SOUTH BEND — Before Mark Daniels had finished his P.R. spiel about the latest hard twist on the traditional Notre Dame football jersey, the Twitterverse had already erupted in extreme reactions to it.
“WE ARE! MD!,” chided a message board poster, an obvious reference to the Maryland Terrapins’ ketchup-licorice-fried egg swirl collection from its gameday uniform options last season.
“It’s compressive,” beamed Daniels, adidas’ director of team sales, of Notre Dame’s special jerseys, designed for the Oct. 6 matchup with Miami (Fla.) in Chicago and unveiled Thursday in the Notre Dame Stadium pressbox.
“You can’t grab it. You can’t tackle it,” he continued. “That’s more first downs. That’s more touchdowns. That’s more wins. We’re excited about it.”
Irish preseason All-Americans Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert, who modeled the jerseys and leprechaun-adorned multi-color helmets for the media, were also among those excited about the one-time-only jerseys — in a good way.
“I love ’em,” Te’o said. “Look good, feel good, play good.”
The feeling was far from universal, though. Some ND fans didn’t have any more use for them than they did for a recent column by ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly, questioning Irish football relevance in college football’s big picture.
Notre Dame’s off-site home games — the fourth of which will be the Miami clash — are now branded as the Shamrock Series. And the uniform deviations have become a part of that branding.
“Because the game is now part of something that is going to last and has its own identification as the Shamrock Series,” ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick began, “we decided in a very conscious way to take this and use this as the one time each year that we modify our uniforms.
“To take it and make it a special event, to embrace the notion that we’re going to bring an exciting and new opportunity with us when we come to that city. Part of that is the uniform.”
It’s certainly the widest departure from the traditional ND uniforms and helmets in memory. And perhaps the only thing that could have prompted a louder reaction would have been including FieldTurf somewhere on the uniform
As far as the Shamrock Series concept itself, Swarbrick said ND is committed to the concept for the foreseeable future and has venues chosen through 2016, though the 2014-15-16 locales are still under wraps.
The 2013 game has long been scheduled for Arlington, Texas, with Arizona State as the opponent.
“These things work best clearly when they tell a story,” Swarbrick said. “Army in Yankee Stadium is a classic example of that. If it’s just another opponent in another venue, it’s a tougher deal.”
The long-term commitment gives the Irish five road games, six games in ND Stadium and one off-site home game — in which ND controls the TV revenue and the gate — each season. The first three such games were staged in San Antonio, New York and Washington.
“That was one of the things that I had to come to understand better when I got here,” Swarbrick said of the off-site concept. “The more we worked with the 6-5-1 (scheduling model), the more comfortable I’ve become that it’s the right model for us.
“It’s not an easy one necessarily to fill, but we continue to do it and will continue to do it in the future. It’s the right balance for us, with the understanding a number of schools are giving themselves one more home game than what we are doing. We’re OK with that, because of the benefits of the Shamrock Series.”
This year’s game will have several academic tie-ins as well as exporting some ND traditions to Chicago. There will be a portable version of the Hammes Bookstore, a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, a Friday football luncheon at Navy Pier and a pep rally in Millennium Park.
Football at Notre Dame is all about promoting the University of Notre Dame,” Swarbrick said.
The grass is greener ... ?
Earlier this month, ND head coach Brian Kelly more than intimated that synthetic turf, specifically FieldTurf, could arrive as a fixture at Notre Dame Stadium as early as 2013.
Then he backpedaled shortly thereafter, amending that he wished
FieldTurf could arrive as a fixture at Notre Dame Stadium as early as 2013, deferring to Swarbrick as the mouthpiece and decision-maker on such issues.
Well, here’s Swarbrick’s take:
“We replace the field on a five-year cycle,” he said. “We’ll be replacing it after this year. That will be a time for us to think about this issue, but I haven’t made a decision.
“The reasons to do it relate to the use of the stadium. We do commencement in here now. We’d like to do an alumni function during the summer. I’d love for our team to be able to practice here on Friday.
“So you balance those things against the environment of natural turf, which feels sort of central to this place. That’s not an easy balance. Those are the sorts of factors that we think about.”
They’re also thinking about a hybrid model used at the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field.
“It has spaced-out synthetic fibers, with grass growing in and around the synthetic fibers,” Swarbrick said.
“The challenge with that is when your growing season is over, it’s over. There is no re-sodding. So we’re trying to learn more about it, and certainly Green Bay’s experience is going to be important for us to try to get a better read on it.”
China on hold
Moving Notre Dame’s regular-season finale in 2013 with Stanford from Palo Alto, Calif., to China was gaining steam until Cardinal AD Bob Bowlsby became the Big 12 commissioner earlier this summer.
“It’s still a high priority for us,” Swarbrick said. “But that (Bowlsby’s job change) derailed a little bit of that discussion and the momentum of it. We’re anxious to restart those discussions.”
Staff writer Eric Hansen: email@example.com 574-235-6112