I’m back on uniform watch, and I have some THOUGHTS. As I think about the eventual end of the contract between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Under Armour, I recall the frustration I felt when the NHL made the switch from Reebok to Adidas; crew neck collars just look weird, and the pinhole pattern at the shoulders is an unnecessary and unsuccessful attempt at looking high-tech. However, the end of this contract will have implications more significant than petty design frustrations.
I’ve done some mental gymnastics, paced around my apartment, taken some deep breaths, and I have come to a conclusion. The Irish should ditch Under Armour. As much as I’m jealous of Marcus Freeman’s sweatshirt and zip-up rotation, it’s time for a change.
The Finance Angle
There has been talk of Under Armour’s sweeping NCAA deal cancellations on this blog in the past. Combine that with a grim outlook for 2023 sales and bailing investors, Under Armour may not offer the stability Notre Dame will need to carry the Irish brand through a recent changing of the guard and a recruiting pool made up of social media natives.
What Works on the Field, May Not Work on the Court.
I have to admit, had Marcus Freeman not taken the lead following Brian Kelly’s Irish goodbye, I do believe the Under Armour contract could have dinged the football team a few recruiting appeal points. However, as Freeman starts to demand attention through his “player’s coach” reputation, his leadership will likely offset some gear-related hesitations on the recruiting end that could have held the Irish back.
I don’t believe the Under Armour contact limits the football team as much as it does the basketball team. There’s no pleasing everyone, but when it comes down to it, the company has delivered clean, proportional designs on the Shamrock Series alternates and less-is-more fan gear, for example.
Last week, I listed three Under Armour uniforms in my list of the top Notre Dame basketball uniforms of all time. They use gold wisely. They know that less is more. However, the idea of an Under Armour basketball shoe has never sat right with me, and it is unlikely to earn recruiting points on a wide scale as NCAA regulations evolve. Sure, Steph Curry has his name on Under Armour shoes, but with NIL now on the table, it may pay to partner with a brand that has a wider appeal across different sports.
Switch to Nike? Just Do It.
When Notre Dame’s contract with Under Armour ends in 2024, the Irish will be better off switching to Nike for the basketball shoe factor alone. With an image-conscious and social media savvy talent pool, Nike is the safest bet to earn recruiting points across multiple sports. It has the streetwear appeal and the heritage that Under Armour lacks, and when the clock runs out on the contract, Nike will provide the versatility Notre Dame will need to resonate with new generations and navigate the evolution of league regulations.
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