Jack Swarbrick,Kevin Plank

Under Armour and Notre Dame sign 10-year partnership

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Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank formally announced a 10-year partnership. Under Armour will become the exclusive performance footwear and apparel supplier for the Fighting Irish, in a record-setting deal, as the school’s Adidas contract expires.

While the financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Swarbrick confidently stated that by any measurement the deal is the largest in college sports, with Notre Dame receiving more cash and merchandise than any other university. Notre Dame also has the opportunity to take a portion of the cash payment in stock, allowing it to invest in its partner. (Under Armour is trading up around three percent today, hovering around the $85 range on the New York Stock Exchange.)

All 26 Notre Dame teams will begin wearing Under Armour next season, with the football team taking the field next fall wearing new apparel and footwear. For Plank, who grew up a Notre Dame fan and spent the night sleeping in the visitor’s locker room when Georgia Tech, Under Armour’s first apparel partner, re-opened Notre Dame Stadium in 1997, the new deal sounds like a crowing partnership for the Baltimore-based company.

“Notre Dame is the standard-bearer of excellence in collegiate athletics and is one of the most recognizable and admired universities in the world,” Plank said in a joint statement released. “It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to dedicate our passion and innovation for making athletes better into this game-changing partnership.  We look forward to collaborating with the university’s administration, athletic department, student-athletes, alumni and its powerful fan base to uphold the Fighting Irish’s championship pedigree.”

Swarbrick explained a little bit of the rationale that went into choosing a new partner. Quoting Ferris Bueller, Swarbrick cited the rapid changes in collegiate athletics, changes he expects to happen well into the future. While the recent past saw Swarbrick navigate the Irish into the College Football Playoff era and bring the rest of Notre Dame’s teams into the ACC, he believes the next 10 years will be dedicated to science, nutrition, technology and keeping a competitive edge. After watching Under Armour’s rocket ride the past decade, Swarbrick felt confident that the company was the most capable of adapting and providing during the next ten years.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with Under Armour. It is a partnership that will benefit our student-athletes in a number of ways,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “The most obvious of those relates to quality and quantity of the world-class footwear, apparel and equipment Notre Dame will be able to provide to its student-athletes. And in as much as this represents the largest financial commitment ever made by a brand to a university, it will provide the critical resources we need to enable our student-athletes to compete at the highest levels.

“But perhaps what makes me most excited is the overall level of commitment and partnership as
reflected in what may be the most wide-ranging overall relationship anywhere in college athletics. That is demonstrated in both the term of the agreement and the unique feature that makes Notre Dame a shareholder in Under Armour. It is reflected in a shared desire to collaborate in areas such as sport technology, product development, and athlete performance.

“Our coaches and student-athletes look forward not only to using Under Armour’s standard-setting performance footwear, uniforms, practice gear, and equipment—but also to working side by side with Under Armour to help make those products even better.”

While Swarbrick focused mostly on the commitment and resources that Under Armour would provide Notre Dame, he and Plank also shed a bit of light on what the future would look like. Put simply? More of the same. While previously rumored, there will be no signage added to Notre Dame Stadium. And don’t expect many changes to Notre Dame’s traditional uniforms, though it appears the company has already done a better job of matching the team’s gold to the color.

“We will control the look and feel of our uniforms,” Swarbrick stated simply.

“We’re looking for clean, bold and consistent looks,” Plank said.

The partnership between Notre Dame and Under Armour begins in July.

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Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.