talk of an Irish rivalry with Michigan”
  1. ndnut says: Sep 1, 2013 5:25 PM

    As a 16 year old Irish fan (since I first saw them on NBC, at 8 years old. I’m not a bandwagoning jackwagon), I consider scUM to be a bigger rival than Michigan St, and I would have preferred ending that rivalry, or the Purdue “rivalry.”

  2. dirtyharry1971 says: Sep 1, 2013 5:49 PM

    Id rather have the BC series then this one with mich. A lot more intensity when they play BC

  3. goirishgo says: Sep 1, 2013 6:35 PM

    ND-UM is absolutely a rivalry regardless of how many times they’ve played. I’m looking forward to the “series” starting up again.

  4. metalhead65 says: Sep 1, 2013 7:02 PM

    it’s only a rivalry for dame when they win all the time like against the teams you mentioned such as navy. as soon as it becomes competitive and they start to lose then they find a reason not to continue it. does Miami in the 80’s ring a bell? and now the Michigan series is coming to an end. spare me the war story and how they respect navy so much,they respect them becuase they beat them for 40 straight years and if they had not got rid of fat boy and navy had beat them a couple of more times they would have ended that series. I hope the big ten does not allow any of their schools to continue to play them once their contracts are up. if they think they are to good to join the conference why should conference schools play them?

  5. barnesaintnoble says: Sep 1, 2013 7:17 PM

    Kelly has a history in the state of Michigan, being a very successful coach at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan. He’s always had a little chip on his shoulder for never getting a look after Lloyd Carr retired. (Can’t really blame him…RICHROD? REALLY?!) So now, being at ND, he’ll say things like this to take a dig at Michigan. I think most intelligent people know that Michigan-Notre Dame is a great rivalry no matter what Brian Kelly says. They might not have played as many games, but the games are almost always classics and they have a great history of disagreements and battles off the field as well.

  6. kiopta1 says: Sep 1, 2013 7:27 PM

    ND fans and Mich fans should find common ground it our hatred of OSU. ND never plays OSU yet they are some of the most obnoxious and ignorant fans out there. They troll ND articles more than our actual rivals do.

  7. nickdorner says: Sep 1, 2013 7:45 PM

    21-10 michigan on Saturday. Notre dame will fall back into obscurity a la the last 2 decades. Last year was a fluke.

  8. florida727 says: Sep 1, 2013 7:46 PM

    Let me add a little perspective to this argument…

    ND-USC: Southern Cal has won 12 of the last 17 games, including 9 of the last 11.

    ND-Navy: Although Navy has won 3 of the last 6, ND won the previous FORTY-THREE (43).

    ND-MSU: Starting in 1987, ND won 8 in a row, then MSU won 5 in a row; since then, 6-5 ND.

    ND-Purdue: AKA Purdon’t; the Boilermakers have won a whopping total of 5 times since 1986.

    ND-Northwestern: Last played in 1995 when Northwestern upset ND in South Bend 17-15; ND had won the previous 14.

    ND-Army: ND has won the last 14, and those 14 stretch all the way back to 1965. Hardly a rivalry when you play 14 times in 48 years.

    For a true rivalry to exist, the teams need to be reasonably matched and the results need to be somewhat even. Yeah, each team might go on a run, but as a whole the series needs to be competitive. Based on the above from Wikipedia, only the ND-MSU games appear to be what I’d consider a “rivalry”. The rest seems to be lazy scheduling by an A.D. that pencils in 9 games every year and then rounds out the schedule with 1 or 2 others with shorter contracts.

  9. irishdodger says: Sep 2, 2013 12:19 AM


    You’re perspective is horrible. You must be very young or very lazy (to rely on Wikipedia…are u even a sports fan?).

    Notre Dame vs USC is the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. Yes, Pete Carroll & the Trojans dominated in the 2000s. But go look at the 80-90s when Notre Dame dominated. They never lost in the decade of the 80s! Lately, ND has won 2 of the last 3.

    Dude, your perspective is short-sighted. SC & ND are two of the most storied programs in college football. Their rivalry is unique and respected by both fanbases as they’ve each enjoyed their share of dominance.

  10. 1historian says: Sep 2, 2013 7:22 AM

    There is always the possibility that Kelly said what he said just to get a little dig in at UM.

    Closer to a probability than a possibility actually.

  11. hotlantalaw says: Sep 2, 2013 9:14 AM

    It is pretty simple. ND is a national team and Michigan is not. Michigan needs TV exposure from playing ND; ND could care less. Without ND, Michigan is relegated to a boring Big Ten schedule with patsies.

    I hope ND leaves Mich in the cold.

  12. brewcrewfan54 says: Sep 2, 2013 10:34 AM

    Congratulations hotlanta, you just managed to write the dumbest thing on the internet today. That’s tough to do.

