Sports Talk

Three-game series set with Louisville

As the ACC scheduling pact begins next season, news of new conference opponents starts trickling out. One team that’s set to start playing the Irish is Louisville, who will visit South Bend next season. While Notre Dame rarely comments on their upcoming schedules until they are set, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich confirmed the three games, while also letting an interesting tidbit out of the bag.

The Cardinals are new members of the reconstituted ACC, and they’ll travel to South Bend next season before welcoming Notre Dame to Louisville in 2017 with a return trip to Notre Dame booked for 2020. (If you’re wondering why there’s going to be a significant gap in rebooting the Notre Dame-Michigan series, Jack Swarbrick is juggling puzzle pieces well into the next decade.)

The official match-up between is set for every three years on a rotating home and home basis. That the Irish and Cardinal play each other now isn’t for a lack of effort on Louisville’s behalf, with the Courier Journal reporting that Jurich has been trying to get the Irish on their schedule since Kevin White was in charge of Irish athletics. You’ll never guess who got in the way of that match-up, at least according to Jurich:

A game against the Irish has been years in the making, dating to former coach Bobby Petrino’s time at U of L.

“It wasn’t lack of effort,” Jurich said. “We’ve been begging Notre Dame to play for many, many years in the past.”

Jurich brokered a deal with then-Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White — someone he calls a “good friend” who’s now working in the same position Duke — and the two sides agreed to play a three-game series: once in South Bend, once in Louisville and again at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from 2007-2009.

It was all in place, except for final approval.

“It had to be passed by their coach, and their coach vetoed it,” Jurich said. “It was in his contract he was able to do that. It was Charlie Weis. That’s understandable. The coaches want to play the teams they pick and choose. We were on a great high at that time.”

Would Weis have had the juice to dictate scheduling? Maybe. If the negotiations were to set games for the 2007-09 seasons, the then Irish head coach would’ve been in the honeymoon period of his tenure in South Bend, fresh off back-to-back BCS seasons and at the beginning of a 10-year contract extension. Playing Bobby Petrino and a program on the ascent might have been a tough go for the Irish.

That could certainly be the case next year with Charlie Strong building his program into another BCS contender. Though it might hinge on Teddy Bridgewater’s decision to return for his senior season.