Friday, August 17, 2012

Notre Dame Football's New Uniforms: Not a Moral Issue

Notre Dame unveiled the uniforms its football team will wear on October 6, 2012 in the Shamrock Series game against the University of Miami.  The reaction from Irish fans, simply put, is outrage.  I too love the classic, traditional navy and gold, but let’s remember people: this is not a moral issue. 
Moral Issues involve questions of right and wrong, life and death or good and evil.  What ought I to do or what should I not do are questions associated with moral issues, and necessitate a reflection upon situation (what choices are available, how much freedom does the person have), principles (values, moral rules or duties) and intention (what is the motive or intention). 

What Notre Dame athletes wear on game day is a matter of preference.  Preference is akin to taste.  Other non-moral issues include Should I name my dog Farley or Zahm?  (Answer: depends on its gender). Should I make this sandwich with chunky or creamy peanut butter.  (Answer: chunky.  No contest)

I ask Notre Dame faithful to save your moral outrage for issues like world hunger or more specifically hunger here in the US.  Since working with students at the Food Bank of South New Jersey for but a few days, I have yet to view food in the same way.   I have been blessed with a food secure home my entire life.  I have never once wondered where my next meal will come from (unless I forgot it).  The reality is different for too many Americans.
Or in the realm of Sports and Spirituality, please save your indignation for matters like the number of high school athletic programs that have been cut due to budgetary deficits.  If you are not convinced this qualifies as a moral decision, Michael Wilbon wrote a provocative piece about the relationship between diminished high school programs and the LA Riots. 

For those who do perceive the change in uniform to be a moral issue, perhaps some information will assuage your anger.  Former Notre Dame quarterback Frank Allocco spoke with my seniors last spring about “Lofty Dreams and Buried Blessings.” We met for lunch before and discussed coaching, athletes today, Notre Dame and more (Frank is the head basketball coach at De La Salle High School in Concord CA). 
He sits on an advisory committee with Nike and has learned that one component of Oregon’s recent success—believe it or not—is attributed to their flashy uniforms.   One reason today’s athlete becomes interested in certain schools and choose them over others is because of the uniforms.  It sounds crazy I know, but it is also important to understand that today’s athlete IS different. These young men and women want style.  The zanier—e.g. the University of Maryland’s uniforms feature their vibrant state flag—the better.  With first hand knowledge of this reality in mind, Frank told me that Notre Dame should consider doing away with the traditional, preppy uniform and update its look. 

Does a uniform translate to victory?  Maybe not, but it certainly doesn’t hurt in terms of recruiting! And I hate to say it, but for many Irish fans, winning and losing is a matter of right or wrong.
It is always difficult to change tradition. Tradition is revered because it is tradition.  Notre Dame has unveiled other uniforms before; on special occasions or big games the Irish have dawned the “wearin’ o’ the green.”  And we’ve had opinions about that as well.  The tradition rests in the colors—navy and gold for Our Lady, green for the Fightin’ Irish and excellence for Notre Dame.  In all that we do and what we wear our motto remains: Onward to Victory!

Photo Credits
with Coach Kelly

1 comment:

  1. Anne:

    I'm with you -- certainly not a moral issue. However, I don't discount the significance of changes like this and am not surprised at all by the outrage that the uniform choice has created. I suggest it is simply representative of where Notre Dame is going as an institution. On a football level, the powers that be care more now about the "Gameday Experience" (brought to you by Adidas and whoever else will fill the coffers), than fielding a dominant football team on the field.

    I ran across a ticket stub from 1993 the other day. The ticket cost was 27 bucks. The Irish ended up 11-1 that year with the sole blemish a home loss to Boston College (my last game in the stadium as a student). More importantly, at that time ND had been to six straight bowl games under Holtz, including one national championship season.

    Last year ticket prices were $70 for most home games, $80 for the "marquee" games. I'm not even going to get into the "barnstorming" games or the cost of "pep rally" tickets in Dublin. While wallowing in football mediocrity, they have shamelessly jacked the prices. So do I get a little frosted when they want me to pay $25 bucks to park in timbuktu White Field, while it already costs almost $300 to take my 3 boys to a game? Yes it does.

    Again, its a symptom of what is going on University-wide. Tuition for 2012-2013 is $42,971. One source shows ND's tuition in 1999 at $20,900. If the 1999 tuition rose with the consumer price index for this same timeframe, tuition would be about $28,000 by my calculations. What other products have doubled in price during this timeframe? The palaces built on campus (including the new law school building) seem to be constructed on the borrowing backs of the student population. The results become even more dramatic if you go back to the late 80s when I was an undergrad.

    In Notre Dame's defense, the market must speak for itself. I'm guilty as the next for enabling this by continuing to donate, buy tickets and attend games. I guess you can charge $42,971 for tuition if you continue to get a landslide of applications and interest. Is following this economic driven model right? Is it in line with what ND claims to be?

    In the end, this golden goose is going to stop laying eggs. The current batch of young alumni simply don't care as much about football as their predecessors. Why? They have never tasted ND football success, let alone dominance. As is often pointed out, the current students weren't alive when ND won its last national championship. Has ND considered what is going to replace the dollars generated by football when NBC walks, when they can't fill 80,000 seats in the stadium, when no one is interested in a "barnstorming" game?

    So back to the uniforms. Should ND tamper with tradition? Certainly not to this ridiculous extent. Even my 13 year old (probably right in the wheelhouse of the target market for Adidas on this) thinks they are hideous. I laughed at the so-predictable email from ND marketing yesterday that touted the "Shamrock Series" gear - including the "replica jersey" for $65 and the Coach Kelly visor for $18. No thanks.

    In the end, its not the gimmicks that will save ND football. Winning games will.

    Go Irish.