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Irish going shamrock and green against Maryland

Shamrock Helmet

You know your helmet design is making waves when the news of the Irish wearing green jerseys gets buried. But that’s what happened yesterday when Notre Dame equipment manager Ryan Grooms kickstarted the debate when he tweeted a photo of the Irish’s helmet for this Saturday night’s game against Maryland at FedEx Field, bringing the “Shamrock Series” to the nation’s capital just a year after playing the first football game in new Yankee Stadium.

The photo spread like wildfire across the internet and had people wondering if the Irish would actually wear... well, that thing. It turns out that they will, and they’ll also wear green jerseys for the first time this season, partially explaining why the Irish decided to don blue against the Trojans a few weeks ago.

Here’s more from Notre Dame’s official release:

The University of Notre Dame will celebrate its Shamrock Series football matchup Saturday against the University of Maryland by wearing specially-designed helmets when the Irish take the field for their 7:30 p.m. EST game at FedExField in Landover, Md., to be televised by NBC Sports.

Created in partnership with adidas, the Shamrock Series helmets are covered in 24-carat gold leaf and feature green shamrocks on each side and a leprechaun decal on the back. Handcrafted with meticulous detail, the gold-leaf helmets combine Notre Dame’s rich football heritage with the program’s bright future. The helmets have been handcrafted by Troy Lee Designs of Corona, Calif.

This marks the first in a series of uniform features that will be utilized for Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series contests. After the 2011 game at FedExField, the Shamrock Series in 2012 moves to Soldier Field in Chicago for a game against Miami. In 2013 the Shamrock Series matchup against Arizona State will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Irish will showcase uniform variations in their annual Shamrock Series games but otherwise will wear their standard uniforms the rest of the season.

“Notre Dame football has one of the most iconic looks in college football and to celebrate the Shamrock Series, our team wanted to create a special new element for their uniforms for Saturday’s game,” said Mark Daniels, director of football for adidas.

Beyond the new helmets, the Irish jerseys and pants for the game against Maryland Saturday will be identical to those worn a year ago at Yankee Stadium against Army - including green adidas TECHFIT jerseys. New for the Maryland matchup, the Irish will wear adidas adizero gloves featuring a gold palm and adjoining shamrock logo plus white adidas cleats.

The Shamrock Series games for 2011 and 2012 are presented by Sprint.

Early reports from those that make judgments on uniforms and helmets are understandably lukewarm on the design of the new helmet. That said, it goes without saying that these helmets aren’t being donned to impress middle-aged men that have water cooler debates about traditional apparel, they’re being made to reward and impress 18-to-22 year-old college football players, and the potential recruits that are watching the Irish play a primetime game in Washington, D.C.

For better or worse, when Dan Patrick takes to his national radio show and asks Green Bay Packer (and former Boston College star) B.J. Raji about Notre Dame’s new helmets, like he did just an hour ago, well -- needless to say, the Irish still have some cache left.

When reading the release, I raised an eyebrow when it mentioned that the helmets where designed by Troy Lee Designs in Corona, California -- a brand I’ve never heard associated with football helmets from a town hardly associated with the sport. It turns out the company is one of the premiere helmet makers in the world, but for BMX, Supercross, Motorcross, and auto racing.

That Notre Dame would reach out to a design company like this -- one that’s on the cutting edge of sports, albeit on the complete opposite side of the spectrum -- it’s just another really fascinating development out of an athletic department that’s quickly becoming dare I say progressive.