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Kelly downplays Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly isn’t losing any sleep over the rivalry between the Irish and Michigan coming to an end in two years.

The No. 14 Irish’s trip to play the No. 17 Wolverines will be the last in a while as the series will be stopped for the foreseeable future after the teams play in 2014 in Notre Dame Stadium.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said of the series with Michigan during his Sunday teleconference.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick exercised a three-year out clause in the series contract last season in order to provide flexibility to Notre Dame’s schedule as it agreed to start playing five Atlantic Coast Conference teams every season starting in 2014. That football obligation was part of Notre Dame’s deal to join the ACC in all sports except football and hockey.

The series between Notre Dame and Michigan has had lengthy layoffs before.

Notre Dame first played Michigan in 1887, and the programs played eight more times until the Irish got their first win in the series in 1909. But the teams didn’t play again until 1942, and the series took another long break after a 1943 meeting.

Notre Dame and Michigan renewed the series in 1978, but the teams have taken three two-year breaks since with the last stoppage coming in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The Irish and Wolverines have met every year since 2002.

And while there may be some hurt feelings now, Kelly said if the series is picked back up again in the future, it will return to being one of the most passionate rivalries in college football.

“I would think that the geographical proximity and certainly from a recruiting standpoint in the Midwest, Notre Dame and Michigan are recruiting kids that are very good students, and certainly, there are a lot of similarities,” Kelly said. “I don’t think any time off will affect the great rivalry that these two teams have shared over the years.”