Notre Dame’s Game Versus Western Michigan Wiped Out As MAC Cancels Season
Notre Dame took what was available and easiest in setting up its one non-conference game.
It turned out to be move with complications after all — and resulted in the Irish needing another opponent three days after announcing what was supposed to be the final version of their 2020 schedule.
Western Michigan will not play Notre Dame in South Bend as scheduled on Sept. 19 due to the Mid-American Conference canceling its fall football season, according to a report from Stadium’s Brett McMurphy. The move was made “due to player health and safety concerns regarding COVID-19.”
The MAC is the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to cancel its fall season. Independent Connecticut said earlier in August it would not play in 2020. Several Football Championship Subdivision conferences have canceled seasons or moved them to the spring.
Notre Dame’s schedule now has openings Sept. 19, Oct. 3 and Nov. 21 for possible non-conference games, though it’s worth noting the November date is during finals week.
Per the ACC’s stipulation, non-conference games must be played in the ACC team’s home state. That requirement was one of the primary factors in Notre Dame and Navy not reaching an agreement to play this season in what would have been their 94th straight meeting. The game was scheduled to be played in Annapolis, Md., after moving from Dublin.
“We talked about all kinds of possibilities, but it became obvious there was no gray area,” Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk Jr. told The Annapolis Capital Gazette Friday. “I spoke with Jack [Swarbrick] this week and learned there would be no exceptions. I had to face the reality there was no flexibility in the way Notre Dame had to operate.
“We both agreed that three in a row in South Bend didn’t make sense.”
In turn, Notre Dame announced it was keeping the originally scheduled game against Western Michigan. It was already set and planned. It was at home. By playing it, Notre Dame wouldn’t need to worry about a contract dispute regarding the $1.175 million it agreed to pay the Broncos for the game.
Now, with the MAC making the move to cancel the game, Notre Dame does not need to pay the guarantee. A section of the game contract states the party that cancels the game must pay “$1,100,000 if notice of cancelation is received one year or less from the scheduled date.” The contract does not contain an out specifically due to pandemic. It also does not specify if the MAC canceling the game — rather than Western Michigan — still requires cancelation payment.
The cancellation policy said neither party would be in violation if the game is cancelled due to “an act of God, national emergency, natural disaster, war, terrorism, civil unrest or court order … or any other cause beyond the control of either party.” It’s not known if a pandemic or conference decision to cancel a season falls into one of those.
McMurphy’s report noted the strenuous financial impact of the Big Ten, ACC and SEC’s conference-only decisions on the MAC. “The MAC had 11 games canceled against Big Ten members, costing MAC schools a combined $10.5 million. Bowling Green State lost $2.2 million, Central Michigan lost $2.15 million, Kent State lost $1.5 million and NIU lost $1.1 million.”
Two other ACC teams lost their non-conference game as a result of the MAC’s move. Pitt will no longer play Miami (Ohio) and Boston College will not host Ohio.
Western Michigan was actually set to survive the Power Five conference-only wave without losing any guaranteed money. Notre Dame was its only guarantee game in 2020. Scheduled games against Syracuse and Cincinnati were part of home-and-home series. Its fourth non-conference game was a home date versus Stony Brook of the FCS.
MAC university presidents began meeting Thursday to discuss their season, and per McMurphy, the intent was to finalize their schedule plan. Northern Illinois President Lisa Freeman, though, indicated her institution would not play.
“The league didn’t like the look of NIU going out on their own and not playing,” an unnamed source told McMurphy.
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