Smith Talks Scheduling, Notre Dame

Ohio State hasn't ever shied away from marquee nonconference matchups on the gridiron and the team's future schedules show that as well. Are there more big games on the horizon? BSB talks to Gene Smith to find out more.

Think it would be cool if Ohio State restarted its football series with Notre Dame?

You’re not alone.

“Definitely, I would love to have that opportunity down the road,” said Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith, an alumnus of the Fighting Irish football program.

Though he said no such announcement is imminent, Smith – who played on Notre Dame’s unbeaten 1973 team – seems in favor of rekindling a rivalry that has been part of its fair share of history.

The rivalry began in 1935 with the first “Game of the Century” as Notre Dame’s Bill Shakespeare – “The Bard of South Bend” – threw the winning TD pass in the final minute to complete a frantic 18-13 comeback win.

Notre Dame completed the sweep a year later with a 7-2 win in South Bend, and the teams didn’t play for six decades until they appeared back on the schedule in 1995 and ’95.

OSU famously won both, as the ’95 game had its fair share of notable pictures and big plays as the Buckeyes pulled away for a 45-26 win. A year later, the result was the same in South Bend, as the Buckeyes took an early lead and held on for a 29-16 victory.

The tiebreaker came in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, as Ohio State used an explosive offense – 617 yards worth, in fact – and a strong defense to post a 34-20 victory.

When could such a game occur, though? That remains to be seen, as Ohio State’s slates through 2016 are full. Though the Buckeyes – and all Big Ten schools – are stepping up scheduling, 2017 – which has one slot open – seems unlikely as OSU already has five road games scheduled (meaning a home game is a necessity) and hosts Oklahoma.

The 2018 slate also has an opening, though that would again have to be a home game with a trip to TCU already on the docket. In 2019, OSU hosts Cincinnati and TCU but has five Big Ten road games, meaning a home contest would again be a necessity.

After that, OSU has Oregon set for 2020 and ’21, while a home-and-home with Texas follows. Boston College was also on the docket for 2020 and ’21, though a leaked Big Ten document showed that series could be pushed back to 2023-24.

In other words, some major powers are already set on the Ohio State schedule for years to come, so finding a spot could be tough. And with the nine-game Big Ten schedule, OSU could only trip to Notre Dame in even years because the Buckeyes have five conference road games scheduled for odd seasons and the athletics department generally needs seven home games to pay the bills.

That is also a reason that Ohio State is yet to play in a major neutral-site game, something Michigan did in 2012 when it lost to Alabama in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium and Wisconsin is doing this year with its matchup against LSU in Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Though those games pay out well – Wisconsin will receive $2 million for this year’s trip and $5 million to play Alabama next year in Dallas, while Michigan got close to that to take on the Tide two years ago – the money still doesn’t stand up to a home game in which OSU can clear $6 million.

Head coach Urban Meyer said the Buckeyes have been in talks to schedule one of those neutral-site games, something Smith confirmed. In fact, Smith said Ohio State is approached each year by those putting on the neutral-site games, but the fit has not been right to this point in order to entice Ohio State out of its seven-home game mandate.

“It always depends because it’s such a difficult thing to do, trying to maintain the seven-home game schedule, so when you do that, you have to make sure you those six games have to be pretty doggone decent,” Smith said. “We’re looking at another deal out there where we might sacrifice the seven-game schedule. It just depends, but it’s not imminent.”

Smith said he stays in touch with Meyer regarding the games but added that he’s “not hung up on making it happen.”

“Different years we get different calls, but I’m not like driving hard to make it happen,” he said.