Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans are spoiled for choice when it comes to apparel, with the university itself and licensed vendors producing merchandise in a wide variety of colors. In addition to the school’s official navy blue and gold, green in all shades is used frequently and has a rich history at the school. And Notre Dame, being the business-savvy school that it is, also ensures fan apparel is always available in fashion-friendly colors such as gray (both solid and heather), lighter blues, white, etc, with school colors serving as accents rather than the primary color on a t-shirt or sweatshirt. It’s a fluid landscape where the fanbase owns and sports a wide variety of different shades, rather than forming a monochromatic wave like fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers or Texas Longhorns.
All of this is to the good; I own Irish apparel in literally all of these colors and love that I have some Irish swag for just about any social or recreational situation, suitable for any weather condition or pants/shorts pairing. There is, however, a downside here, and it’s something the marketing folks at Notre Dame should address if they want to create a stronger home-field environment.
I’ll never forget when I walked out of the tunnel and into the stands to see the Irish take on the Georgia Bulldogs in 2017. I was taken aback when I surveyed the crowd. Sure, I knew there would be a lot of Georgia fans at the game. I had seen a lot of them walking around that day and heard the rumors about Irish fans, disillusioned from the previous season and motivated by big-money offers, selling their tickets to visitors. But I didn’t think it was that bad. And in a sense it wasn’t, because while Georgia fans did make up a shocking percentage of that crowd, they were still a minority, likely representing about 25,000-30,000 of the 81,000 fans in the stands.
In many if not most college stadiums, that would certainly stand out as an impressive visitors’ section, but you would not get the impression that they had taken over the stadium and far outnumbered the home fans. And yet, look at these shots:
That looks like a Georgia home game. How did this go from being an impressively large - but still outnumbered - away crowd to looking like actual shots of Sanford Stadium?
I’ll tell you how. It’s that damn red. That red pops like almost no other color in the world, and amid the vaguely Irish-Catholic-themed kaleidoscope that is the Notre Dame crowd it sticks out like an ocean of sore thumbs. Georgia fans know this, which is why they are 100% on the same page about what color to wear on game day.
What Notre Dame fans need to do to ward off such efforts in the future is develop a similar level of discipline and commitment to one spirit color. The answer to a wave of visiting fans wearing one color is to create an even bigger wave of home fans wearing one color that pops equally. There is a color in the Notre Dame library that fits that description, and we’ve already seen it in action:
The 2018 Michigan game proved that when the Shirt committee, student body and fan base are on the same page, the “Green-out” is a viable concept and can contribute to an improved home-field advantage. The green popped, it distinguished Irish fans from blue-and-maize-clad Skunkbears, and it added additional energy to the crowd. I was at that game, and it was probably the only Notre Dame game I have ever been to in which the crowd could be described as even approaching the descriptor, “hostile.”
The question is - why can’t we do this all the time? And it’s a question without an answer, because there’s no reason we can’t. We should. Notre Dame and its fanbase should simply set aside green as the gameday color and create a beautiful green wave every Saturday. “The Shirt” should be green every year, as should any fan gear distributed on gameday (towels, ponchos, etc.).
What’s that? The players aren’t wearing green? So what - the blue jerseys look nice against a green crowd, and there’s something cool about the team having a distinct look all their own. The weather gets cold later in the season and a lot of people don’t have cold-weather gear in kelly green? That sounds like a problem for Notre Dame and its licensed vendors to solve. This is a proven concept that we know contributes to a better gameday atmosphere - find a way to get it done.
You can wear your gray hoodies and blue golf polos and gold Clashmore Mike shirts from Homefield (highly recommend) all the other days of the week. I encourage it. But on Saturday at the stadium? IRISH WEAR GREEN.