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December 19, 2013

Too much to overcome





Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke insists he and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick "worked every angle" to try to keep the schools' football series going without interruption.

But, ultimately, there were too many challenges to overcome.

The result is not only a five-year break in a series that has been played annually since 1946 but also no guarantee that the two schools will ever reach that kind of consistency again.

Once the teams resume the rivalry in 2020 after the break, there's still a two-year span in 2022 and 2023 in which the game won't be played.

"At the end of the day, these are the slots that we could both agree on and would both work for us," Burke said. "We tried to get it out to 2026, so people would know (it matters). I think we're going to play six times in a 10-12 year period. We didn't want to just talk about what was going to happen next year and a hiatus. We tried to look both into the next decade.

"Both of us are taking a little bit of a risk. I don't know what the future configuration of the Big Ten will be or the commitments we'll have for conference games, and there's some uncertainty in his life as well. Both of us respect the tradition. I think this was our way of trying to say, 'Look, we're going to continue to play on a periodic basis but an annual game is not going to be the foreseeable future.' "

The impetus of the changes was largely spurred at a conference level, Burke said, and out of the schools' control.

The Boilermakers' issue was the Big Ten expanding and adding an extra game to the conference schedule, and the Irish were dealing with their commitment to the ACC, Burke said.

Instead of playing Notre Dame from 2015-2019, Purdue added Virginia Tech and is waiting on a signed contract from Missouri to fill some holes. Burke also said the Boilermakers have another BCS school that will be added to 2017, but he wouldn't release it on Thursday.

Even with the addition of the Hokies and the Tigers, it's likely many fans won't view the swap with the Irish as a fair trade.

But Burke said he doesn't think losing the Notre Dame series on an annual basis hurts Purdue.

"I don't think our football program depends upon playing Notre Dame, and I don't think Notre Dame's football program depends upon playing Purdue," Burke said. "Having said that, these two schools have played a lot of games against each other. We have a lot of things in common. We have a lot of respect for each other. I don't like to see traditions broken, which is why we tried to look at it into the future and create a pathway so people wouldn't think there was some kind of chasm between the schools.

"But at the end of the day, this is going to give Purdue an opportunity to bring some people into Ross-Ade Stadium we haven't been able to do. So you're going to continue to see a BCS-type conference (opponent) in here and you're also going to see an extra Big Ten game, both of which are something our fan base said they'd like to see, a schedule that has more strength to it and that's what we're trying to create."

Asked whether budging on his insistence on seven home games in a season had anything to do with not being able to extend the rivalry, Burke said no.

"When you schedule, it takes both sides to schedule. I think we've shown some flexibility and moving some things around and the like, and I think Jack did," Burke said. "There was a rumor if we would have went to six home games, we could have kept it going. That was never really a factor because it wouldn't have made a difference."

South End zone update
The next step in the South End zone project is conducting a market study, which will occur in the first half of 2014.

As Burke has said before, the project includes three major elements, technology (video boards, sound system), a new contemporary seating option and improving infrastructure to the stadium.

While talking about the areas of the project, Burke mentioned he will determine some options for lighting in Ross-Ade Stadium. That topic has been heatedly discussed among some fans, and Burke's stance generally has been that when a donor stepped up and paid for them, Purdue would have them.

He hasn't necessarily changed his opinion, but with a potential shift in the TV landscape upcoming, he is looking at the options.

"It's clear to me that in that next round of (TV) negotiations, we can anticipate more primetime games being on the Big Ten plate," Burke said. "Bottom line is, we need to at least - as we're going to go through this effort to look at the South end zone - we need to at least understand what our options are going to be. We will do that as part of this effort.

"We'd be remiss if you're going to look at the major investment in the stadium if you don't look at what those options are. I'm not going to say we're going to do them, but we'd be silly not to look at it. I like to remind people that networks pay for lights. We may feel best option is to (continue to) work with Musco (Lighting)."






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