Saturday, November 28, 2020

MSU and Notre Dame: a quiet rivalry, faded but not lost on fans

September 14, 2016
<p>Head coach Mark Dantonio, left, and linebackers/special teams coach Mike Tressel shout during the game against Notre Dame Sept. 21, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans 17-13. Julia Nagy/The State News</p>

Head coach Mark Dantonio, left, and linebackers/special teams coach Mike Tressel shout during the game against Notre Dame Sept. 21, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans 17-13. Julia Nagy/The State News

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

But for MSU and Notre Dame, their rivalry has been a quiet rivalry founded on mutual respect, familiarity that comes with consistent schedulings and a plethora of meaningful — sometimes historic — games.

After meeting for the first time in 1897, MSU and Notre Dame would meet 14 more times between that first matchup and 1921. After a hiatus that lasted from 1922 until 1947, MSU renewed action with Notre Dame playing nearly every year from 1948 until 2013.

In 1949 the Detroit alumni clubs of both schools jointly presented the Megaphone Trophy to be awarded to the winner of the annual game. The trophy is divided down the middle by a thick red line bearing the years of the games in white, thus splitting each school’s side of the trophy.

MSU’s side is painted green with a white block “S” and Notre Dame’s side is blue with the “ND” logo added to it. At the inception of the trophy, the MSU side was white and scripted with the acronym “MSC” for Michigan State College.

But through the years the rivalry’s intensity has faded into the background. With conference expansions and conference deal-making driving the game toward a more national landscape, regional rivalries, as well as national rivalries, have fizzled.

The media coverage a well has shifted in favorability to fan bases with much larger followings and hyped up matchups between schools of that nature.

Another cause for the faded rivalry has been the lack of hate. Notre Dame does not simply conjure up the amount of hate as University of Michigan in the minds of many Spartan fans. MSU might not like Notre Dame, but it certainly does not despise the Irish on that level.

Further, MSU lost its standing as one of the powerhouses of the game following its last national title in 1966. After slugfests with Notre Dame in the 1950s and 1960s, the teams went separate directions in terms of prominence.

Many of the meaningful games played between the two schools happened long before the current generation or the current generation’s parents. The lack of hate as well has transcended those generational lines.

“I didn’t know until you just told me right now,” genetics freshman Hannah Grindling said after being told MSU and Notre Dame are considered rivals.

As for rivals Grindling says MSU currently has, she listed the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

Some MSU students too looked at Notre Dame as a rival, but almost reluctantly and without much passion.

“Yeah, I considered them a rival, they’re not in the Big Ten but they’re a reason we’re in the Big Ten, they fought for us to be in against U-M,” chemistry senior Kurt Hamel said. “They’ve always been good games.”

Hamel pointed to the 2005 game as an example of one of the good games. MSU beat the Irish 44-41 in overtime in South Bend and later celebrated the victory by planting an MSU flag into the Irish turf.

As for older generations, a resounding yes was answered when asked about a rivalry with the Irish.

“Notre Dame has alway been on the calendar, it’s a recent removal,” Richard Duffield, a 1999 MSU alumnus, said. “I’m glad to see it back on there, and it’s great when both are good but even when they weren’t it was still always a big game.”

Asked for possible reasons for a fading rivalry, he said perhaps it was MSU’s recent elite status that brought in more high-profile games against teams MSU didn’t compete with before.

“People are liking the Oregon matchups or they want maybe to put Ohio State there (as a rival),” Duffield said.

In a recent The State News Sports Twitter poll, which asked if MSU fans still consider Notre Dame a rival, 66 percent of responders voted yes while 34 percent voted no.

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