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Notre Dame - Stanford series might end in 2011

The Notre Dame-Stanford series may be coming to an end, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Irish are scheduled to play the Cardinal through the 2011 season, but have yet to reach on agreement on an extension.

Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby cited the Irish’s insistence on playing no more than four road games in a season as the main factor for discussions to break down.

“We don’t have them scheduled past 2011,” Bowlsby said. “We’d like to continue playing them, and Jack Swarbrick, their athletic director, who is a Stanford (law) grad, would like to continue it, too.”

Bowlsby’s comments signal a rather hard-line taken by Swarbrick on scheduling commitments in the future for the Irish. Former athletic director Kevin White came under the ire of the Notre Dame faithful for his 7-4-1 design construct, creating a concept where the Irish played seven games in Notre Dame Stadium, four away games, and a neutral site game that would be considered an Irish home game. With annual home-and-home commitments with USC, Michigan, Michigan State, and the service academies, the Irish dance card is filling up, and the ability to draw top flight opponents to South Bend is limited without a guaranteed return trip.

Swarbrick himself acknowledged that the scheduling model makes things more difficult for the Irish when looking for future opponents.

“The 7-4-1 model makes scheduling much more complex. We don’t make any scheduling decisions that are designed to try to produce more winnable games,” Swarbrick said this preseason. “But everyone has to understand the price you pay for having more home-game experiences, more things people go to and enjoy, is a limitation on who you can get.”

Realistically, Stanford needs Notre Dame far more than the Irish need them. Notre Dame has been one of the better draws for the Cardinal, and Bowlsby is most likely playing hardball to make sure that Stanford doesn’t give up a home game in the series.

The willingness to cut Stanford loose in 2011 also could signal the renewal or creation of other rivalries. Many have assumed that Wisconsin and Minnesota are natural fits for a non-conference matchup, with athletic directors Barry Alvarez and Joel Maturi each having strong ties to Notre Dame. Others have talked about perennial powers like Texas and Alabama being interested in home-and-home series with Notre Dame.