The story of why the 2007 Notre Dame Fighting Irish wore beautiful green and gold jerseys for their worst home loss in 51 years actually starts with a former basketball coach.
Digger Phelps, who had led the Irish basketball squad since 1971, suggested to incoming football coach Dan Devine that the Irish wear green for their annual game against the USC Trojans.
Devine — or the stodgy athletic department — balked at the idea for the first two years. But in 1977, Devine was looking for a kick in the pants for a 4-1 team that was projected national championship contenders.
[Phelps] told Devine to let the team warm up in blue, and during that time, let the student managers put the green jerseys in each locker.
“And when the team comes upstairs, shut the door,” Digger said, “I don’t care if you have to take a delay of game, let Southern Cal be on that field before you come back down and out that tunnel.”
The jerseys worked like a charm. Joe Montana and the Irish stomped the fourth-ranked Trojans, 49-19.
In the crowd that day was a senior at the university named Charlie Weis.
Thirty years later — in 2007 — he was the head football coach, overseeing a disastrous season for the inexperienced Irish. Weis didn’t see the jerseys as motivation his team needed to vanquish the formidable 13th ranked Trojan squad. No, Weis had announced the green jersey game the summer before everything began exploding in his face.
“These uniforms are ugly,” he said Wednesday prior to the game. “Remember what those jerseys looked like? Remember the ugly pants? That’s what they have to wear this week.”
The players disagreed.
“It’s sort of like a Green Bay Packers sort of look,” said tailback Travis Thomas. “It’s just something different. Change is good. So we’re excited about them.”
Tight end John Carlson, who had missed the 2006 green jersey game against Army with an injury, was excited about the uniforms. He considered them “crazy and wild.”
The uniforms were brighter and poppier than the 1977 duds they were modeled after. The greens were closer to kelly than olive, the pants closer to maize than mustard. Even the helmets sparkled in the midday October sun, unlike the players who stuffed their heads into them that day.
The Irish were crushed, 38-0, the eighth worst loss in the program’s history and their second 38-point defeat that season. The loss ensured the Irish’s first losing season since 1960.
But boy, were those uniforms were a nice update to that ’77 jersey, and, I’d argue, a better version of similar togs donned by the Oregon Ducks from 1996 to 1998.
REPUTATION OF THE GREEN JERSEYS
If I’m allowed to make a sweeping generalization of the Notre Dame fan base, I’d say the majority don’t like the green jerseys. Fans remember the undefeated season gone awry against the Boston College Eagles in 2002, the soul-crushing loss to the Trojans in 2005 and perhaps this 2007 embarrassment and have declared the green jerseys “unlucky.”
The data doesn’t support that contention, however.
There is not consensus, however, on what constitutes a green jersey. I’d tell you that this is my favorite green jersey of all time, if you allow a more liberal interpretation.
While this debate lingers on, let us pause to enjoy one of the very few bright spots of the forgettable 2007 season: those gorgeous jerseys donned against USC. (Just, please God. Don’t try to recall the game.)
Notre Dame Football's 2007 Legacy
If you thought Notre Dame Football had it rough last year - you obviously have forgotten about 2007.Posted by One Foot Down - For Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans on Wednesday, July 26, 2017