Thingish Things

What Notre Dame’s New Uniforms Say

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 21•12

Notre Dame stirs passion in college football fans — you either love ’em or hate ’em. But the team’s new helmet and uniform should, for once, bring us all together in revulsion and alarm.

It’s tough to describe the new team duds, which will be worn just once this season. But suffice it to say they are un-Notre Dame like — in the extreme. They beg for attention, and Notre Dame football has never done that.

As hard as it is to admit as a Mets fan, Notre Dame is to college football what that Yankees are to Major League Baseball, an exemplar of class in a sport that doesn’t uniformly exhibit it.

The Fighting Irish do not showboat. They do not compromise academic standards to get the best high school prospects. And they don’t wear uniforms that look like they were designed by Picasso instead of Adidas — or a marketing group rolling out a new clothing line, which is really what this amounts to.

Sure, the team is a marketing behemoth. But it became that by being quintessentially itself — and by winning. Notre Dame, as the saying goes, has always practiced the principles of attraction rather than of promotion. It became America’s college football team precisely because it resisted cheap urges like this one, just as it resisted the wince-evoking player endzone dances that befell so many teams in the ’90s, and the flashy stadium gimmicks that have turned professional sports arenas into grating discotheques of light and noise.

Notre Dame has one of the greatest fan bases in America because people want to feel part of its deep traditions, not because a new shiny object has lured them into a stadium.
Go to a Fighting Irish football game in South Bend — or a home University of Michigan or U.S. Naval Academy game for that matter — and what you will see is genuine team spirit from a bygone era: big, bold marching bands, cheerleaders who cry when their team loses, sportsmanship on the field and student-athletes who play their hearts out every autumn Saturday.

What you will not see — or very little of — is the crassness you find in other college and all professional stadiums.

I grew up a Notre Dame fanatic. My great-grandfather taught there; my father is Class of ’47. My grandmother was raised in a house on the campus called The Lilacs, which stands as a National Historic Landmark today. My brother Peter, class of ’94, was a manager on the team. He walked Notre Dame Stadium’s sidelines during some heady seasons. I didn’t apply to Notre Dame because I knew I couldn’t get in, or live up to the school’s standards as a wildish 18-year-old.

Those standards are firm.

I remember as a child feeling stinging injustice in learning that a star player would be ineligible to play in a big game because he broke curfew, snuck a girl into his dorm room or didn’t make good enough grades. That punishment wouldn’t have happened to a player on the opposing team. But those were Notre Dame’s standards. It may have looked inflexible at times to an outside world falling in love with moral relativism, but as the behavior among players at other schools unraveled, Notre Dame’s standards made its fans feel special.

It made its players special, too. In 2011, 100 percent of the team’s African-American players, and 99 percent of players overall, received a four-year degree. No other college in America had a 100 percent graduation rate among black players. Florida State — a fine football program no doubt — graduated 44 percent of its African-American players in 2011 by comparison, and just 64 percent of its players overall.

Notre Dame’s jarring new uniform, which will be unveiled in October at Soldier Field in Chicago when the Irish play the University of Miami in the newly invented “Shamrock Series”, probably won’t lower that graduation rate. Nor will it keep players from attending mass as a team before every game, or raising their helmets to the student section while singing the school’s alma mater at the close of each game.

But it will make its fans feel just a little bit less special. Because rather than saying “We are ND,” this jumbled mess of fabric will be saying “We capitulate.”

That’s not acceptable. Not for Notre Dame, or other institutions of its calibre.

This piece is available at Newsday.  Thanks for reading.


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  1. Paul Malak says:

    These uniforms are for one game and one game only. People talk about tradition at Notre Dame. Do you know who was the biggest innovator of his time? None other then Knute Rockne. If tradition meant so much to Notre Dame, they would still be playing at 20,000 seat Cartier Field with leather helmets. Times change, new traditions are started, Notre Dame will survive, they walls of the Administration Building will not come tumbling down. Besides, it is what under those uniforms that count, the players wearing the uniforms, how they play the game is what really matters. Not what type of helmet, jersey, pant or shoe they wear. Remember, Old Notre Dame will win over all…

    • Terry says:

      “Old Notre Dame will win over all”

      Not lately

      Old Notre Dame can market and make money better than anyone but they seem to have difficulty winning football games against good teams.

      FYI – I love the place

  2. Your Friend says:


    I’m swinging by to be a jerk again. I figure our 35 year friendship can withstand it (at least I hope it can). Simply put, where is your piece thrashing this idiot Akin and the totally lame Ryan/Romney response? Like me, you have a daughter and a wife, both of whom I know you adore, as I adore mine. What’s with the Republican party and this Human Life Amendment nonsense? What planet are these people from? Once again, I call on you to use another pathetic Republican moment to consider switching parties. It’s never too late. The women in your life deserve better than what your party is offering.

    With Love,

    – d

    • Billy says:


      Have been too busy bashing him for all my clients!


