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The Color of Misery


The faces of Irish fans everywhere just turned a shade of green akin to their team's throwback jerseys.

The Notre Dame Fighting Floundering Irish were punked on their home turf Saturday night in a loss unrivaled in the nation's greatest intersectional rivalry. With a 38-0 shutout, USC also assured the Golden Domers that they would suffer just their 13th losing season since the team was formed in 1887. Their abysmal 1-7 record has only been matched once in the program's glamorous history.

USC's six consecutive victories against Notre Dame is matched only by Michigan and Michigan State (both streaks have since ended).

The Irish donned their "lucky" jerseys (and tube socks) in honor of a 1977 championship team, but since that time they are a mere 2-5 when starting games in green -- and 1-5 since 1995.

So much for the luck of the Irish.

The last time USC played in South Bend, the green jerseys were a not-so-well kept secret that culminated in a crushing loss to the Trojans. That game went down as one of the greatest in the history of the sport, with Matt Leinart's now-famous 4th-and-9 audible and the infamous "Bush Push."

For an Irish perspective, you can read the official pregame press release about green jerseys after the jump.

Speaking of Notre Dame traditions, the trophy for this rivalry game is a shillelagh adorned with team logos to represent each victory. The original shillelagh was retired prior to the 1990 game. Tonight, the Trojans not only kept their prize for a sixth consecutive year, but claimed the series lead (9-8-1) since the introduction of the new trophy, which was handcrafted in County Leitrum, Ireland.


Courtesy Notre Dame Sports Information

Although Notre Dame's official colors for athletics long have been listed as gold and blue, the color of the Irish home football jersey has switched back and forth between blue and green for more than 50 years. While dark blue jerseys with a gleaming gold helmet and gold pants is the signature uniform for the Notre Dame football team, green has developed into an unofficial third school color.

Any discussion about the green uniforms in Notre Dame athletics history begins with the Notre Dame-USC football game on Oct. 22, 1977. Irish head coach Dan Devine - who had received a friendly suggestion from head basketball coach Digger Phelps during an off-season conversation - ordered special green jerseys four months in advance of the Irish-Trojan game. Notre Dame had not worn green jerseys since a 1968 Thanksgiving Day game in Yankee Stadium against Syracuse.

In what was billed as the best-kept secret in Notre Dame football history, most of the team was unaware of the uniform switch until 20 minutes before kickoff - although Devine allowed captains Ross Browner, Terry Eurick and Willie Fry to try on the new jerseys on Friday afternoon prior to the pep rally. Even though Fry hinted about the change at the rally that evening by calling for the fans to wear green to the game and referring to his teammates as the `Green Machine,' the secret remained safe until the team returned after pregame warm-ups to find green jerseys with gold numbers hanging in each player's locker.

Notre Dame Stadium already was operating at a fever pitch that day before the team even took the field. The student body wheeled a homemade Trojan horse onto the field to symbolize the historical Fall of Troy. The Irish fans also were eager to make up for the 55-24 loss to USC in 1974, a game that Notre Dame led 24-6 at halftime. The Irish rolled to a 49-16 victory over USC in their green jerseys and the "Green Machine" was born. Notre Dame wore the jerseys for the rest of the season, sweeping through the remainder of the schedule and thumping #1 Texas, 38-10, in the Cotton Bowl to earn the national championship.

Gerry Faust outfitted his Irish teams in green jerseys for victories over USC in 1983 and '85 (the team switched to green during halftime of the '85 game). Lou Holtz incorporated green twice in his tenure, sparking the team to a 1982 Sugar Bowl victory over Florida with green numbers on white jerseys. The team also wore green in a 35-28 loss to Georgia Tech for the 1999 Gator Bowl while Tyrone Willingham's 2002 team wore green in a 14-7 loss to Boston College.

Although the 1977 Notre Dame-USC football game marked the renewal of the green jerseys, Notre Dame football teams have been wearing green in one fashion or another since Knute Rockne patrolled the sidelines during the 1920s. In those days, the Notre Dame varsity team usually wore blue while the freshman squad was outfitted in green.

