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Notre Dame's history - from Rockne to Holtz to Weis - runs deep. Lately, though, it's been a roller cc
raster ride in South Bend
When asked about the future
of the Michigan-Notre Dame
game back in August, Michi-
gan coach Lloyd Carr gave the typical
response - that Notre Dame is a great
game and a great rivalry.
"I think it's a game that everyone in
the country wants to see, I think it's a
game that the players want to play, and
I think it's great for college football,"
Carr said. _
But then Carr added that, recently,
there has been a problem with the game.
He said that the introduction of the BCS
seven years ago has transformed the col-
lege football environment into one in
which you cannot lose a sid'gle game. For
teams that are perpetually at the top of the
national rankings such as No. 3 Michigan,
the pressure to win a title comes from all
sides. But in this day and age, winning a
national championship means not losing a
single game all year, and Notre Dame is
always a tough opponent.
Add that to the fact that the rivalry is
scheduled through 2011, and Carr's con-
cerns are understandable. The two teams
didn't play in 2000 or 2001, but, in two
of the last three seasons, Notre Dame
has upset Michigan - effectively ending
the Wolverines' chance at a national title
before the Big Ten season even began.
"Each institution has to decide if that
team is worth risking," Carr said. "There
are a lot of schools out there that aren't going
to risk playing a nonconference game like
that because of fear that it will cost them a
chance at a national championship."
But this isn't like Texas playing Ohio
State - an exciting matchup but one that
doesn't carry any history. The Michigan-
Notre Dame game
is something special
for both sides. "You corn
For Michigan, it
might be Desmond Michigar
Howard's catch in
the back of the end- play tean
zone or Tom Brady
leading a comeback Notre Da
in 1999 to beat the
Irish 26-22. For
Notre Dame, it might - s
be Raghib "Rocket"
Ismail returning two
kicks for scores in
1989 or walk-on kicker Reggie Ho kick-
ing four field goals in 1988 to beat Michi-
Legend has it that Michigan players
brought football to South Bend in the
first place. At the urging of the Irish,
the Wolverines supposedly taught Notre
Dame the game of football in 1887. After
the first lesson, Michigan gave the Irish
another one, with an 8-0 victory in the
first game. Then, according to legend,
the two teams had lunch.
But things haven't always been that cor-
dial. When Fielding Yost was the Michigan
athletic director in the 1920s, the two teams
didn't even play each other-in part because
of the animosity between Yost and Notre
Dame coach Knute Rockne. The hatred was
passed along to Fritz
Crisler, who coached at
the same time as Frank
to "I think because of
the fact that both of
s like those men (Yost and
,, Crisler) were ADs as
mne. well as the football
coach, we didn't play
Notre Dame for a
nior co-captain long time," Carr said.
Jason Avant "And that is quite a
controversial part of
the discussions today
that go on regarding scheduling and con-
ference affiliation, all that stuff."
The two teams started playing each
other regularly in 1978, and the rivalry
really started to take shape then. Carr's
first memory of the series between
Michigan and Notre Dame dates back to
1980 - a game that is still one of the
more famous battles between the two
"My first memory is not a pleasant
one," Carr said. "In 1980, we went down
there. We got behind 14 to nothing."
Carr was an assistant coach under Bo
Schembechler at the time. The team tied
the score by halftime and took the lead
with the game entering its final minutes.
"I remember the (Notre Dame) quar-
terback threw the ball right to us on
defense and we dropped the ball. It would
have ended the game,-but we dropped an
interception. Some interesting things
happened in the last minute down there.
Of course, Harry Oliver stepped in there
and kicked the winner."
Since Car.r was thrown into the fire of
the Michigan rivalry right from the start,
he understands some of the history behind
the game -- although it doesn't take a
genius to figure out that this is important.
Just take a look at the numbers. Michigan
and Notre Dame are the only two pro-
grams with more than 800 wins - Michi-
gan has 843, Notre Dame 803. These two
teams are also the two winningest pro-
grams in Division I-A football in terms
of winning percentage and the two most
televised programs in college football.
And when the Irish come to town,
they'll have their hands full. Carr has a
59-6 record at the Big House and a 30-7
record against nonconference teams. His
teams have won 16 straight at home against
nonconference opponents. The Wolver-
ines lead the head-to-head series between
the schools, 18-13-1, but, if you take out
Michigan's first eight victories from 1887
to 1908, the Irish actually have the edge.
Michigan is one of just 10 teams to have a
winning record against the Irish.
That's why it was so surprising when
Charlie Weis, a first-year coach at Notre
Dame, said earlier in the week that the
game was no different than any other
"I have no emotions at all about Notre
Dame versus Michigan, none," Weis said.
The players who play in the game, and
who have played in the game for a few
years now, might feel a little differently.
Three Michigan players have direct con-
nections to Notre Dame. Jim Massey,
the father of Mike and Pat, played
defensive end for the Irish in 1969, and
punter Ross Ryan's father, K.C., played
with Notre Dame from 1976-1980. But
even the players without immediate ties
have some idea of what's at stake.
"You come to Michigan to play teams
like Notre Dame," senior co-captain Jason
Avant said. "The game means that much
more to me because it's my last year and
I only have one more chance to play this
team. It's one of the greatest rivalries in
college football between two schools that
have the most tradition."
Senior co-captain Jason Avant (8) has lost to Notre Dame two of the three years since he's been at Michigan. Avant, who
called this game "one of the greatest rivalries in college football," gets one more chance to beat the Irish this weekend.
The sparks - and players - always
Dame meet. Michigan leads the all-tin