CHICAGO — More than 10 years ago, when the title of athletic director was still new for Barry Alvarez, the University of Wisconsin and Notre Dame first had discussions about restoring a football series that had remained dormant for decades.
That much-anticipated revival will finally happen. The Badgers and Fighting Irish are set to face off at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Oct. 3, 2020, before playing at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 25, 2021.
The schools announced the series at a news conference Monday in Chicago, paving the way for two premier programs to meet for the first time since 1964.
Alvarez said he and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick first discussed scheduling a matchup together around 2005, when Alvarez was also still the head coach at UW.
"We visited but nothing really opened up,” Alvarez said. "There’s so many things that have to fall into place in scheduling, and it just never worked out."
Alvarez and Swarbrick, along with Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy and Mike Kelly, the general superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District, participated in Monday’s news conference at the Under Armour Brand House on Michigan Ave.
Alvarez has strong connections to Notre Dame. He served as an assistant coach for the Fighting Irish from 1987-89 before taking over as UW’s head coach and turning the program into a perennial contender in the Big Ten.
In more recent scheduling discussions, Alvarez said Swarbrick made initial contact with an interest in playing at Lambeau Field. The schools needed a second game where the Big Ten Conference would own TV rights, so the matchup at Soldier Field developed. NBC will broadcast the 2020 game at Lambeau.
“We discussed home-and-home early, and it just didn’t work,” Alvarez said.
UW and Notre Dame are splitting the tickets evenly for both games, a rarity for neutral-site college football games during the regular season.
“That creates a unique atmosphere,” Swarbrick said. "That’s the same atmosphere you get at a national championship game, and the energy in the stadium when you do that, both sides will be very full. It’s going to be a great atmosphere."
The 2020 game will mark the second time in five years that the Badgers will play at Lambeau Field. They upset fifth-ranked LSU in Green Bay to kick off last season. UW last played at Soldier Field against Northern Illinois in 2011.
The Badgers have scheduled a number of neural-site games against big-name opponents in recent years. They opened the 2014 season against LSU in Houston before taking on Alabama in Dallas the next season.
Unlike the LSU and Alabama matchups, future games against Notre Dame won’t be played on the opening week of the season.
"Naturally, it makes sense as the first game in the year. It would get a lot of attention,” Alvarez said. "But there are also two or three others that first game of the year. This one’s when other teams are probably playing different non-conference games. This one may jump out at you and really be highlighted."
For the Packers, making Lambeau Field available for UW again was a no-brainer. Murphy said there’s very little risk in terms of ticket sales for scheduling the Badgers against another premier program.
According to Murphy, an average Packers home game brings in about $15 million of economic impact for the city of Green Bay, and he believes that total was “significantly” more for the Badgers’ game against LSU last year.
There are already ongoing discussions for another future UW game at Lambeau Field.
“We’re working on it,” Murphy said. "We’ve got some possibilities. But I think (2020) will be a pretty special game."