If this September's Notre Dame-Michigan tilt in Ann Arbor doesn't exactly promise the clash of the titans the rivalry once did, it can offer viewers its share of gimmicks. For one, it will be the first ever nighttime kickoff in the Big House, for which Michigan will install its first set of permanent lights. We learned last month that both teams are also planning to break out throwback uniforms by Adidas, which Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly suggested may or may not include a giant shamrock logo on Fighting Irish helmets for the first time in 50 years.
While both schools seem to be doing everything in their power to keep the alternate unis under wraps until later this summer, the Detroit Free Press managed to get its hands on what it believes is a "model" for the Wolverines' plans on Sept. 10:
Michigan's jersey, according to a sample provided to the Free Press, will be modeled after the image shown above. A small number also will be added to the upper-left corner of the jersey front, opposite the Adidas logo.
Last week, athletic director Dave Brandon told a meeting of the state's sports editors that U-M intended to hold a nighttime unveiling of the jersey this summer and that U-M hoped fans would purchase a lot of jerseys, as they did for the Big Chill [hockey game vs. Michigan State] last winter.
Asked about the night-game jersey Thursday, associate athletic director Dave Ablauf responded: "We are still tweaking and making final decisions on the look of the uniform. We won't be commenting on the throwback uniform design until we have the product in hand."
Here's guessing Wolverine fans will be more than willing to comment on the "sample" pictured above. It goes without saying that Michigan tends to be on the conservative side when it comes to changing uniforms, or anything — UM players didn't even have numbers on their jerseys until 1930, and only then after 20 years of debate about setting individuals apart from the team — and aside from the occasional, minor tweak, the basic look hasn't significantly changed since the first winged helmets appeared in 1938. So if it's going to bother with the "throwback" trend in the first place, the 19th Century is pretty much the only option at its disposal short of coming out in wool shirts with flimsy leather helmets. And what would recruits think of that?
Scrolling through the decades of monotony in the university's year-by-archives, the only thing that comes close to the Freep's sample is the striped undershirt worn by a handful of players in team photographs in 1888, 1889 and 1890 (pictured at the top of the post). The striped look also appears on team captain Allen Steckle in the team photo from 1899, and in this painting someone made of Michigan jerseys through history, representing 1891. Its description of the unis in that season: "Michigan players in 1891 sported a sleeveless, light tan vest, with a blue 'M' on the left chest that laced-up from the waist to the collar. Players wore the vest over a blue and yellow striped shirt. Players also wore tan colored pants."
I'm going to go ahead and assume the vest is out this fall. Then again, we have clearly entered the Twilight Zone already, so I suppose anything goes.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.