It has been primarily known for uniforms that have left traditionalists scratching your heads, and the games haven't been very competitive, but Notre Dame's Shamrock Series, which launched in 2009, has been a major success for the university.
The Shamrock Series has provided Notre Dame a means to showcase its program in various major cities around the country where it would not normally play. The Irish have played in San Antonio, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Chicago over the past four seasons, winning each contest. They'll meet Arizona State in Dallas this fall and Syracuse in 2014 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
The formula of six home games, five away games and one off-site home game has been in place since 2011, as athletic director Jack Swarbrick, hired in 2008, chose to move away from the 7-4-1 model which his predecessor, Kevin White, implemented for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The 2015 schedule currently has the Irish slated for six home games (Boston College, Georgia Tech, Massachusetts, Navy, Texas, USC) and five away games (Clemson, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Virginia). The one remaining game would presumably be targeted for the Shamrock Series.
With the Irish now making regular appearances on the East Coast as a result of their ACC affiliation, what markets are left to tap into?
Although the Irish landed a pair of receivers from Texas in the 2013 class in Torii Hunter Jr. and Corey Robinson, Notre Dame hasn't had much recruiting success in the Lone Star State. It'll play in Dallas this year, but going even farther south could prove beneficial.
Houston offers a great venue in Reliant Stadium and fertile recruiting territory. Playing a Big 12 opponent such as TCU, Baylor or Texas Tech would make for an interesting matchup, or even an AAC team such as Houston or SMU, with whom Notre Dame has a history from past Cotton Bowls.
Notre Dame was once scheduled to play Baylor in New Orleans in 2012, but that game was later cancelled. Breaking into the Deep South has been a challenge for Brian Kelly's staff, and playing in New Orleans, a city with a great football tradition and a strong Catholic heritage, has to be attractive for Swarbrick and the powers that be. Big 12 opponents again make sense here, as do certain SEC schools (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri) that would also benefit from exposure and a presence in the Crescent City.
Swarbrick has been silent on future venues and opponents for the Shamrock Series, likely due to the maneuvering that must be done in order to fit in five ACC games each season. The games should continue, as both the school and NBC, who gets a rare primetime game, have reaped the benefits from a truly unique endeavor.
Where Should Notre Dame's next Shamrock Series game be scheduled?
Chicago should be kept in the fold (once every five years) in order to take advantage of its close proximity to South Bend and alumni base larger than any other city in the country. Other new markets that should be explored include Cincinnati, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix and St. Louis.
Notre Dame would be crazy not to continue the Shamrock Series, as it's an opportunity that no other program in the country is capable of doing over a long period of time. It's a tremendous recruiting tool, as evident by the snazzy uniforms, of which Kelly has all but admitted were designed in order to appeal to both current and future players.
An announcement regarding a 2015 Shamrock Series game likely won't come until dates are finalized for the Irish''s ACC games (only the game at Pittsburgh) currently has a date). A year without an off-site home game is not preferred, but is still a possibility. It now becomes a matter of fitting dates, venues and opponents into the increasingly difficult puzzle that is future scheduling.