OLYMPIA FIELDS — As Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said Wednesday at the Big Ten spring meetings in Rosemont, his program's rivalry with Notre Dame has become "roadkill" thanks to the wave of conference expansion and realignment that's seen the Big Ten add three schools and Notre Dame hitch up with the ACC for five annual games.
But Notre Dame and Michigan State are working toward playing each other in the future, though not on the four-years-on, two-years-off scheduling format seen in years past.
"Michigan State's a team that, when we're talking about future schedules, their names comes up," coach Brian Kelly said Thursday while in the Chicago area for the Irish Legends Annual Charity Event. "That's a name that naturally will come up, whether it's a neutral site or something of that fashion."
Hollis suggested Notre Dame and Michigan State could play a neutral-site game in Chicago in 2023 as one of the three verbally agreed upon games between the two programs in the next 10 years. Notre Dame is contracted to face Michigan State in South Bend in 2016 and in East Lansing the following year, while there's a verbal agreement to play in 2026 and 2027.
Kelly said Notre Dame is still working to face an SEC team sometime after 2016 — this after the program confirmed in April preliminary talks with Georgia about scheduling the Bulldogs in the future. But more surprising was Kelly's revelation that he and Swarbrick have discussed getting Michigan back on Notre Dame's schedule.
"We would like to play Michigan and Michigan State again," Kelly said. "I can assure you that Michigan, Michigan State and an SEC school is involved in those conversations. How that pans out, it's a very complicated deal. Way more complicated than I'm willing to admit. Jack has got more phone calls in on those games and other ADs that I can't even imagine how he's been able to put it together.
"But I'm telling you, it's Michigan, Michigan State and it's an SEC school that those conversations happen all the time."
Whether Michigan's willing to engage with Notre Dame about reviving what's become an intense rivalry following this fall's game — the final scheduled contest between the two programs — remains to be seen. Michigan officials weren't happy with how the series came to an end, which Notre Dame said had to happen due to uncertainty about how the school's five-game ACC agreement would affect future schedules.
As is the case with a number of the rivalries college football lost during expansion and realignment, it takes two willing schools to start them back up. Notre Dame might be willing, but if Michigan isn't, the rivalry will go dormant after September's game in South Bend.