  13. florida727 says: Sep 2, 2013 10:46 AM

    #irishdodger, you’re obviously a biased Notre Dame fan searching for an identity. USC fans don’t even consider you their most important game of the year. That honor goes to UCLA in case you’re wondering. And let me get this straight: you’re putting the ND-USC “rivalry” in the same context as Michigan-Ohio State, Alabama-Auburn, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Texas-Oklahoma, Florida-Florida State, Harvard-Yale, North Carolina-Duke, Oregon-Oregon State, and countless others? Face it. Notre Dame is only relevant to Notre Dame. Nobody else cares about you. Now go back to your mom’s basement and get over that whole Alabama embarrassment already will you? Everyone else has. Trust me, we’re done laughing at you for that one. (Okay. Not really.)

  14. thegamecocker says: Sep 2, 2013 10:48 AM


    Your assessment is spot on the money!

    @ndnut, goirishgo, metalhead65, barnessaintnoble

    As ND fans I applaud your objectivity in stating that ND-Michigan is a rivalry game. That is the truth and Brian Kelly being passed over to succeed Lloyd Carr probably has a lot to do with his POV. Kelly left a great Cincy team “high and dry” when he left BEFORE the bowl game to recruit for ND! The word LOYALTY and Brian Kelly should never be used in the same sentence! And Lizzy Seeburg and Declan Sullivan SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN ON THE ND CAMPUS!! SHAMEFUL! One final thought for you “DUMMERS”: George Gipp didn’t graduate from high school and RARELY attended classes at ND! ND is a GREAT ACADEMIC INSTITUTION TODAY…..but that wasn’t always the case.

  15. jgater1981 says: Sep 2, 2013 12:08 PM

    Hotlantalaw is spot on. Michigan needs ND. ND doesn’t give a damn about that little sister school in Ann Arbor.

  16. thegamecocker says: Sep 2, 2013 12:29 PM


    LOL! Michigan needs ND? MICHIGAN NEEDS NO ONE!!! They are a well-heeled school despite their left-wing President. They have a mighty fine endowment that can match many of the Ivy Schools. You cannot be serious agreeing with that statement that Michigan needs ND……Let’s be realistic now.

  17. jgater1981 says: Sep 2, 2013 12:52 PM

    @gamecocker as a football institution, they need ND. That’s why Hoke is so upset about it. His whining and crying makes me happy

  18. dkhhuey says: Sep 2, 2013 5:08 PM

    @florida727 – perfect!!!

    There is not a more obnoxious and arrogant fanbase then domers – nobody else is even close! I’ve been to all three OSU vs. domers games and it was the same experience! The absolute worst experience was going to South Bend just because there were just thousands more of them!

  19. tony34343434 says: Sep 2, 2013 5:50 PM

    yes always great to listen to florida fans. They have to root for an entire conference because they have no confidence in their own school. Why root for one school when you can root for 14 teams. i understand why no confidence you can take the degree from those schools and use it as toilet paper.

  20. irishdodger says: Sep 3, 2013 8:33 AM


    I’m someone who knows my CFB history. Yours obviously goes as far back as 2002….which means your favorite team had been relevant for about ten years. Stay on your bandwagon little boy. But in the meantime, go take a history class & read up on ND/USC….the biggest INTERSECTIONAL (sorry to talk over your head) rivalry in CFB.

    And For the Mark May is full of shit file

    @SandlapperSpike: Mark May just said he watched Notre Dame-Michigan growing up. May was born in 1959. ND and UM did not play between 1943 and 1978.

  21. dallasstars9 says: Sep 3, 2013 5:40 PM

    You can downplay it all you want Kelly, but you’re making yourself sound like an idiot. I guess it’s easier to accept the bitter taste of loss…. GO BLUE!

  22. irishdodger says: Sep 3, 2013 6:12 PM

    Is anyone at ESPN NOT a clown? Bayless & May are as ignorant than most of the posters on this thread.

    From Deadspin:
    This morning we illustrated how one ESPN blowhard will make up facts in order to argue for continuing a college football series lucrative for the WWL. Not to be outdone, Skip Bayless chimed in on the topic this morning on First Take, and somehow managed to get it even more wrong than Mark May.

    This is not an historical… Are you kidding me? I mean, I grew up, I couldn’t wait for Michigan-Notre Dame, going back to Bubba Smith.
    Two things here. First, Skip was 26 years old the first time he ever watched Michigan play Notre Dame. Second, he mentions the series “going back to Bubba Smith.” Smith played college football in the 1960s, a decade during which Michigan never faced Notre Dame. Also, Bubba Smith played for Michigan State—not Michigan (or Notre Dame).

    This isn’t even clumsy trolling. This is ESPN clamoring for the restoration of a cash cow using invented logic. Good luck with that, folks.

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