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What changes could be coming for the Notre Dame football program under Marcus Freeman?

Gold hooker pants aren’t making a comeback

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program was forced to make a massive change earlier than anticipated, but change itself is always happening in and around the program whether it’s planned or not. Brian Kelly decided that he just couldn’t live a life without quality gumbo and bolted for the LSU Tigers, while the Irish tried to catapult into the future with a bolt of young energy in Marcus Freeman.

Massive changes — but not quite the changes we are going to talk about today.

Despite Notre Dame’s persona as a traditional school where things change very slowly — if at all — over the last 30 years, Notre Dame fans have seen almost constant change with the school, the infrastructure, and many details involving the football program.

All you need to do to visualize these changes is to close your eyes and think of the program in half-decade terms. What did it all look like in 1995? What about 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2020? It’s 2022 — shouldn’t we expect a similar path of change by 2025?

The short answer is, “of course,” which is much stronger than a yes.

So what might that look like? What changes may come to the program during the Marcus Freeman era?

NOTRE DAME STADIUM

After pouring in half a billion dollars into the Campus Crossroads project, I think it’s safe to say that the stadium setup will remain basically the same for the next decade or two. It’s really incredible when you think about how the stadium was basically the same for over 60 years, and then over the course of 25 years it changes drastically three times.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
SOUTH BEND, IN - APRIL 16: The Notre Dame alumni team (white) plays against the Notre Dame varsity team (green)(Aubrey Lewis #24) during an alumni game on April 16, 1957 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
Hy Peskin/Getty Images

While the structure likely won’t change, we should expect some refreshers. The biggest of which is the playing surface.

Notre Dame replaced natural grass with field turf prior to the 2014 season. The life expectancy of field turf is 8-10 years, so with 8 seasons of play, graduations, and a ridiculous Garth Brooks concert in a winter storm — the turf is going to need to be replaced. This kind of replacement could also change how the turf looks both in its general color and pattern.

There’s a chance that the paint on the field could change as well. Midfield, endzones, number font... all of what you see on the surface is very easily changeable, and something that could be on the table.

UNIFORMS

South Florida v Notre Dame

The uniforms are going to change. Just flip through those photos one more time, and it’s pretty obvious that Notre Dame loves a traditional look while consistently changing the uniform from top to bottom.

Some of those changes are because of their apparel company of choice. From Champion and Reebok, to Adidas, and all the way up to Under Armour; Notre Dame’s uniform isn’t the everlasting thing that fans want to believe it is — like a Penn State or an Alabama.

There’s been some noise over the past couple of years about moving away from Under Armour. There are definitely some issues, but the financial stake the Irish have in Under Armour makes it different than deals of the past. The current deal runs through the 2024 season — so there’s a possibility of a change in 2025, but I still wouldn’t expect it right now.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the uniform won’t change during the Freeman era. History has shown that Notre Dame changes the style of its uniforms at least once a decade, and we’re getting close to that time maker. What that might look like is up for debate, but anyone thinking they go back to gold hooker pants is fooling themselves. Notre Dame’s pants color is the color that Notre Dame asked for — not some random choice from Under Armour.

FACILITIES

The training facilities at Notre Dame were a major topic following the departure of Brian Kelly to the LSU Tigers. It seems that change wasn’t happening as fast as Kelly wanted, but the irony is that with Freeman in place, it may very well be accelerated.

The Gug first opened in 2005 under the first year of the Charlie Weis era, and is outdated compared to other top programs across the country. They need more room, a dedicated dining area, and other bells and whistles.

The changes to the Gug are very much a need, and they could be closer to moving forward thanks to a massive change that happened in 2019. Two and a half years ago the Irish moved their indoor practice field from the Loftus Center, which opened in 1988, to the new Irish Athletic Center — so expect another 30 years of this bad boy.

The stadium upgrades also included changes to the Notre Dame locker room and media relations facilities, but I wouldn’t bet against more locker upgrades in the near future as every school everywhere tries to keep up in the ongoing arms race.

IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with my “change gon’ come” vibe, but it’s only because of my disdain for Irish fans with assumptions that say otherwise. The football program is constantly changing something, and for some of the major stuff the time for that change is sooner rather than later.

What changes are you expecting? Which ones do you want to happen, and which ones make you want to run screaming into a burning building when you think about them?

Again... gold hooker pants are not part of the equation.

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