On Thursday, I spoke to former Notre Dame star and current Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, about the final game between Michigan and Notre Dame, which will take place on Saturday night.
Although, there are some fans who could care less about the rivalry which will be coming to and end after 120 years of history. Tate made it very clear that he didn’t feel the way, stating that he “strongly disagrees with them getting rid of this game,” because “for the longest time, Notre Dame-Michigan has been a staple of college football” and that he wished that “they would reconsider.”
Well on Friday, I spoke to current Lion rookie wideout TJ Jones, who also happens to be a former Notre Dame standout. While he didn’t disagree with Tate’s statements, he did express that while he will miss the great rivalry game between Michigan and Notre Dame, he believes that this is part of the new change that head coach Brian Kelly is developing at Notre Dame.
[Michigan vs Notre Dame] was always a fight to end.” said Jones. “It was a close game, it was always a nail bitter. You could expect that tempers were going to be flared both on the field and in the stands. It was just one of those games that you look forward to every year and [it was] something that wasn’t to be taken lightly regardless of our record at the time or who loss to who the year before.”
“[However], I think [moving on from the Michigan vs Notre Dame game] is just part of the change that coach [Brian] Kelly is developing at Notre Dame. I understand it’s a big historic rivalry and that it is always a great game every year but I feel it’s kind of added to the list of things changing at Notre Dame. So I think a lot of people are just excepting it. You know, their bringing in the new and kind of letting go of the old.”
While there will be some people who disagree with Jones’ opinion on the matter of the rivalry between Michigan and Notre Dame. I must admit that Jones’ comments do coincide with what coach Kelly has done and said.
I know Notre Dame’s new affiliation with the ACC requires them to play five ACC games each season which does limit their flexibility for other match-ups like against Michigan. However, their new affiliation with the ACC, also allows them to start some new rivalries and to face different types of teams.
“Given the complexities of our schedule, in not being able to play Michigan, it opens up so many more exciting opportunities for us.” Kelly said. “The Texas opportunity (and the chance to play Georgia). So, look, we understand the great tradition and the rivalry of the Michigan game, and if it could have worked, it would have worked, but it does open up some pretty exciting games in the future.
Again, none of this is to say that fans won’t miss the rivalry, because as you can see above, both Jones and Tate, who had great careers at Notre Dame, will certainly miss the rivalry between these two teams. However, as a wise man once said, “progress is impossible without change.” Although many of us don’t like the change right now, we will forever remember the impact of this rivalry, as we look to the new rivalries that both teams will create in the future.
Keep in mind that we could one day see these two teams come back and re-forge this rivalry once again. It just won’t be right now, which is why head coach Brady Hoke has spoken about the significance of this final game between these two respected rivals.
“It’s always been a great football game. Always.” coach Hoke said last week. “Bo (Schembechler) would say, it kind of lets you know where the team was early in the season because of the similarities of the athletes on the field. I just think for college football, it’s a great rivalry. The significance of being the last one down there, yeah, there’s significance to it.”
Even though, head coach Brian Kelly has said in the past that he really didn’t consider the Michigan-Notre Dame game to be a true Fighting Irish rivalry and that he looks forwards to new rivalries Notre Dame will create moving forward. He too has recently spoken about the significance of this game, even stating that he sees this game as a last opportunity for his team to face Michigan.
“I don’t think I would use that as motivation (for our team) as much as this is a great opportunity,” coach Kelly said earlier this week. “You may not see a Michigan game for a while and relish the opportunity, you know? Live in the moment and enjoy this opportunity to play a great program.”
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.