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Northwestern and Notre Dame set for 2014, 2018

Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern

Add another Big Ten opponent to the future Irish slate.

After a nearly 20 year lay-off, Northwestern will return to Notre Dame Stadium, set to play the Irish on November 15, 2014, their first trip to South Bend since head coach Pat Fitzgerald led the Wildcats in a 17-15 upset of the Irish, helping punch Northwestern’s ticket to the 1996 Rose Bowl.The Irish will take a return trip to Evanston in 2018.

“This is really an exciting time for Chicago’s Big Ten team as we continue to upgrade our future nonconference schedule,” Northwestern AD Jim Phillips said. “We’re excited about this series and having Notre Dame make its first visit to Evanston since 1976. Northwestern and Notre Dame represent two of the finest academic institutions in the nation, and it’s only fitting that we renew our rivalry on the football field.”

For those looking into the future, the 2014 schedule has the Irish playing traditional rivals Navy, Purdue, Michigan, Pitt, and USC, and adds a date against Syracuse in the Meadowlands, UConn at home, an away game at Arizona State, and a still-to-be-determined date with BYU. There’s one opening left in the schedule.

If you’re looking for reasons this deal got done, consider that Phillips, now heading Northwestern’s athletic department, was a chief lieutenant in the Notre Dame athletic department from 2000-2004. Also consider that head coaches Brian Kelly and Pat Fitzgerald are friendly and both involved in coaching association endeavors, and Kelly also participates in the annual Randy Walker golf tournament, in honor of the late Northwestern head coach.

A huge aspect of the 2014 date is getting a Big Ten team to play a non-conference away game in November. If you’re looking for precedence, you’ll have to go back to 2004, when the Wildcats spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii, a little bit different than an away game in South Bend. It’s a victory for athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and you might call it a thumbing of the nose to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who many worried would stop playing nice with the Irish after they repeatedly turned down Big Ten expansion requests.

The Irish’s return trip to Evanston is slated for a still-to-be-determined date in 2018, a rare game Notre Dame will play in a stadium will less than 50,000 seats, leading many to suspect that a shift to Soldier Field is in the cards, or another preferred late-season date is on the table.