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Buy gold, but wear green

Observer Editorial | Friday, September 16, 2005

The Shirt.

Any student at Notre Dame knows what those two words refer to.

The Shirt is a symbol of unity in the student body, pride in the University and most of all, what Notre Dame stands for – helping people.

Proceeds from the sale of The Shirt help benefit student groups and students in need of financial assistance. The money raised goes to a worthy cause. The Shirt’s admirable underlying mission is not something to debate.

But two football games into the 2005 season, another debate about The Shirt has surfaced. While this year’s gold model has reportedly flown off the shelves at the Bookstore, a significant number of students have expressed more disgust than enthusiasm – and are faced with a decision to make about what color to wear to the first home game Saturday.

Green or gold?

At the season’s first two away games, the student body has been divided into pockets of each. Despite many Notre Dame students traveling to both Pittsburgh and Michigan, it was difficult to scan the crowds and identify a strong, unified student front.

On Saturday, there’s no question that the student body must unite. It must show one color to the thousands of fans swarming campus and the millions of viewers watching the game nationally on NBC.

That color is green.

For the past three years, the Notre Dame student section has been identified with the color green. Whether it be football or basketball, green has been the Notre Dame staple. It stands out, shows people where the student section is and creates an intimidation factor. One student body, one color, one Notre Dame.

The green Shirts of the past three years gave students a common identity, and a visible advantage. Going to other college football stadiums, it’s often hard to figure out where the student section is located. But at Notre Dame Stadium since 2002, there has never been a doubt that the northwest corner of the end zone belonged to Notre Dame students.

There shouldn’t be doubt now.

True, the past three years have also belonged to a different coach, a different era. But a new coach just means a new style of football – not a new style in the student section.

For three straight years, green has become a formidable marker of the Notre Dame student body, and created a proud, unified atmosphere there is no reason to change. So Saturday, wear green to the football game.

Then where does that leave The Shirt?

With a failed attempt at changing colors, but with an unchanged worthy cause.

It is important not to let the color of The Shirt distract from its purpose. Students should still purchase The Shirt 2005 to demonstrate their commitment to the project’s goals.

However, that commitment also implies a widespread responsibility to make sure this year’s divisiveness is never repeated. Though campus constituencies like the Athletic Department, the Bookstore and the Alumni Association all have their say each year’s finished Shirt, it is still largely a student-run process, headed by a Shirt president and designer selected from the student body. That means students are ultimately responsible for producing a Shirt design that will unite, not divide, their peers.

But how to make sure that is the case? Shirt project leaders should start by loosening the veil of secrecy over the design – traditionally kept under wraps until its annual revelation on Blue & Gold Game weekend – by providing an outlet, such as a survey or Web site, for student feedback about fundamentals like color and quote choice.

There is no question that students want to wear The Shirt every year. As its primary purchasers, the student body at large deserves a voice in The Shirt’s creation.

These are just some of the things that those involved with The Shirt Project should consider so that the Notre Dame student body can be united once again.

For now, though, students should wear green Saturday, and for the rest of the games this season. There are millions of people out there looking for the student section.

Let’s make sure they find it – the green mass in the northwest corner of the end zone.