On several occasions, Rockne's varsity team did wear green - simply for purposes of distinction when the Irish opponent also came out in blue. Games against Navy in the late 1920s, for example, featured green-clad Notre Dame teams in order to avoid confusion with the Navy's blue uniforms. Rockne didn't mind using the color change as a psychological ploy. When Notre Dame faced Navy in Baltimore in 1927, the Irish head coach started his second-string reserves. Navy took advantage by scoring a touchdown in the first five minutes of the game. Immediately following the Midshipmen's score, Rockne made his move, as reported by George Trevor in the New York Sun:

"Instantaneously, the Notre Dame regulars yanked off their blue outer sweaters and - like a horde of green Gila monsters - darted onto the field. From that moment on, Notre Dame held the initiative, imposed its collective will upon the Navy."

Notre Dame came from behind to win that game, 19-6, and then used the same maneuver the following year at Chicago's Soldier Field. That 1928 game saw Notre Dame beat Navy, 7-0, with the Scholastic Football Review including this description:

"Mr. K.K. Rockne may, or may not, be a psychologist. But, he did array his team in bright green jerseys for their battle with the United States Naval Academy. Mr. Rockne evidently surmised that garbing a band of native and adopted Irish in their native color is somewhat akin to showing a bull the Russian flag."

The green jerseys remained prominent throughout the Frank Leahy years - particularly in September of 1947, when Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack graced the cover of Life magazine clad in green. Several of Joe Kuharich's squads wore green with UCLA-style shoulder stripes and shamrocks on the helmets. Even Hugh Devore's 1963 team, after wearing blue all season, switched to green for the season finale against Syracuse.


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"The last time USC played in South Bend, the green jerseys were a not-so-well kept secret that culminated in a crushing loss to the Trojans"

You may want to check your facts there...

Adam Rose

Nirad -- Which part?

There was plenty of speculation about the green jerseys before that game, starting around the time Joe Montana led the massive pep-rally in Notre Dame Stadium the week of the game. Weis denied it, but that only added fuel to the fire.

As for the result, the scoreboard wasn't as crushing as this year's, but emotionally I can't think of a much bigger let-down. The fans stormed the field and players celebrated because they thought they had knocked off the nation's #1 ranked team, and it looked like Notre Dame was making a run for the national championship. Seconds later, they got pushed back by security, USC won the game, and they were a 2-loss team that just fell out of the top-10. Ouch.


sorry, my mistake. I guess I read that as "crushing loss [for] the trojans." i blame my hangover.


...a loss unrivaled in the nation's greatest intersectional rivalry...

For the Notre Dame side, true. For the rivalry as a whole?

Nov. 26, 1966: Notre Dame 51, USC 0


also, as Walter in the Big Lebowski would say, "We gonna split hairs here?"

But in the interest of factual accuracy, Notre Dame did not fall from the Top 10 after the USC game in 2005 - the Irish, ranked #9 in the AP Poll before that game, held their ranking at #9 when the votes were tallied the next day.

Bruce Taber

Its a lovely shade of B___H

Adam Rose

Nirad - No biggie!

G - Correctamundo, it was only the worst loss for the Irish, but they did have a larger win. And they didn't fall in the AP, but I happened to be looking at the Coach's poll and forgot to mention that.

Bruce - Funny, but I gotta' bleep out part of that last word (for the kids sake).

Bill Baldwin, Jr.

I was there in the student section in 1966 when Ara Parseghian ran up the score, 51-0, no doubt as some sort of payback for ND's agonizing 1964 loss to USC, when we scored 20 unanswered points after # 1 ND had led 17-0 at halftime. I was there in the student section for that one, too, and remember to this day squinting in the late afternoon sunlight toward the tunnel end of the field as Craig Fertig hit Rod Sherman on a slant on 4th and 8 from the 15 for the winning touchdown and then when the gun sounded 1:38 seconds later, rushing the field with the rest of the student section.

What Pete Carroll didn't do this past Saturday, was run up the score against a pretty bad Notre Dame team at South Bend and that was the right thing to do, not only from a class perspective, but with an eye on the future and an understanding of history. In the SC locker room after the '66 game, a truly angry Coach John McKay vowed a USC team of his would "never lose to Notre Dame again" -- and he almost made that vow stick, going 8 and 1 from thereon out, including 1972 when Anthony Davis scored six touchdowns and the 1974 game, when after trailing the Irish 24-6 at the half, USC scored the next and final 55 points, starting with AD's 102-yard second half kickoff return, which McKay predicted Davis would pull off to his startled players before heading out for the kickoff.
McKay: " Now, after AD runs back the kickoff, we're going to........"

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