BYU lands Notre Dame
BYU has the chance to play the Irish six times by 2020.
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Everybody knew where BYU was going Wednesday.

Nobody had any idea, however, that the Cougars' future schedule as a football independent would include a six-game series with Notre Dame.

Games against the Fighting Irish are difficult to secure.

Because of the prestige, exposure and money involved, everybody from Alabama to Youngstown State wants to dance with Notre Dame.

For BYU, the chance to play the Irish six times by 2020 is doubly significant because the series also gives major credibility to the Cougars' gamble to leave the Mountain West Conference.

The new BYU-Notre Dame series was announced at a noon news conference called to announce the Cougars' attempt to fly as an independent.

The additional announcement regarding Notre Dame was a blockbuster, although it is unknown when the first game will be played.

Perhaps it will be in 2012, because the Fighting Irish currently have only 10 games scheduled.

More certain is that in an era of conference expansion and super leagues that stretch halfway across the country, the BYU-Notre Dame series signals an important alliance between two of the nation's four major-college independents.

Navy and Army are the other two, and Notre Dame has at least one of them already scheduled through 2016.

If BYU can consistently crash that party, athletic director Tom Holmoe's task of piecing together future schedules becomes less burdensome.

Attempts to contact Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick after the news conference were unsuccessful.

But during an interview Tuesday with Chicago Breaking Sports, an internet arm of WGN-TV, WGN radio and the Chicago Tribune, he suggested BYU is well-positioned to make the transition to football independence.

"It's not for everybody," Swarbrick said. "But they seem to fit the profile of an institution for whom it probably makes a great deal of sense — frankly in the same way it still does for Army and Navy."

Citing BYU's national profile and rich tradition — plus its ability to produce television coverage for its own sports — Swarbrick added, "… I know precious little of the details, but it certainly looks like a smart move from where I sit."

BYU, of course, is owned by the LDS Church. As such, it has a built-in national following that Swarbrick believes will enhance the Cougars' chances of success as an independent.

"They have not only a local fan base, but the extent to which people around the country follow them is a real plus," he said.

Swarbrick did not know when the series with BYU would start.

"… You can't just flip a switch and say, 'OK, we'll start playing,'" he said. "You have to find open dates that match and see when you can do that."

In the past, BYU and Notre Dame have played each other six times — all since 1992.

The Fighting Irish won the first two games by a combined score of 87-36. But the Cougars have won twice since 1994 and both victories rank among the best-remembered in school history.

On Oct. 15, 1994, Jamal Willis ran for 75 yards, caught passes for 83 more and scored two touchdowns as BYU overcame four turnovers and stunned 15th-ranked Notre Dame in South Bend, 21-14.

BYU finished the season ranked 10th in the country, thanks in part to the win over a Notre Dame team that sent nine players into the NFL during the next two years.

Ten years later, the Cougars did it again. On Sept. 4, 2004, the BYU defense limited the Fighting Irish and quarterback Brady Quinn to 201 yards of total offense during a 20-17 victory in Provo. Cougar coach Gary Crowton and Notre Dame's Tyrone Willingham called the BYU defense the difference in the game — the highlight of Crowton's tenure at BYU.

luhm@sltrib.com —

The BYU-Notre Dame football series

Season Location Result

1992 at South Bend Notre Dame, 42-16

1993 at Provo Notre Dame, 45-20

1994 at South Bend BYU, 21-14

2003 at South Bend Notre Dame, 33-14

2004 at Provo BYU, 20-17

2005 at South Bend Notre Dame, 49-23 —

When will they play?

Notre Dame's schedules through 2014:

2011

Sept. 3: South Florida; Sept. 10: at Michigan; Sept. 17: Michigan State; Sept. 24: at Pittsburgh; Oct. 1: at Purdue; Oct. 22: Southern Cal; Oct. 29: Navy; Nov. 5: UConn; Nov. 12: Maryland at Landover; Nov. 26: at Stanford; TBA: Boston College

2012

Sept. 1: Navy at Dublin, Ireland; Sept. 8: Purdue; Sept. 15: at Michigan State; Sept. 22: Michigan; Oct. 6: Miami at Chicago; Oct. 27: at Oklahoma; Nov. 3: Pittsburgh; Nov. 17: Wake Forest; Nov. 24: at Southern Cal; TBA: at Boston College

2013

Sept. 7: at Michigan; Sept. 14: at Purdue; Sept. 21: Michigan State; Sept. 28: Oklahoma; Oct. 5: Arizona State at Arlington, Texas; Oct. 19: Southern Cal; Oct. 26: UConn at Foxboro, Mass.; Nov. 2: Navy; Nov. 11: at Pittsburgh

2014

Sept. 13: Purdue; Sept. 20: Michigan; Sept. 27: Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J.; Oct. 11: Army at Orlando, Fla.; Oct. 18: UConn; Oct. 25: at Arizona State; Nov. 8: Pittsburgh; Nov. 29: at Southern Cal; TBA: Navy

Source: NationalChamps.net