With the Big Ten and Pac-12 partnering and planning to play 12 football games between each other each season starting in 2017, Notre Dame is in an interesting position. The Fighting Irish have annual games with three Big Ten teams (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue) and two Pac-12 teams (USC and Stanford), all of which are involved in this partnership.
For Michigan fans, one of the most talked about things with this partnership has been what effect, if any, it will have on Notre Dame. Because Michigan typically wants to have as many home games each season as it can, there has been speculation that adding a game against a Pac-12 team each season could result in Notre Dame being dropped from the schedule.
For now, at least, it doesn't look like Michigan has any plans to drop its game against Notre Dame. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon basically said as much on Wednesday, although he admitted that what happens in the long term with this rivalry remains to be seen. From WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein:
"They like to play us and we like to play them so that game continues to be on our schedule," Brandon said. "As it relates to the long term, who knows. The long term is pretty hard to predict with the constant changes in college football, but for now we intend to play Notre Dame and they are on our schedule and we’ll be playing them for the next few years anyway."
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis had similar thoughts about the Notre Dame series, saying he wants it to continue, but that it's impossible to predict what will happen that far down the road.
"There’s nothing certain in future scheduling right now," Hollis said. "I’m a tradition guy and I want that tradition to continue, but sometimes things change."
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told Pat Forde on Wednesday that he doesn't anticipate the partnership between the two conferences having "much of an impact" on Notre Dame. I wouldn't be so certain, though. Although the Big Ten doesn't sound like it will shift to a nine-game conference schedule, adding another permanent non-conference game will give schools less flexibility in terms of scheduling, especially with there being such an emphasis on maximizing home games and revenue. For the Pac-12, which plans to continue playing nine conference games, there is even less wiggle room.
Although Swarbrick may not be concerned now, nothing is certain and things change, as Hollis said. In six years, it would not be surprising to me at all if both Michigan and Michigan State made changes to how often Notre Dame appears on their schedules. MSU is already planning on taking two-year breaks from its series with Notre Dame in 2014-15, 2020-21 and 2026-27, so there are already plans to play less. There has been talk about Michigan taking a similar two-year break from Notre Dame here or there, and I have to think that becomes even more likely with the Pac-12 partnership.