- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule has all kinds of ramifications. One that must be figured out quickly, at both Michigan State and Purdue, is how it will affect those schools' annual rivalry with Notre Dame.
Both the Spartans and the Boilermakers really want to keep playing the Irish every year (remember, Notre Dame and Michigan will officially change their relationship status to "on a break" after this season). But there are some issues to resolve.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told the Detroit Free Press that he's been in talks with Notre Dame counterpart Jack Swarbrick the past couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Purdue AD Morgan Burke told the Lafayette Journal and Courier that he plans to meet with Swarbrick soon to discuss the future of that series.
Both the Spartans and Boilermakers need seven home games each year to make their budget. When the nine-league game schedule begins in 2016, teams in the East -- that includes Michigan State -- will play five conference home games. Teams in the West -- which includes Purdue -- will play four that year and five in 2017.
Purdue is scheduled to go to Notre Dame in 2016 and other even years when it has five Big Ten road games. That means Purdue could only play six home games in those years.
"I cannot balance the budget on six home games. Can’t do it. It doesn’t work," Burke told the Journal and Courier. "That’s the cold-hearted realities of the business we run. Our business model is built on seven home games. Everybody’s. Notre Dame’s too."
Michigan State is scheduled to host Notre Dame in 2016 and go to South Bend in 2017. So can't the Spartans and Boilermakers just flip? That would seem to make sense, if all parties are on board and can work it out. But Michigan State already has a road trip at Alabama on the schedule in 2016, and playing both the Irish and Crimson Tide on the road in the same season can't sound too appealing to Mark Dantonio. Notre Dame has its own obligations, including its new five-games-per-year deal with the ACC.
Michigan State and Notre Dame are scheduled to meet through 2032 in installments of four straight games followed by two-year breaks. The 2016 game is the first of a new four consecutive game streak. The two could switch up years if 2016 can't be worked out, but Hollis is confident the teams will keep playing.
"You’ll see a high degree of cooperation," Hollis said. "We’re both interested in keeping this series intact."
Purdue, meanwhile, has played Notre Dame every year since 1946 and has a contract to do so through 2021. The Boilers put a ton of value on their annual game against the Irish.
"I don’t think either one of us is eager to lose the rivalry," Burke said. "If it turns out we have to have a short break, we’ll have a short break in order to get on the right rotation. I don’t think we’re in a situation where Notre Dame and Purdue will never play. The issue is whether we can come up with a rotation that works for both sides."
And it's just one major ramification from the new Big Ten nine-game conference schedule.
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information