Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Notre Dame and Michigan have a long and storied history, but the 2010 game will only be the 38th time the two universities have faced each other on the football field over the past 123 years.  Their relationship in football began in 1887 when former Notre Dame student George De Haven scheduled to bring his University of Michigan teammates on a tour of football clubs in the Midwest.  Notre Dame rounded up its best players from the Senior Department to form the first varsity football team.  Notre Dame’s first three varsity games were against Michigan (one in the fall of 1887, two in April 1888).  Below is the published account from Scholastic of the first game played on November 23, 1887.

Scholastic 1887 article regarding first varsity football gameThe rivalry heated up in 1909 when Notre Dame went into Ann Arbor with a then 0-8 series record.  The Notre Dame victory came as a shock to Michigan fans and would later be the focal point in the debate over which team was the true Champion of the West.  Notre Dame went undefeated except for a tie to Marquette and Michigan only lost to Notre Dame.   Sports writers around the country debated for months with no clear resolution.  The yearbooks from both schools claimed bragging rights to the championship that year.

Mike (possibly owned by ND Coach Frank Longman) after the 1909 game

The scheduled 1910 game was canceled at the last minute when Michigan officials declared several Notre Dame players ineligible to play.   Animosity grew between the two universities and between Notre Dame and the Western Conference.  Notre Dame and Michigan wouldn’t meet on the gridiron again until 1942.  That series lasted only two years and the rivalry was picked up again in 1978.  In 1980, nearly a hundred years after their first meeting, Notre Dame finally got a win at home over Michigan with Harry Oliver’s last second, game-winning field goal.  Michigan and Notre Dame respectively rank first and second for the highest winning percentages in college football, further fueling the rivalry and making for a great Saturday match-up.

Sources: Scholastic 1887-1888 and 1909-1910
Natural Enemies by John Kryk
2010 Football Media Guide
compiled by the Athletic Department (History & Records – Part 3)
William Schmitt Scrapbook (GATH 24-25)
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for more information about conducting sports research at the University Archives.

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