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August 20, 2013

No Irish, but home Big Ten night games on the way

Michigan won't be playing Notre Dame in the near future following the 2014 meeting in South Bend, postponing a popular series. It won't be the end of night games in the Big House, athletic director David Brandon reiterated - and while some had hoped U-M would try to drop the 2014 road game against the Irish, Brandon insisted the Wolverines would show up.

The series' future came to a screeching halt last fall when Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick gave Brandon an opt out letter just before kickoff of the 2012 meeting. Brandon read it on the way home the following morning, later noting it probably wasn't the way he would have brought the series to an end.

There are no hard feelings, though, and no plans to try to get out of the 2014 game. Michigan and Notre Dame were originally scheduled to take a hiatus during the 2018-19 seasons.

"That would be their choice, not mine," Brandon said of next year's game in South Bend. "They hold the contractual rights to that game. I would bet at this late stage it would be hard to fill that spot for either one of us, and I certainly have never contemplated the notion that game isn't going to be played.

"As we get closer to 2014, commitments have pretty much been made by other teams. We've got to play somebody that second game of the season, and it looks like it's going to be Notre Dame."

The Wolverines and Irish will meet Sept. 7 in the second night game in Michigan Stadium history. The first was a 35-31 Michigan win two seasons ago.

Night games won't be limited to non-conference foes in the future, Brandon said, adding it's his job to make sure each game is worthy of the primetime slot. That means home conference night games are likely.

"We can expect that," he said. "What we should look forward to is one night game a year at Michigan Stadium. That game will rotate around and we'll try to make that a game that will be exciting and important for our fans.

"If we open up the stadium and do a night game, we want it to be as big a game as we can make it. Every year it will probably be a different look at the schedule."

One that could well change with further expansion. The Big Ten welcomes Rutgers and Maryland next season. While the conference seems set for now, other conferences continue to explore their options. That could result in further expansion for the Big Ten and its 14 teams.

"There's always going to be buzz, and yes, I do anticipate further expansion," Brandon said. "Various conferences are exploring it, but specific to the Big Ten, I think we're pretty comfortable where we are right now. We're still digesting the addition of two programs that haven't even started out yet. We're pretty busy assimilating two very large institutions in getting all the scheduling and both athletic and academic collaborations built.

"I don't know of any discussions taking place that pertain specially to the Big Ten, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if there were other discussions taking place with other conferences and schools. I personally believe you're going to see more consolidation in the future."




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