The 13th of 14 storylines as we approach the 2014 football season...
Our latest installment on the Greatest Wins in Notre Dame Football History chronicles the most recent dominant era for Irish football from the late 1980's and early 1990's. Although we instinctively know how much our world has changed since then it can sometimes be difficult to see those changes through the lens of college football.
Only a few years prior to Notre Dame's last National Championship did Sony unveil the first JumboTron™ television at the World's Fair in Japan and it would be another dozen years before the first generation of sizable video boards became popular inside college football stadiums.
Chances are if you're reading this you are part of a college football online community that has allowed you to interact with hundreds of fellow fans, many of whom you've never even met in person but still might consider friends. Back then, the major privatization and commercialization of the internet was a decade away, as were eBay, Hotmail, and Google Search. Additionally, others such as Facebook, YouTube, and iTunes nearly 20 years away.
Rudimentary cell phones had been around since the early 1970's but during the late 80's our world was still a decade and a half away from widespread use of 3G technology.
Perhaps the best example of change is that the first large online Notre Dame communities--some of which have felt like they've always existed--were still 10 years away from being born.
Despite protestations in recent times that Notre Dame Stadium has always been unique the truth is during the era of Michael Stonebreaker, Frank Stams, and Wes Pritchett mauling ball carriers from coast to coast the confines in South Bend were not all that different from most other facilities of its kind. How could it have been when so many technological advances that have created such a different live football experience today were not invented yet?
There will always be folks who want to see the Irish play in a venue that is stuck in a Korean War-era time machine but the school has always moved forth with change, if with trepidation at times. However, the problem during this current Information Age has been two-fold: technology has been advancing rapidly and the University of Notre Dame has been slower, more methodical, and more cautious in adopting any changes.
How have things changed? The Stadium added 21,720 seats, the press box was enlarged, scoreboards tweaked, cement seating re-poured, drainage systems changed, the players tunnel re-worked and expanded, old white goal posts swapped out in favor of new yellow ones, team script padding added to the corners of the field walls, taped music introduced through the PA system, and many more changes to the facade, concourse, and locker rooms of Rock's House.
So although Notre Dame Stadium is really in a constant state of change even if we don't recognize the differences right away the 2014 season will stand out as one of the markers on the march toward renovation that will culminate sometime around 2019 with the completion of the $400 million Campus Crossroads project.
The official Notre Dame Football Jersey by Under Armour will be unveiled on August 19th. Are you ready? #NDFB— Notre Dame Bookstore (@HammesNotreDame) August 5, 2014
The upcoming season will be remembered as the first in Notre Dame's 10-year apparel contract with Under Armour and while the standard home and away uniforms are expected to stay the same there will no doubt be a slightly different look to all of the sideline gear. And of course the Shamrock Series uniform is sure to delight and enrage.
As small as the change may appear Under Armour is part of the 'new look' Notre Dame that will continue to grow as the Stadium undergoes a larger transformation.
Minus a detail here or there, the field turf installation is done at Notre Dame Stadium. Looks really good. pic.twitter.com/tyEITgcl4q— Angelo Di Carlo (@angdicarlowndu) July 30, 2014
And then there's the natural grass on top of the football field--it is no more.
The new field turf is bound to be a big story line for at least a while as the shock dissipates and the conspiracy theories fade into history. There's always a chance that natural grass growing technology has a major break through in the coming years but the Crossroads buildings on the north, east, and west sides of the Stadium are bound to make life more difficult for that process to get sunlight. Also, that natural growing technology will also have to outpace the artificial technology which doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon.
Of course change is always going to be controversial at Notre Dame but it's already here and more is coming soon. The 2014 season will be the first glimpse of a long-term alteration to one of the game's most hallowed stadiums.