College football is all about tradition and history. There’s old stadiums that have been around for close to 100 years that have only played host to one team. Stadiums like the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame Stadium, Camp Randall, The Big House, Kyle Field, Sanford Stadium, Lane Stadium and the list goes on and on and on. Tradition is what sets college football apart from the NFL. No school in college football embodies tradition more than Notre Dame. After all, they invented the forward pass, have 11 national championships and 7 Heisman Trophy winners, and are one of the winningest programs in the history of the sport. Lately however, Notre Dame has abandoned tradition in favor of chasing the almighty dollar (because Notre Dame is always strapped for cash right?). Irish AD Jack Swarbrick (a lawyer by trade and an AD nobody really knows how or why) has decided to flip the double bird at the fans with a number of decisions. But the most flippant of all of those decisions is the continued playing of the stupid Shamrock Series.
The Shamrock Series got started in 2009 as a Notre Dame home game away from home. The idea behind it would be to go around the country to spread the Notre Dame brand (because nobody has ever heard of Notre Dame before right?) in non-traditional locales. But what that means is giving up an actual home game for a neutral site game. Sure, the game still airs on NBC and Notre Dame keeps all the revenue for it, but that’s not a home game. But Captain Jack has made it perfectly clear on numerous occasions that money is more important than the fans or winning football games. Here’s a list of all the Shamrock Series venues and opponents:
2009 – ND vs. Washington State – Alamodome – San Antonio, TX
2010 – ND vs. Army – Yankee Stadium – New York, NY
2011 – ND vs. Maryland – FedEx Field – Landover, MD
2012 – ND vs. Miami (FL) – Soldier Field – Chicago, IL
2013 – ND vs. Arizona State – AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
2014 – ND vs. Purdue – Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
2015 – ND vs. Boston College – Fenway Park – Boston, MA
2016 – ND vs. Army – Alamodome – San Antonio, TX
2018 – ND vs. Syracuse – Yankee Stadium – New York, NY
2020 – ND vs. Wisconsin – Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI
2021 – ND vs. Wisconsin – Soldier Field – Chicago, IL
If you want to grow your brand that’s fine. But at least do it the right way. Don’t play the same teams or in the same venues. The Irish have played Army twice, played at the Alamodome twice and after this season will have played at Yankee Stadium twice (which doesn’t include the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl the Irish played in). If Captain Jack must continue this stupid series at least avoid repeat opponents and venues. Go play in places that are fertile recruiting grounds like Houston or Nashville or Atlanta. There’s no talent in the northeast of this country. Why do you think teams like UConn and UMass and Rutgers and Boston College are all perennially bad? Because there’s no talent in that region. Yet, Notre Dame keeps going there. You may ask, “Well, why would Notre Dame keep playing in the same place if there’s no talent to recruit?” The answer: money. And why is Notre Dame playing Purdue in Indianapolis? Are there really that many people in Indy (which is only about 2 hours away from South Bend) that aren’t aware of Notre Dame?
It should also be noted that while Notre Dame is a premier brand of college football, these Shamrock Series games aren’t exactly massive draw in terms of attendance or TV ratings (the last two Shamrock Series games both drew under 2 million viewers). A number of these Shamrock Series games have drawn crowds that are far from impressive. Sure, some of them have sold out but then, it shouldn’t really be hard for Notre Dame to sell out a 37,000 baseball stadium now should it? With the exception of the 2012 game against Miami at Soldier Field, the games they’ve played in football stadiums have not even come close to selling out. Take a look.
2009 – ND vs. Washington State – 53,407 (Capacity – 64,000)
2011 – ND vs. Maryland – 70,251 (Capacity – 83,000)
2013 – ND vs. Arizona State – 66,690 (Capacity – 80,000)
2014 – ND vs. Purdue – 56,832 (Capacity – 67,000)
2016 – ND vs. Army – 45,762 (Capacity – 64,000)
That’s five games that Notre Dame played in actual football stadiums that all had over 10,000 empty seats. Can you honestly say that the team and the fans would not have been better served playing those games at Notre Dame Stadium? And don’t forget that when the stadium renovations were completed prior to the 2017 season, the Shamrock Series went on hiatus so that, according to Captain Jack the Irish could maximize revenue for home games. Well, here’s an idea: maybe you should play all of your home games at home. What a novel concept. Surely playing all of your home games at home is the best way to maximize your revenue for home games.
Another incredibly dumb and annoying thing about the Shamrock Series is the terrible uniforms that get thrown out for these games. In fact, the release of the most recent edition is what prompted this article in the first place. It’s quite frankly an abomination. It tries to combine Notre Dame Football and the New York Yankees and it just doesn’t work. It’s a disgrace to both brands. When you think of Notre Dame Football what comes to mind? Gold helmets and blue jerseys right? And did you ever think, “Gosh, maybe what the Irish need to get better recruits or win more football games is to have black jerseys with pinstripes on them.” No, of course not. But here we are. I can just see it now: a high school senior with offers from schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State is going to sit there and go, “You know, I was going to go to Ohio State or Penn State to compete for a national title, but damn man Notre Dame wore pinstripes. I’m all in on that.” This comes after the horrible unis in 2012, the appalling ones in 2013 (gold chrome? Really?) and the ones in 2015 that made Notre Dame look like Oregon. Not only are these jerseys awful but there’s nothing about them that says Notre Dame. At least with previous iterations there was some minor attempt to stick to blue or gold or green. But black and white with pinstripes? Yeesh. But hey, as long as Under Armor keeps cutting those fat checks to Captain Jack, to hell with tradition. You know who doesn’t need goofy uniforms to get good recruits and win games? Alabama. Clemson. Penn State. Oklahoma. USC. Georgia. Florida State. Stanford. Oh but the kids love it and it helps get good recruits. It only helps you get good recruits if you’re the only one with flashy uniforms. That’s why Oregon exploded onto the scene for a hot minute and has faded away: they were the only ones with cool uniforms and now almost everybody does it. Funnily enough the only ones who don’t are the ones who win a ton of games and contend for titles.
The Shamrock Series is stupid. Plain and simple. The locations are played out and in areas with no talent, the opponents are not interesting, the uniforms are frequently terrible and make fans feel like Under Armor is treating Notre Dame like a slightly more upscale version of Maryland, it takes a home game away every single year, and it doesn’t draw very well in the stands or on TV. It almost feels like Notre Dame thinks they’re a mid-major Group of 5 team trying desperately to come up with a new gimmick every year just so people notice them. Which is just mind boggling because they’re Notre Dame. The name should speak for itself. You know what the best way to get good recruits and get people to notice you and expand your brand? Win football games. Win lots of football games and compete for national title every single year. But Notre Dame hasn’t won a NY6 game during Brian Kelly’s previous eight seasons. And in any case that doesn’t matter because Notre Dame cares more about the gravy money train than they do about the fans or winning football games.