ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon considered it a big idea.
That was his reaction when he was told about the Big Ten’s plan to partner with the Pac-12 to have schools play each other in one non-conference football game each season starting in 2017.
“They’ve got a huge geographic footprint in a very important part of the country, their institutions, from an academic-branding perspective, are very similar to the Big Ten, probably as close a match as there is,” Brandon told ESPN.com Wednesday. “The combination of what we bring to the party with our 12 schools and what they bring to the party with their 12 schools felt to me like very much an opportunity for a lot of national interest.
“It covers a lot of territory, a lot of universities and a lot of territory, so I thought it was a pretty big idea.”
While the football deal will begin in 2017, other sports could start seeing more of a Pac-12 presence on the schedule as early as next season. This is another facet of the agreement Brandon likes.
With this, it’ll help push Michigan’s brand to the West Coast and some places the school doesn’t usually get to. While the Wolverines already play on the West Coast from time to time, this will increase the frequency of it. And while it could increase travel budgets and travel time , Brandon said it shouldn’t affect team travel too much.
The main focus of the deal, though, is football.
Brandon said he figures the league offices will handle the majority of the scheduling and coordination, and that the biggest challenge for Michigan now is to ensure still playing at least seven home games each season.
Almost all of the time -- and the Alabama neutral-site game to open next season is an exception -- that will be the plan for Michigan when it comes to future scheduling.
“That’ll be the tricky part, to put ourselves in a position where we always have seven games,” Brandon said. “The only exception to that would be like this upcoming year with the Dallas game, but that’s an exception. The rule would be for us to play seven games at home.”
How, then, does Notre Dame, currently the Wolverines’ sole non-conference home-and-home opponent each season, fit?
Brandon said Michigan is committed to continuing to play the Irish. two schools have a rolling four-year agreement so if one school wanted to back out of the deal, it would have to give notice at least three games in advance.
While Brandon said he wouldn’t want to predict anything in the long term -- and he said 2017 is not considered long term in his view of football scheduling -- if the current schedule were to remain the same, the Irish will remain on the schedule.
That schedule would be eight Big Ten games, a home or away game with the Big Ten/Pac-12 agreement, a home or away game against Notre Dame and two non-conference home games.
“They like to play us and we like to play them so that game continues to be on our schedule,” Brandon said. “As it relates to the long term, who knows. The long term is pretty hard to predict with the constant changes in college football, but for now we intend to play Notre Dame and they are on our schedule and we’ll be playing them for the next few years anyway.”
A Notre Dame spokesman said in an email on Tuesday the school was not aware of any suggestion made to stop playing the rivalry.
Brandon also shot down rumors of any potential movement of the Michigan-Ohio State game from its current slot at the end of every regular season football schedule.
“I certainly haven’t heard any mention of that,” Brandon said. “And I can’t imagine we would retread that ground.”