Maybe the Fighting Irish were hoping to attract the attention of recruits.
Maybe they did it, as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly suggested this week, because his players had requested to wear them.
Or maybe, just maybe, someone in South Bend actually thought that putting giant green shamrocks on gaudy 24-carat gold leaf helmets would be aesthetically appealing.
Whatever the reason, the Irish left their traditional blue jerseys and golden domes in the closet for Saturday night’s matchup against Maryland at FedEx Field in Landover. Instead, they donned green jerseys and those much-debated helmets for the long-awaited “Shamrock Series” game.
The Terps wore their highly-scrutinized “Pride” uniforms inspired by the Maryland state flag.
And as the Terps and Fighting Irish battled on national television — the helmets and uniforms of both teams were a topic of conversation during the NBC broadcast — pigskin fans here and elsewhere channeled their inner Tim Gunn and transformed into football fashionistas.
“The Maryland uniforms look like they were once pretty but were put in the laundry with bleach and the colors all ran together,” said Mike Calo of Glen Burnie, who emailed The Baltimore Sun on Saturday to share his thoughts on “the Ugly Bowl,” as he dubbed it. “The best thing about the Maryland uniform is the color scheme of the numbers and the stripe down the right pant leg.”
“To hear the way people gripe about the Terps’ ‘Pride’ uniforms, you'd think college football fans were all subscribers to ‘Martha Stewart Living,’” said David Blum of Bel Air. “Oh, they're so tasteless! So tacky! Well, I love 'em. They're gaudy, garish, gonzo, and great. I am happy that Notre Dame is joining in the fun. Folks who demand class and elegance can watch golf.”
Maryland’s “Pride” uniforms are the ones that raised eyebrows in the season-opening win over Miami. After that game, the first of the Randy Edsall era, the new Under Armour threads were scrutinized on TV shows like “Pardon the Interruption” and buzzed about out in the blogosphere.
If the goal was to get noticed by high school recruits, it was mission accomplished for Maryland. Whether the uniforms dazzled enough for them to enroll at College Park is yet to be seen.
“What does it say about Notre Dame that they're trying to copycat Maryland football? Nothing good,” Sam Angell of Baltimore wrote on his Twitter account during Saturday night’s game.
Notre Dame’s new-look shamrock helmets, unveiled earlier in the week, have taken heat from traditionalists who believe the school’s name — and a better win-loss record — will sell itself.
For other critics of the shiny, reflective gold Fighting Irish helmets, it was all about aesthetics.
“Love those UMD uniforms. Definitely pay homage to the state,” Justin Zickar of Pasadena wrote on his Twitter feed. “However, did Notre Dame get their helmets out of a 25 cent machine?”
Forget the final score of Maryland-Notre Dame. The victor of the “Ugly Bowl” will be decided in the court of public opinion afterward, though Calo had already declared a winner before kickoff.
“Maryland, by virtue of the football uniform looking like a cross between a black-and-yellow zebra, a jockey's racing silks, and half of the Maryland state flag,” he said.
“The only things missing are the Black-eyed Susans.”