How do two teams whose hallowed uniforms designs have remained essentially unchanged for most of the last century wear "throwback" duds without resorting to wool jerseys and leather helmets? I don't know, but Notre Dame and Michigan are going to try this September for the first nighttime kickoff in the history of Michigan Stadium:
Irish coach Brian Kelly spilled the beans Friday that the programs will wear throwback uniforms for their Sept. 10 matchup. Kelly wouldn't get specific about the design of the Notre Dame outfits beyond saying they hearken back to the Joe Kuharich Era -- perhaps an odd choice, given that Kuharich was 17-23 in four years as Irish coach from 1959-62.
"I'm just trying to help you guys piece together what it's going to look like, without me saying and then getting yelled at by our adidas people that we blew the surprise for them," Kelly said.
"But yeah, we're going to have throwback uniforms. As they will. I can tell you what theirs look like: They have a block 'M' on them, and a number, and a number on their helmet. How's that? The adidas people at Michigan are going to be (ticked) at me."
(The choice for these particular throwbacks is also odd in that they're throwing back to an era when Michigan and Notre Dame never played. And in case you're thinking "April Fool's hoax," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon also confirmed the alternate unis to the Detroit News.) As Kelly suggested, Michigan's famous winged helmets did include players' numbers from 1959-68. (I can't find any pictorial evidence of the 'Block M' in the early '60s. But I can confirm that Michigan's starting quarterback in 1960 was John Stamos.) Kelly said Notre Dame's uniforms would probably have the "UCLA stripes" that were added to the shoulders around that time.
But the really striking feature of the Kuharich-era uniforms — and the feature Kelly may have been cagily trying to keep under wraps — is without a doubt the "Nuclear Shamrock":
Notre Dame helmets bore the unfortunate shamrock — which appears almost as if it was stuck on the helmet upside-down, creating the unintentional effect of an airplane propeller, or (to my eye) a nuclear symbol — for most of Kuharich's first season in 1959, which ended just as unfortunately at 5-5. The Irish switched to a more aesthetically pleasing clover logo in 1960, which didn't help the record any for the remainder of Kuharich's tenure — Notre Dame was 12-18 from 1960-62 — but at least didn't send anyone racing to the nearest fallout shelter.
After Kuharich's departure, the Irish wore white numbers on either side of the helmet for one season under Hugh Devore, who was quickly shown the door after going 2-7 in 1963. Ara Parseghian restored the plain gold look in 1964 and proceeded to thoroughly dominate college football for the next decade, ensuring that no one would ever again dare to mess with the elegant simplicity of success. Until Sept. 10. Maybe.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.