- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
The rivalry between Michigan and Notre Dame will cease to exist after the 2014 season as Notre Dame has decided to end its longstanding tradition of playing the Wolverines. It's a decision that will not only affect the current players, but recruits as well, as the game goes beyond the field.
It resonates on the recruiting trail as both programs often target similar prospects. The schools have played each other for 40 years, and the game has always been a major recruiting event for the home team.
Michigan's first-ever night game at home was against Notre Dame in the 2011 season. The atmosphere was electric and visiting recruits said after the game it was like nothing they had ever seen.
That game was so exciting for prospects on hand, Michigan received a commitment on the spot from 2013 safety Dymonte Thomas (Alliance, Ohio/Marlington). After the commitment the only adjective Thomas could use to describe the game was, "Crazy."
A few of Michigan's current commitments were considering Notre Dame during their recruitment and were looking forward to that game during their careers in Ann Arbor.
"It was one of the better rivalries in history. I just want to at least be a part of it before it's discontinued," Michigan commit Taco Charlton (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central) said. "I was going to be able to play against my boy [2011 Notre Dame commit] Eilar Hardy from my school, so next year will probably be my only chance."
Another Michigan commitment who had thought highly of Notre Dame is 2014 linebacker commit Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville). Before Ferns made his commitment to Michigan the Notre Dame coaching staff was trying to get him on campus for the game against Michigan this season since it's such a huge event.
Ferns made his commitment to Michigan, so he wasn't at the game, but he was still excited to watch at home cheering for the Wolverines.
"I'll admit that it was a game I was really looking forward to. I have friends that are fans of both teams," he said. "I ended up having a few people over this time to watch the game. I'll only get to experience it once so I'll make the best of it."
From a recruit's perspective this was an important game. The fact it was always a much-watched event makes it very hard to replicate this type of experience.
"It's pretty hard to replace the idea of playing Notre Dame every year. Between tradition and being an independent school, there really isn't a replacement for the game," Ferns said. "I feel that Michigan does need to create a new kind of rivalry out of the open spot. I'd like to see them take on Alabama each year, because it would be sort of a statement game every year."