Notre Dame is opting out of its series with Michigan, meaning the last scheduled game between college football's winningest programs will take place in 2014.
A letter from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon cancelling games in 2015-17 was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Brandon told the AP he was handed the letter on the field in South Bend, Ind., about an hour before Saturday night's game.
"I put the letter in my pocket and didn't bother to read it right away because I was focused on the game we were about to play," Brandon said. "I read it on the way home Sunday morning."
The Fighting Irish recently decided to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in every sport except football, though the football team will play five games a year against league opponents.
"While this move is a necessary precaution as we begin the process of meeting our new scheduling commitment to the ACC," Swarbrick wrote in his letter to Brandon, "please know that Notre Dame very much values its relationship with Michigan and we look forward to working with you to ensure that our great football rivalry can continue."
Brandon said he hopes to work with Swarbrick on another contract to extend the series.
"The ball is in their court because they've triggered the three-game notice," he said. "We'll play them next year at Michigan Stadium for the last time in a while it appears and we'll make our last scheduled trip to South Bend in 2014. There will likely be nothing on the board for five years after that. Beyond that, I don't know what will happen."The Irish beat the Wolverines 13-6 over the weekend in the latest game of a storied series that dates to 1887. They've played every year since 2002 and regularly since 1978 after not meeting from 1944-77 or 1910-41. Michigan and Notre Dame were scheduled to take a hiatus during the 2018-19 seasons.
Swarbrick's letter is dated a day before the schools met on the field and cites last year's contract.
"Because I am providing you with this notice prior to the commencement of this year's football game on September, 22, 2012," Swarbrick wrote, "there is no liability to Notre Dame for cancelling those games."
No. 10 Notre Dame (4-0) is in the top 10 for the first time since 2006. Michigan (2-2) started the season No. 8 and has dropped out of the poll after losses to No. 1 Alabama and then the Irish. Both teams have a bye this week.
The Wolverines have an NCAA-best .735 winning percentage in football and the Irish (.732) are second. Michigan leads all-time series 23-16-1.
"Michigan has always enjoyed and respected our national rivalry with Notre Dame," Brandon said. "We understand there have been periods of times that we've had a hiatus to take a couple years off to play other teams and that was something we expected along the way.
"It's unfortunate that it would appear we're going to go a substantial amount of time between games. But that is a decision Notre Dame has made. Our job is to find opponents that are exciting for our student-athletes as well as our fans to replace Notre Dame."
Michigan and Utah have agreed to a home-and-home series, with the Wolverines hosting a game in 2014, and the Utes hosting a game in 2015.
LSU, TCU to open 2013 season
LSU will face TCU to open the 2013 season at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
LSU will be making its second appearance in the Cowboys Classic. The Tigers opened last season in Arlington, Texas, by beating Oregon. TCU, from nearby Fort Worth, will be making its first appearance in the 5-year-old marquee season kickoff game.
The game will be played Saturday, Aug. 31, and be televised by ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
The Horned Frogs from the Big 12 and the Tigers from the Southeastern Conference have played eight times, but not since 1968. LSU leads the series 5-2-1.
This season, Alabama and Michigan played the season opener at Cowboys Stadium. Alabama won 41-14.
Ball's status uncertain
Already off to an unsettled start to the season, Wisconsin now must prepare for a trip to Nebraska with running back Montee Ball's status up in the air.
Ball left Saturday's game against UTEP with a head injury, and coach Bret Bielema said Monday he was optimistic but not certain that Ball will be able to practice this week as the Badgers (3-1) prepare for their Big Ten opener against the 22nd-ranked Cornhuskers (3-1). Bielema said he was "not overly concerned" that Ball would have to sit out this week, even though it's the star running back's second head injury in less than two months.
"Montee will get evaluated, has the possibility of practicing on Tuesday," Bielema said. "We'll see where that goes."
Prognosis improves for Cowboys' Lunt
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy believes injured quarterback Wes Lunt could return to practice by the end of this week, although he is still uncertain whether he'll be able to play Saturday night against No. 12 Texas. Gundy said Monday that he'd be surprised if Lunt is on the field when the Cowboys (2-1) resume practice Tuesday. Lunt was hurt against Louisiana-Lafayette, and his left leg was immobilized last week in a cast. Feedback from the team's medical staff of late has been promising.