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There's more than a quarter century of pursuit behind Badgers' football game against Notre Dame
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There's more than a quarter century of pursuit behind Badgers' football game against Notre Dame

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Barry Alvarez, Paul Chryst

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst talks to athletic director Barry Alvarez before a game against BYU in 2018 at Camp Randall Stadium.

Maybe another delay should have been expected after all the years it took for the University of Wisconsin to get on Notre Dame’s football schedule.

The schools got together in 2017 to finalize plans for two neutral-site games, the first of which was scheduled for Green Bay’s Lambeau Field last year before it was scrapped because of the pandemic.

Barring a late cancellation — these are still the days of COVID, where nothing is ever 100% sure — the Badgers and Fighting Irish will be on the same football field Saturday in Chicago for the first time since 1964.

“It’s taken a while to put this together,” then-UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in 2017 when the games were announced.

Badgers fans know it. Notre Dame has the cachet in college football to be choosy with its opponents. There usually was something standing in the way when UW asked about setting up games over the past quarter century.

Stories in 1995 and again in 2004 mentioned how UW regularly asked Notre Dame about scheduling games. The Irish already had Big Ten teams Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue as opponent fixtures and weren’t said to be keen on adding another.

“I don’t think it’s impossible,” then-associate athletic director for football operations John Chadima told The Capital Times in 2004. “We do have an interest in playing them. For the fans, it’d be an incredibly popular series we’d like to get in down the road.”

In 2009, Alvarez — who had moved from football coach to athletic director — said in a radio interview that he had been in discussions with Notre Dame counterpart Jack Swarbrick. Again, nothing came of it.

Alvarez had a personal connection to Notre Dame. He left an assistant position under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame to take over the floundering Badgers team in 1990, eventually leading it to three Big Ten championships in a seven-year span from 1993 to 1999.

“There’s so many things that have to fall into place in scheduling,” Alvarez said in 2017. “And it just never worked out until we were able to put this together.”

In 2012, then-Badgers coach Bret Bielema tweeted that he had reached out to Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly about playing in 2018 and 2019. Michigan was due to leave Notre Dame’s schedule and UW thought there was a chance to jump in.

That didn’t pan out, either, but it wasn’t too much longer before Alvarez and Swarbrick were talking with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Park District and working toward the agreement that’s due to play out Saturday. The game at Lambeau was rescheduled earlier this year to start the 2026 season.

“These things are always a Rubik’s Cube when you’re trying to figure out how to put them together,” Swarbrick said in 2017 about getting the Badgers on the Notre Dame schedule. “One piece of it moves and you’ve got to go back and try and refigure it. We had to stick with it, but in so many regards it came together exactly as we wanted it to. And I think it’ll be a great experience.”


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