By Brad Thompson–
EVANSTON, IL (WSCR) – On Thursday, Notre Dame and Northwestern announced that they would renew their gridiron battles that date back to 1889. This decision makes sense for both schools and should excite their strong fan bases in Chicago.
Northwestern will travel to South Bend on November 15, 2014, and the Fighting Irish will visit Ryan Field in 2018. It’s hard to say they are renewing a rivalry, because their meetings have been decidedly one-sided. The schools have faced each other on the football field 47 times, the last time in 1995, which was one of the few Wildcat victories. Notre Dame owns the series with a 37-8-2 record.
This decision should pay off for both schools, but more so for Northwestern. It makes sense on and off the field for the Wildcats. As Northwestern continues to improve its football program under Coach Pat Fitzgerald, playing televised games against Notre Dame puts them in front of a national audience. The nationwide exposure can only help the Wildcats from a recruiting and marketing standpoint.
Plus, assuming that the Irish are at least as good as they are now and potentially better by the time the matchups roll around, it will strengthen Northwestern’s non-conference schedule. The Wildcats haven’t had the most impressive non-conference schedule lately (Vanderbilt in 2010, Syracuse in 2008, 2009 and Arizona State in 2004, 2005 are as marquee as it gets for Northwestern), so adding Notre Dame upgrades their schedule. As is stands right now the Wildcats 2014 non-conference opponents include California, Vanderbilt, Western Illinois and Notre Dame, which is easily their toughest non-conference schedule in the last decade.
The upside for the Irish is the opportunity to bolster their publicity and exposure in the Chicago market. Notre Dame’s loyal fan base is enormous in Chicago and this just adds another opportunity for Irish fans to support their team and attend a game. Although Notre Dame already heavily recruits the entire Chicago area, the media attention and popularity of these games will only enhance their ability to lure top recruits from the Windy City to South Bend.
It’s hard to predict how the two games will play out in the years ahead, but considering the lack of a hometown college football team in Chicago, it only makes sense for these two universities to play each other. And if all goes well, maybe in the future we’ll see a neutral site matchup, similar to the Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field, between Notre Dame and Northwestern at Soldier Field, without the end zone debacle of course.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.