Jan. 28, 2016
January 28, 2016 -
By John Heisler
Surely University of Notre Dame men's basketball fans have a right to be a bit confused.
Official University colors? Those would be gold and blue--in fact, officially, Pantone 289 (blue) and 117 (gold).
Still, there have been plenty of options over the years. Irish fans have seen several shades of green uniforms (Digger Phelps' final Irish squad wore a pistachio shade at home against Syracuse in 1990-91, and in 2014 the Irish wore a lime shade in the NCAA Championships), black with green trim and, more recently, gold.
Since Under Armour became Notre Dame's footwear and apparel provider in 2014-15, the Irish men have stuck mostly with the traditional white uniforms at home and blue on the road.
However, there's also a gold set with script "Irish" on the front--a throwback to the Austin Carr days when his Notre Dame teams in the late 1960s and early1970s wore that design on white jerseys.
There's a bit of mystery --and more than a little superstition--involved in the color choices these days, with Irish director of basketball operations Harold Swanagan keeping track of the options and decisions.
And, without question, Irish eyes are trending toward gold.
A year ago, Notre Dame caught fire in its gold uniforms. After wearing blue and white throughout most of the Atlantic Coast Conference season (other than a January home loss to Virginia), the Irish broke out the gold in an 81-67 home win over Clemson that closed the regular season on March 7. Then, Mike Brey's squad went on a major run, winning three straight games and the title in the ACC Championship and making a monumental ride all the way to the NCAA Midwest Regional championship game against Kentucky--with the Irish wearing gold beginning with the ACC semifinal triumph over second-ranked Duke.
The gold uniforms went hand in hand with new green shoes that many of the Irish wore in most games down the stretch.
Swanagan generally has a locker room chat with the team captains to decide what uniforms to wear each game--and there are multiple factors involved:
"Part of it last year was that Pat (Connaughton) and Jerian (Grant) really liked the gold," he says.
"Zach (Auguste) is very superstitious about his shoes, and he also knows he played well last year in the gold uniforms down the stretch."
Since gold becomes a color the Irish potentially can wear both at home and on the road, Swanagan generally has to clear its use for home games to ensure there is not a conflict. Georgia Tech owns a set of gold uniforms, so that's often a cause for clarification.
"It's always a little bit of a superstition thing with basketball guys," says Swanagan. "Then, there are some guys that just like `em (the gold uniforms)."
No one connected with the Irish program officially keeps a chart, but the record says in 2015-16 Notre Dame is 7-3 in white uniforms (losses to Alabama, Indiana and Pittsburgh), 3-2 in blue (losses to Monmouth and Virginia) and 4-0 in gold. Last season the final tally read 14-2 in white, 10-2 in gold and 8-2 in blue.
The Irish wore gold in their 95-90 victory in Durham against ninth-rated Duke earlier this month and they haven't changed since.
That means, at least for now, Swanagan figures the gold will continue to be the choice, both home and away--"or at least until we lose."
He adds, "I would guess we'll be in gold every night from now on."
Meanwhile, the Irish have risen to 5-2 and a tie for third place in ACC play.
And the Irish color karma plays on.
John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame.
Heisler produces a weekly football commentary piece for UND.com titled "Sunday Brunch," along with a Thursday football preview piece. He is editor of the award-winning "Strong of Heart" series. Here is a selection of other features published recently by Heisler:
-- Troy Murphy: His Relentless Yet Fun-Loving Approach Did the Trick
-- Sunday Brunch: Irish Officially Hot . . . But Shhh
-- Sunday Brunch: Panthers Deliver Solid Impression of Irish
-- DeShone Kizer: North of Confident, South of Cocky
-- 2016 Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame-Ohio State Preview
-- Joyce Scholars: Connecting the Irish and Buckeyes
-- One Final Version: 20 Questions (and answers) on Notre Dame Football
-- Top 10 Things Learned About the Irish So Far in 2015:
-- Brey's Crew Receives Rings, Prepared to Raise Banner--and Moves On
-- Jim McLaughlin: New Irish Volleyball Boss Is All About the Numbers:
-- Men's Soccer Establishes Itself with Exclamation
-- Australia Rugby Visit Turns into Great Sharing of Sports Performance Practices:
-- Bud Schmitt Doesn't Need a Map to Find Notre Dame Stadium:
-- Remembering Bob Kemp: Notre Dame Lacrosse Family Honors Devoted Father
-- Community Service a Record-Setting Event for Irish Athletics in 2014-15: