The new Notre Dame: Is Knute Rockne 'rolling over in his grave?'

The new Notre Dame: Is Knute Rockne 'rolling over in his grave?'
October 4, 2012, 1:05 am
Share This Post

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Whenever he's asked about Notre Dame's No. 9 ranking or other various national accolades, coach Brian Kelly repeats his mantra: Tune out the noise.

Heading into their matchup against Miami this weekend, though, the noise level has been turned up -- partly because of the opponent, but also thanks to the uniforms Notre Dame will be wearing.

"Knute Rockne is rolling over in his grave and all that type of stuff," Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix said of the talk he's caught regarding the uniforms. "I like them, personally, and I don't too much care about people's opinions because I have to play in them. I enjoy them, I think it's a good change-up. It's like once a year, so it's not really a big deal to me. I think they're real nice, so I can't wait to play in them."

The biggest gripe with the uniforms generally centers around the helmet, about three-fourths of which is gold and a fourth of which is navy blue, with the school's Leprechaun logo gracing the latter side. It's a helmet that would've pushed the limits at Oregon, so having the Irish wear them for a Saturday was bound to rile up the fan base.

In a larger sense, though, that Notre Dame will don such a drastic departure from their traditional look may not necessarily fit with athletic director Jack Swarbrick's goal of making Notre Dame the "Augusta" of college football. Even with unique uniforms -- the helmet design is truly unprecedented -- Notre Dame's acting just like everyone else. And that's a notion that was off-putting to former Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija.

That seems to be the thing these days for recruiting, huh? See how much confetti and hoopla you can put out there to get guys to come to your school," Samardzija said when he heard about the uniforms in August. "But youd think playing on TV every Saturday would be enough."

Notre Dame's Shamrock Series games aren't just about pushing the limits of tradition with different uniforms. Playing the contests at Yankee Stadium, FedEx Field, Soldier Field and next year at Cowboys Stadium could very well be test runs for modernization at Notre Dame Stadium, specifically regarding a video board.

"That's what we're trying to do -- can Notre Dame Stadium still be the Augusta of college football," Swarbrick explained in August, "and provide an environment that allows you to communicate about the school more effectively. That's my frustration. I sort of enjoy it from a football perspective when there's a close call and I watch the opposing coach get whiplash trying to find the video board trying to decide whether or not to call for a review.

"But it frustrated the heck out of me when we honor a professor in between the first and second period by bringing him out to the 30-yard-line, making an announcement about him or her and handing them a football and nobody in the stadium knows what's going on. We ought to be calling great attention and focus to that person. And that's hard to do in our current environment."

Adding a Jumbotron wouldn't just be to highlight faculty members, of course. That's a debate that won't go away, just as the debate over whether Notre Dame Stadium should switch to an artificial surface won't die, either.

Make no mistake, Notre Dame is becoming more modern. They've become hitched with a conference -- not in a true sense, of course, but five games against ACC opponents is a big step -- and have gone in a bold direction with its Shamrock Series uniforms, even if it's only for one game each year. While these changes may rile some outside the team, most everyone who will put on the uniform on Saturday is either excited or generally apathetic toward the digs.

"The uniforms, really, I don't really care what I put on," cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "It's just something I guess that attracts whoever. It doesn't really bother me too much.

"You get to try something different, whatever they want to call it, swag or whatever, but yeah. I like mixing up stuff, throwing in some new stuff here and there."

But whether that's a good or a bad thing may be for everyone else to decide.