Notre Dame, Under Armour unveil 2014 football uniforms

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- It arrived through a side-door entrance of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, its secrecy preserved by a white sheet shrouding the mannequin that on this day served as a muscle-bound Notre Dame football player donning uniform No. 14.

The big secret? The 2014 version of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series uniforms, this one to be worn Sept. 13 when the Irish play Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The early review, at least from the guy who occupies the corner office? Well done, Under Armour.

“I really like the way that they have brought together not just football, but Notre Dame in the uniforms as well," Irish coach Brian Kelly said at Tuesday's runway show/media day.

The third version of one-time only special uniforms was the first to be designed by Under Armour, which has replaced Adidas as the school’s athletic outfitter. The two parties in January announced a 10-year deal that is believed to be worth $90 million in cash and merchandise, and Under Armour took over outfitting the Irish on July 1.

The big question, though, was what the football uniforms would look like, specifically the out-of-the box Shamrock Series uniforms that deviate from ND’s traditional garb.

ND’s regular home and road uniforms were made public late Tuesday morning, and there wasn't much change from what the Irish wore recently.

If there was some trepidation among Irish fans, though, it was over the Shamrock Series uniforms, which two years ago caused an Internet meltdown over the design. With Under Armour building a reputation as a company that will push the envelope in terms of uniforms (Google "Maryland uniforms" for proof), there was a fear that Halloween could come early for the Irish.

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, a Maryland grad, however, said in January that the company would work to preserve simple, clean, bold and strong in ND's uniforms. Neither Plank nor ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick, the guys who brokered the deal, was present at Tuesday's unveiling as they were in Baltimore, where Under Armour has its headquarters.

"My prediction is they’ll debut new technology and materials and use that to forge change instead of color," said ESPN Sports Business reporter Darren Rovell. "Instead of having a mustard yellow Notre Dame jersey, all yellow. I think they’ll probably push the boundaries of technology of materials versus doing things that would be seen as risky. I don’t think any Notre Dame fan wants to see what Under Armour has done with Maryland."

What Irish fans got is a Shamrock Series uniform that Under Armour and Notre Dame tout as a celebration of the Golden Dome from head to toe.

The signature gold helmets include a crosshatch designed to replicate the texture of the Dome. The unique tile mosaic on the floor of ND’s rotunda building inspired the pattern on the shoulders of the jersey, the base layer shirt and gloves. Embroidered on the hem of each jersey are the words “God, Country, Notre Dame.”

What will it all look like to the average Joe watching on TV or in person? Gold helmets with a blue interlocking ND and stripe. Blue jerseys with gold numbers and sleeves. Blue pants with a gold strip above the knee. Gold shoes accentuated with blue socks.

Far from stodgy, but the Irish certainly aren’t turning into Oregon either.

“In this very short time that we’ve come together, they’ve taken really the time to look at Notre Dame and our unique qualities and put them in what we’re representing in our uniforms,” Kelly said. “I really feel good about that relationship.”

And what about the players?

“I like them,” was quarterback Everett Golson's reply.

The unveiling of the Shamrock Series uniforms the last couple of years has become a curiosity seeker’s holiday of sorts for diehard Irish fans, although this year’s unveiling was forced to jostle for headline space with the academic fraud investigation at the school that has sidelined four players.

“Nothing is going to make it top the message boards over the academic scandal, which has been atop all the message boards since it broke,” Rovell said. “So I think in that sense it does lose a little luster. Nothing that Under Armour can control but part of this deal is about building buzz.”

Under Armour seems to be building buzz since the deal was announced. The company’s stock closed at $84.78 on the day the deal was announced, surged toward $125 per share in mid March before a stock split in mid-April. Under Armour closed at $70.18 per share Monday.

Still, it’s tough to predict the long-term success of the company based on a long-term deal that was made public just six months ago.

“Yeah, I think too early to tell. For so many years Under Armour was the little guy and this deal, more than any other deal they’ve done, kind of showed to the marketplace that they were no longer David. They’re weren’t Goliath in Nike but they were certainly no longer the little guy, that they could compete, that a school like Notre Dame with the tradition wasn’t scared that they couldn’t be the best for them and clearly the monetary, for the first time ever, they were at a point where they were making enough money that their marketing dollars could pay for a deal like this,” Rovell said.

Regardless of how the deal affects Under Armour’s or Notre Dame’s success, there’s one bottom line that matters with Irish fans.

Notre Dame and Under Armour unveiled the 2014 Irish football uniforms on Tuesday. (SBT Photos/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
Notre Dame unveils the new Shamrock Series uniforms from Under Armour. The Irish will wear the uniforms against Purdue at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 13. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)