Notre Dame will buck its storied college football tradition and don new high-tech uniforms for the October 6 game between the Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes. The simple navy-and-white uniforms that have long signified Notre Dame football will be left behind when the team travels to Chicago for the game at Soldier Field. In their place will be a hideous new look that designed to sell merchandise.
Notre Dame fans, and alumni like me, can lay the blame at the feet of apparel company adidas, an official sponsor of Notre Dame, and at the athletic department all too willing to chase easy money.
The trend in college football toward outlandish uniform design began with Nike and the University of Oregon. The equipment company founder, Phil Knight, began the craze by outfitting the Ducks in an array of uniform combinations in green, black and yellow. Not to be outdone, Nike rival Under Armour dressed Maryland, the alma mater of company CEO Kevin Plank, in garish helmets and uniforms last season and a nearly-all-white uniform and helmet combination earlier this year.
Far be it from adidas to be left out of the fun.
Notre Dame went along with the idea last year, wearing a retro look for its game against Michigan. The traditional gold Irish helmets for that game sported a green shamrock. But the design was inspired by actual ND helmets from the early 1960s, and was matched by a similar throwback design for the Wolverines.
The 2012 Notre Dame version of this ill-conceived idea is an ugly attempt to move forward in time rather than back. The yellow pants and stylized yellow numbers on navy blue jerseys are tolerable, if jarring. But what adidas has done to the Notre Dame gold helmets, so long a nod toward the famed Golden Dome atop the Notre Dame administration building on the school's campus, is atrocious.
Part of the helmets are navy, with a white line drawing of the Fighting Irish leprechaun logo on the left side. Rather than a stripe down the center of the helmet, though, the design divides the helmet unevenly, with two-thirds of it a yellow-gold extreme close-up photo of the leather grain of a football.
"This year's game at Soldier Field will be part of an incredible weekend for the University in Chicago and will be a great experience for our team'" says Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. "The players absolutely love the uniforms designed by adidas for this game and they will help make it a memorable night."
It's hard to be critical of the Notre Dame football program right now. The Irish are undefeated and ranked in the Top 10. It is also silly to pine for the good old days when your school has been largely irrelevant in college football for almost a generation. Call me a grumpy, out-of-touch alum, but ugly is ugly, and the university's quest to sell jerseys, T-shirts and souvenirs is, in this case, unseemly.
OK, Notre Dame doesn't have a ton of on-field success to be proud of over the past few years. But it ought to have some self-respect.
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Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.