Notre Dame's deal with Under Armour is the richest in NCAA sports. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Last March, Notre Dame began its Big East tournament run against Rutgers while wearing white uniforms with gray pseudo-camouflage highlights, trimmed with a garish green. On the next night, against Marquette, out came the fully neon green duds. It was as if Digger Phelps' highlighter somehow became anthropomorphic, grew to giant proportions, stampeded into the adidas design laboratory and summarily exploded on the spot.
Which brings us to Tuesday, and the uniform hung on a mannequin for all to see as Notre Dame and Under Armour announced a 10-year agreement effective this summer. They championed it as the largest in the history of college athletics and there was much effusiveness in a campus auditorium, as expected. But the simple navy basketball gear with gold and white trim was a mock-up, not a mockery, and that was a notable difference.
"We’re looking for clean, bold and consistent looks," Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said at the news conference. "I think there's a great history of that here already. I don't think we have to do anything out there.
"We’re not anticipating anything unusual, crazy. We have to honor and respect the history of the university. We believe that less is more, particularly in the earlier days."
CAMPUS UNION: No drastic changes to Irish football uniforms
This is not to say that hidebound Notre Dame -- especially in sports like basketball that need an injection of visibility every now and again in a football-dominated sphere -- shouldn't take some risks. It's to say those risks ought to be calculated and measured and not appear to be the result of unsuspectingly inhaling noxious gases.
Plank hastened to note that the materials on display Tuesday were just for show and "not the real ones yet." But he and fellow Maryland native Mike Brey, the Irish basketball coach, should collaborate and find inspiration in updating decade-old designs rather than creating calamitous color explosions just for the sake of an attention-grab.
"We’re going to focus on how the uniforms enhance performance as much as what they look like," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said, though paying rapt attention to the latter part can't hurt, even in basketball.