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Brian Kelly Says Michigan Is Not A ‘Historic, Traditional Notre Dame Rivalry’

  • Rick Chandler

So Notre Dame has discontinued its gridiron series with Michigan through at least 2019, due to “schedule conflicts.” Unfortunate. But even more unfortunate are remarks by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who has indulged in some rather egregious rewriting of history.

Here’s the Kelly quote from earlier today that really got me:

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

Say what now?

Kelly couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is Notre Dame-Michigan one of the most historic football rivalries in the nation, it was Michigan that actually taught Notre Dame how to play football. Literally.

A history lesson for Mr. Kelly: Although there have been gaps in the series, Michigan-Notre Dame was one of the first football rivalries. The first game happened in 1887 — only 11 years after Custer’s Last Stand. That’s also eight years before the Alabama-LSU series began; three years before Army-Navy; four years before Kansas-Missouri (when they were having a real border war). In fact, I couldn’t find a major college football rivalry that pre-dates Notre Dame-Michigan.

And it was Notre Dame’s first-ever game of football.

In fact, Notre Dame players didn’t even know the rules. So the first hour or so of the Michigan game consisted of Wolverines players teaching the Notre Dame players the difference between the new game of football and rugby.

The game itself lasted only half an hour, with Michigan winning 8-0. From the Michigan student newspaper, The Chronicle:

After a hearty dinner, Rev. President Walsh thanked the Ann Arbor team for their visit, and assured them of “the cordial reception that would always await them at Notre Dame.”

Until 2015, anyway.

One of my favorite football paragraphs ever:

Brother Paul arranged for carriages to take the team to Niles in time to catch the 3:00 train to Chicago. The Notre Dame paper reported: “At 1 o’clock carriages were taken for Niles, and amidst rousing cheers the University of Michigan football team departed, leaving behind them a most favorable impression.”

Notre Dame will continue its series with Michigan State and Purdue, but not Michigan. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke is not amused.


“Everybody knows the challenges we have as an independent when it comes to scheduling. We’re a team that a lot of people want to play, including Michigan, obviously, or Brady wouldn’t comment in that regard.”

Not just another opponent, Mr. Kelly. Unless there are other teams out there who played you in 1887 — the year that Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print — and actually taught you the rules of football.