    • J nelson says:

      I hate liberal talk about republicans war on women. It is an out and out lie. Democrats promote being “pro-choice”. What a bunch of malarky. I’m a believer that choices have consequences. Women have a right to choose wether to have sex or not. That choice has consequences and should also have consequences for men as well. It could lead to pregnancy. Once that has happend there should be no choice left but only consequence.
      Pro-choice is only a copout by selfish men and women who can’t face up to the choices they have already made.
      There are so many ways to avoid getting pregnant that they are either careless or unlucky but ending the life of someone yet unborn is a denial of the sanctity of the very lives they have been blessed to have.
      People should face up to the choices they have made and stop being cowards both men and women.

  3. Mike Kitch says:

    I look to this site to avoid the politics of the day and pretend again that this might be THE year. Post your sad political rants somewhere else! I hope that all Irish fans who are good Catholic Dems, will abstain from voting this year.

  4. Neil says:

    Wow, “Your Friend.” The uniforms are about as ugly as your attitude. Maybe the unborn women in your life deserve better than what your party is offering.

  5. Len says:

    Lay off it, Scrooge. It’s one game, the players love the uniform and we’ll be on national TV, again, playing a similarly clad rival. I’d buy that undershirt – I like the whole concept.
    I bet you are a kindergarten teacher.

  6. Chuckie says:

    Love these ad-hoc uniforms. Once. Gor the Shamrock Series. Great!

  7. Avon Domer says:

    As someone who has been in love with the University of Notre Dame and what it stands for my entire life (I’m 54), I’m fine with the uniform for this year’s Miami game as a one off promotion, with one exception. The helmet is a disgrace!

    Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick led a recent movement to replicate the exact shade of gold on Notre Dame’s famed Golden Dome to have it applied to the football team’s helmets. The brilliant final product from that effort was introduced last season to overwhelming praise by everyone I know who loves the University and its famed football program.

    Instead of featuring that beautiful helmet for the Miami game, what we’ll see our players wear that night in Chicago is shameful. I have friends who despise Notre Dame, but respect it enough to tell me that they would never dream of sabotaging Notre Dame’s helmets like that. Sadly enough, Notre Dame and adidas did that on their own.

    The only good thing about this is that it’s only for one game. Hopefully, the athletic administration will hear enough backlash from Notre Dame zealots like me that they’ll leave our iconic helmets untouched in the future. GO IRISH!

  8. Ian says:

    Unlike most of the die hard fans that I have talked to about this issue, I do not have a problem with the uniforms that the players will wear for the miami game. What I do have a problem with are the helmets. The uniforms are still blue and gold, a little different than the norm but still blue and gold. In years past we have seen green uniforms which is also not the norm. The big problem is the helmets. I think of the helmets as the “tradition” part of the uniform. I think if the helmets would have stayed the traditional gold there would not have been so much backlash over this. Just my opinion though.

  9. Pete says:

    As a businessman and a Notre Dame alumni, all I can say to the person who “ok’d” these uniforms is, “you broke the brand.” It’s idiotic to jack with a leading brand that is not broken. If it’s a Division II or Directional school image they were after, they succeeded.

  10. aaron says:

    Stay with the same unis that N.D. has woren for the last 125 years of IRISH FOOTBALL! No more throwsbacks ……….certainly not these awful things!

  11. Joe says:

    Like they say, this uniform is for one game. The issue with this uniform is miniscule compared to other issues affecting the team, like Notre Dame losing its Catholic identity. Actually I think the uniforms are neat and I’ve been a lifelong Irish fan. The helmets might be a little off, but they have the blue and gold, the leprechaun and the green shamrock. I can think of a million other things to complain about the present ND rather than these uniforms.

  12. Jack Fromm says:

    I am 87 years old and have followed the Irish for 77 years. Notre Dame puts money above everything else…. in this day and age. I am very disappointed in the Notre Dame people responsable for this nonsense.

  13. Stan says:

    These uniforms and the helmets in particular, are an absolute joke – a real embarrassment to the school and a move that reeks of desperation to be ‘hip’. With the unfortunate help of adidas, this ‘special’ uniform is nothing but a pathetic display of form over substance, but hey, at least ND will sell lots of merchandise! Yes, it is one game – but this is how the progressives operate – slowly, insidiously, killing tradition one small step at a time.

    Hey ND administration – we are counting, and it’s year #3 with our new coach……How about an intense focus on winning and a national championship. Please leave the “BLING” to those teams who need it for attention. We saw the ugly results when the focus was on extracurricular activities against USC last year- it was not a proud memory.

    WE ARE……..SELLOUTS !!!!!!

  14. Terry says:

    The barons of bland who presently run the show at the university would have us believe that every single one of the players on the team “LOVES” the unis.

    Quickie quiz – how many of you out there believe that?

  15. Jack Fromm says:

    Then why did you publishe my email ?..

  16. Terry says:

    Jack Fromm – If you are talking to me, which I don’t think you are – I’m 68 years old I went to Notre Dame (didn’t graduate) and I completely agree with you. The uniforms are hideous, they seem to be nothing more than a cheap marketing ploy.

    Stan – well said “these uniforms and the helmets in particular are an absolute joke and a real embarrassment to the school”

  17. John says:

    With the exception of the helmet, it looks like a Michagan uniform.

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