Northwestern and Notre Dame took advantage of a couple of alums to announce their upcoming home-and-home football series. The announcement about the series was made live on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the morning with co-hosts Mike Greenberg (a Northwestern alum) and Mike Golic (Notre Dame alum). Notre Dame will host the first game of the series in 2014 and will return the trip to Northwestern in 2018.
“This is really an exciting time for Chicago’s Big Ten team as we continue to upgrade our future nonconference schedule,” said Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips in a statement released by the university. “With schools such as Boston College, California, Syracuse and Vanderbilt visiting Ryan Field in future years, combined with the addition of Nebraska to our division in the Big Ten, there’s no better time to be a Wildcat football fan.”
Notre Dame is scheduled to make their first trip to Northwestern’s Ryan Field since 1976. Upon hearing this announcement this writer was particularly skeptical of the game taking place in Ryan Field by the time 2018 comes around. Soldier Field currently holds a capacity of 61,500 for football, which is almost 14,000 more than can be filled in to Ryan Field, which completed a $20 million renovation prior to the 1997 season. The university is moving forward with plans for another renovation, which was to help make Ryan Field a possible location for soccer matches in the event that Chicago was selected to host the 2016 Olympic summer games. Chicago lost out on the bidding for the games but Ryan Field will still benefit from the process, which is illustrated here.
Notre Dame has made efforts to play non-conference games in high-profile venues in recent scheduling, including a neutral site game against Washington State in the Alamo Dome and future contests at Yankee Stadium, FedEx Field and the new Meadowlands Stadium. With that logic it would have been easy to expect Notre Dame to want to play the game in Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Ryan Field is 16.7 miles south of Soldier Field according to Google Maps.
ESPN blogger Adam Rittenberg, who covers the Big Ten, said via Twitter that the “Series wouldn’t have been scheduled if the game was at Soldier Field.” Coming from someone as connected to the Northwestern football scene as anyone in the mainstream media, this should prove to be a solid statement that the game will remain on Northwestern’s campus. “Renovation will be done,” added Rittenberg.
Brett McMurphy of The New York Times and The Daily added via Twitter conversation that Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said it was important to play the game at Ryan Field. For Notre Dame the chance to play in a true road environment may be the biggest reason Kelly would feel that way. Certainly there would be more to gain for Notre Dame to play the game in Soldier Field, as ticket sales would be more profitable. Or perhaps it is the continuation of a working relationship between two well-respected universities that will pay dividends moving forward.
Notre Dame has continued to have a terrific relationship with Big Ten schools. The Fighting Irish and Michigan have a well-documented series history and this year will be wearing throwback uniforms specially designed by Adidas for their meeting. Notre Dame has also continued series with Michigan State and Purdue over the years. A few years ago Notre Dame played Penn State in a home-and-home series that started in South Bend. In 2014 the Irish will play Purdue, Michigan and Northwestern form the Big Ten.
The Irish and Wildcats last played in 1995, when the visiting Wildcats upset Notre Dame 17-15 to start their improbable season run to the Rose Bowl and a Big Ten championship. The game was the last in a four-game series. Before that the last time the two schools played came in 1976. Despite the infrequency of meetings Notre Dame is Northwestern’s most common non-conference opponent in school history.
The tentative dates for the games have Notre Dame hosting Northwestern on November 15, 2014 and the 2018 date is currently unconfirmed.
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