May 19, 2010, 5:44 PM EDT
Back in 2007, Michigan athletic director Bill Martin joined Notre Dame AD Kevin White in jointly announcing the 20-year extension of the football series between the Wolverines and Irish. While the original plan of uninterrupted games for the next 25 seasons changed to accommodate a two-year hiatus in 2018 and 2019, new Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon seemed to take a step away from the mutually agreed upon commitment today.
“We don’t really have a contract right now,” Brandon said. “We announced we had kind of reached a meeting of the minds for a 20-year extension with the potential for a two-year hiatus, but that was never codified into a contract. That was what I was handed when I came into the job. So what we’re going to need to do with Notre Dame is sit down and hammer out some specifics.”
Neither Brandon nor Swarbrick were in charge of their respective athletic departments, but Brandon’s characterization of the agreement as “kind of reached a meeting of the minds” is beyond bizarre. Here’s the exact wording from Michigan’s official announcement in July, 2007:
The University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame athletic
departments announced jointly on Monday (July 30) a 20-year contract
extension in the Michigan-Notre Dame football series, extending the
series from 2012-31. With the current contract expiring after the 2011
season, the new contract guarantees that the two winningest football
programs in NCAA Division I history will meet every season for the next
“We are pleased to have reached a formal agreement with
Notre Dame to extend our football series,” said U-M director of
athletics Bill Martin. “We are thrilled that the series
between two premier college football programs will continue
uninterrupted for the next 25 years.”
Maybe this is one of those strategies Brandon learned while running Domino’s Pizza. The kind where you get everybody to think you get a free pizza if it doesn’t come in 30 minutes or less, but when the customer calls you on it, you simply say that it was merely a semi-formal meeting of the minds and that the two parties should really just sit down and hammer out some specifics on why we’re backing out of our promise.
Brandon refuted the idea that any Big Ten team would boycott playing the Irish, and did almost pledge his commitment to the future.
“We love our rivalry with Notre Dame,” Brandon said. “Never say never, but we’ve had a lot of discussions with Notre Dame about the future.”
It’s likely this could be some posturing during the current negotiations between the two schools, especially after many within the football program were complaining about Big Ten refs working games in Ann Arbor.
Either way, it’s tough to find a way that this makes the Wolverines look good.