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Notre Dame

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Analysis

Notre Dame’s future has trip to Fenway, fewer Big Ten foes

– Notre Dame unveiled its football schedules for the 2014, ’15 and ’16 seasons Friday.

The Irish’s future is highlighted by a historic trip to Fenway Park, the beginning of Atlantic Coast Conference opponents filling a large portion of the schedule, a year without a Big Ten foe and the retention of some rivalries.

Here are five things that stood out from the schedules and what athletic director Jack Swarbrick addressed during his news conference:

Shipping out to Boston

The Irish will play the first football game in the Boston Red Sox’s home since 1968 when they play Boston College on Nov. 21, 2015. The game will be part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series, which takes one home game to an off-site venue each year.

“When we’re not here, the most special place in the world to play football, we want to take our student-athletes to other special places,” Swarbrick said. “… taking the Shamrock Series game not merely to Boston but to Fenway Park and being the first school to play a football game there in 45 years. We want to take our young people to special places.”

Notre Dame’s other Shamrock Series games in the next three years are against Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 13, 2014, and Army at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Nov. 12, 2016.

Big Ten blackout

Notre Dame will not play a Big Ten team in 2015, the first time it will not compete against the conference since 1914. The Irish’s series against Michigan will end for the foreseeable future with a home night game Sept. 6, 2014, and Notre Dame takes a five-year break from playing Purdue after next season with the series restarting in 2020. The Irish will have a Big Ten opponent back on the schedule in 2016 when their series against Michigan State resumes after a two-year break with a home game Sept. 17.

“Their flexibility was limited by the nine-game schedule. But so, too, was our challenge of meeting these goals of trying to figure out how we would get all this done,” Swarbrick said of not playing a Big Ten team in 2015.

Rivalries in place

Swarbrick listed keeping rivalries in place as one of his goals when assembling the schedules, and he put teams in two categories – teams the Irish want to play annually and teams to play occasionally. Notre Dame kept rivals USC, Stanford and Navy on the schedule for every season through 2022, while having to move other rivals such as Purdue and Michigan State to occasional opponents.

“For the ones that couldn’t make that list, valuable rivals to be sure, schools we have enormous respect for and enjoy playing, our goal was to figure out ways to play them occasionally,” Swarbrick said. “As you see in the schedule, that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to figure out how to make that happen.”

Games of interest

Notre Dame’s first true road game in 2014 will be against Florida State on Oct. 18, setting up a matchup against Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jamies Winston and possibly the defending national champion. The Irish begin a two-game series against Texas with the 2015 season-opener Sept. 5 at home and kick off the 2016 season on Sept. 3 in Austin.

The Irish, who are committed to play five ACC foes a year as part of their deal to join the conference in all sports except football and hockey, will play only four opponents from the league next year and six in 2015. Wake Forest agreed to move its game from 2014 to 201,5 and the BC game is part of the Shamrock Series to fit the extra ACC game into the 2015 schedule. The deal with the ACC also sends the Irish to Miami on Oct. 29, 2016, as that rivalry is renewed.

Stadium plans

Swarbrick also addressed where the university is in regard to renovations of Notre Dame Stadium, a project that was first being looked at in May. Swarbrick said the earliest renovations could start would likely be after next season, and the school is addressing video boards in the stadium. He also said a decision between keeping natural grass or switching to an artificial playing surface will be resolved by January or February.

tkrausz@jg.net

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