- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon didn't do the chicken dance when asked about Notre Dame's decision to stop the annual series with the Wolverines after 2014.
"I'm not sure I would have used the word chicken," Brandon told ESPN.com, referring to Michigan coach Brady Hoke's comments Monday about Notre Dame "chickening out" of the series. "That's kind of how football coaches would think about it, and that's OK. Brady's a pretty straightforward guy. I would just say Notre Dame had choices to make, and they chose to back away from a rivalry game we've had on our schedule for a long time."
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick informed Brandon in September that Notre Dame would exercise a three-year out clause in the schools' contract, meaning the teams would stop playing annually after the 2014 game in South Bend, Ind. Michigan and Notre Dame had extended their contract through the 2031 meeting but on a three-year rolling basis, which gave one side a chance to back out.
Notre Dame's agreement with the ACC, which will include five games per season, prompted the move. Michigan has games with Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, BYU and others scheduled for future seasons.
Although many would like to see Michigan and Notre Dame resume their series, Brandon says don't hold your breath.
"It's going to be a long time," Brandon said. "We've both been busily scheduling out into years into the future. And as I understood it from my counterpart at Notre Dame, they're making plans to go in a different direction. So the earliest we could schedule would be sometime post-2021, 2022, and when you start talking that far out, who knows. So it's going to be a while.
"The night game we have at Michigan Stadium this September, and then our last trip down to South Bend next year are going to be really exciting because it's going to be the end of the rivalry, at least for a considerable period of time."
Brandon used the word "disappointed" several times in discussing the end of the series, but Michigan is moving forward with a schedule model he hopes will position the Wolverines for the College Football Playoff. Although Brandon doesn't sound like he'll add another neutral-site game in the immediate future -- Michigan and Alabama opened the 2012 season in Arlington, Texas -- he recognizes the need to upgrade the schedule.
"We have a lot of work to do to regain our footing in terms of playing competition that's going to be attractive to our fans, help us build our programs and help us compete at the national level," Brandon said. "I'm a big believer that we should be strengthening our schedule and working hard to go out and fill those nonconference positions with the kinds of programs that are going to excite our fans, bring a lot of attention to us as we are broadcast on television and ultimately put in a position where we're going to have better football programs."
Brandon is trying to "take a negative and turn it into a positive" regarding Notre Dame and spread Michigan's wings more with new non-league opponents.
"At Michigan," Brandon said, "we want to compete for one of those four spots at the end of the season."
4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information