Lost somewhat amidst the celebration of the renewal of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry was the fact that the former was forced to cancel a home-and-home with Arkansas. It wasn’t, though, lost on those connected to the Fayetteville school.
Announced in 2012, the Razorbacks and Wolverines were set to square off in 2018 and 2019 in a rare SEC vs. Big Ten regular season series. UM will reportedly be forced to pay $2 million for backing out of the series, although UA athletic director Jeff Long, a former UM associate athletic director hired by Bo Schembechler in the mid-eighties, is not pleased with pretty much any aspect of the development.
Nor was Long’s head coach, a former player and coach in the conference.
“Primarily, we are disappointed in Michigan’s timing in pulling out of a non-conference football series between the SEC and the Big Ten that has been set for four years,” Jeff Long said in a statement. “While there are many other quality opponents that would help us strengthen our non-conference schedule, the late notice of Michigan’s cancellation makes securing those games substantially more difficult. Our focus will be to find a program that welcomes the opportunity to compete against a nationally respected program in the most competitive conference in college football.”
“As a former player and coach in the Big Ten, I was looking forward to the opportunity for our team to compete against one of my favorite Big Ten conference rivals,” Bret Bielema said in his statement. “I’m disappointed that won’t happen now. But, I know that our administration will work to get a quality non-conference game that will help prepare us to compete in the SEC and nationally.
Long certainly has a point, about the difficulty in finding a replacement, and a quality one at that, in such a relatively short period of time.
However, it’s also a danger inherent to scheduling games so far out into the future, although, admittedly, six years in this day and age is certainly not that far out. Still, it’s a danger that every athletic director in the country is aware of, and for which provisions should be made on some level to account for a possibility that’s been rumored for nearly a year.
Hopefully Long can attract an equally attractive opponent — maybe even one from the Big Ten.