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Tradition’ Shirt sales increasing

John Minser | Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Shirt, in normal years as much a staple of Notre Dame football as tailgates and the Victory March, will flood the Stadium this season as sales skyrocket far beyond the norm.

“[This year’s Shirt] is trending better than any Shirt we’ve sold so far,” said Sally Wiatrowski, director of retails operations at the Bookstore. “Just shy of 80,000 units have been sold.”

This rivals even the legendary Return to Glory Shirt of 2002, when more than 100,000 Shirts were sold, she said.

Why so popular?

“There’s a lot of things this year’s Shirt has going for it,” Shirt Project president Richard Fox said. “There’s a very classical element. It’s something every Notre Dame fan can relate to.”

This year’s The Shirt – the back of which reads “Tradition: This is the day and you are the team” – was the brainchild of senior Ryan Ricketts, whose design was selected over almost 25 other plans.

“I submitted the design way back in the first semester of last year,” Ricketts said. “It just kind of came full circle. I wanted to show past coaches who had had great success, something well-liked, like a slogan people would remember and embrace.”

The goal of The Shirt design was a “juxtaposition of our successful past and our bright future,” Ricketts said.

Each Shirt is the painstaking result of nearly a year of planning. In the fall, a Shirt project president is chosen, who then opens invitations for design concepts. In years past, Shirt production has been overseen solely by the graphic designer and the president of The Shirt project.

This year, however, Fox decided to take The Shirt in a new direction.

“I did it a little different this year,” Fox said. “I wanted to make a committee around me.”

This committee, working alongside Ricketts, adjusted the concept design to form the final product.

The Shirt was first conceived in 1990 as a fundraiser for graduate student Zhengde Wang. Wang was struck by a car while walking along Notre Dame Avenue in October 1989 and spent over a year in various medical facilities throughout South Bend. His parents flew to South Bend from Tianjin, China to be with him.

In 1990, Sister Jean Lenz and then-director of Student Activities Joe Cassidy suggested a T-shirt be sold to help raise money to pay for Wang’s medical bills and for his parents’ travel costs, according to the University Archives.

Orders for the first Shirt arrived before the design was even complete. By the time all sales were in, over 32,000 Shirts had been sold, with $170,000 going to the Wang family.