Most Michigan fans remember Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis’s comments on Michigan in April:
“Then we’ll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come running in, saying how they have a new coaching staff and there’s changes. … The hell with Michigan,” he said.
The comments, made at an alumni function, only became public because an observer took video of Weis’s speech and posted it on YouTube. Weis said this week that his remarks were meant as a compliment to legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who famously said “to hell with Notre Dame.”
But Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez took a shot at the Fighting Irish before that. And his words, which came in 2002 when he was West Virginia’s coach, were made to the media with the intent everyone would hear them.
The Mountaineers finished second in the Big East that year. Notre Dame is a member of the conference in most sports besides football. But as part of the partnership, the Irish can bump a conference school from a bowl under certain conditions. The Irish knocked the Mountaineers from the Gator Bowl to the Continental Tire Bowl that season. West Virginia still received the same payout had they played in the Gator Bowl, but that wasn’t enough to please Rodriguez.
“I don’t know if ‘slighted’ is the right term,” Rodriguez said at the time. “I do wonder sometimes what Notre Dame’s affiliation is with our league. I’m just a football coach, and our players are just players. … But I don’t understand why Notre Dame gets the best of both worlds.
“In my opinion, Notre Dame needs to get in or get out.”
Notre Dame doesn’t seem to be using Rodriguez’s words as motivation, but the Wolverines are certainly keying in on Weis’s.
Shortly after Weis made his comments, Michigan’s student trainers put them up all over the Wolverines locker room. Fifth-year senior defensive end Tim Jamsion hasn’t seen the video, but he was reminded about what Weis said besides when he looked around his locker room.
“Barwis was mad,” Tim Jamison said of Mike Barwis, the Wolverine’s director of strength and conditioning.
To at least one Michigan player, Weis’s tone wasn’t too surprising.
“When Coach Weis used to recruit me, he kind of had an arrogance about him,” junior free safety Stevie Brown said. “I figured it’s just him being him.”
For the record, the only time Rodriguez coached against Notre Dame was in 2001, his first year with the Mountaineers. Notre Dame entered the game 1-3 and beat West Virginia 34-24.
Rodriguez has also gone against first-year Irish assistant defensive head coach and linebackers coach Jon Tenuta once. Tenuta, known for his aggressive zone blitzes, was the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech for the 2007 Gator Bowl, which the Mountaineers won 38-35.
When the two teams square off Saturday afternoon at 3:30 on NBC, Michigan will attempt to become the first team in the rivalry to win three straight games since Notre Dame won four in a row between 1987 and 1990. The Wolverines lead the all-time series 20-14-1, including a 38-0 win last year and a 47-21 win the year before in South Bend.
Rodriguez irked a few Wolverine fans when he called Michigan-Ohio State “one of the greatest rivalries in college football” at his introductory press conference in December. But the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry is one he has a better grasp of. Rodriguez was asked Monday whether rooted for the Irish growing up, given their prominence on national television.
“No,” Rodriguez said with a disgusted look. “No.”