On the walls of Lafortune Student Center, twenty-six evenly spaced frames hang, with imagery of helmets, jerseys, gridirons, and the Golden Dome. Each frame, beginning in 1990, showcases a Notre Dame football t-shirt design. While Notre Dame football is known for its merchandise – our bookstore is the largest in the country – these shirts push fandom to a whole new level. In a year where outside fans were not even allowed into the stadium, The Shirt 2020 made $400,000.
Junior Hesburgh-Yusko scholar Devin Diggs is the president of Notre Dame’s The Shirt Committee, which began over three decades ago as a fundraiser for a student with medical expenses. At any given Irish football game, the student section can easily be identified as a singularly colored block in the stadium, as The Shirt is the de facto football game uniform. As the president, Diggs oversees the nearly year-long process of forming the annual committee, interacting with bookstore customers, choosing a vendor from multiple proposals, deciding on a color, fabric, and design for the shirt, and finally, unveiling the final product. The 2021 shirt will be released on April 23.
“I’m really excited about this year’s shirt,” Diggs says. “During the design process, we brainstormed themes, images, and phrases we want to capture. Our designers took those abstract ideas and generated sketches, and then we picked one we liked. I’m drawn to the ones that feel like Notre Dame – phrases and images that bring home that feeling of being a student or fan.”
Diggs first joined The Shirt Committee his freshman year of college – a friend of a friend had told him to apply. He remembers seeing everyone walking around campus wearing the shirt, and ended up falling in love with the process. There are several teams within the committee — design, videography, and marketing to name a few — but Diggs originally applied for the general first-year apprentice position not knowing what he wanted to do. He ended up on the marketing team for his first few years before becoming president.
“I think the reason it sticks is the charitable cause,” Diggs says. “Seeing everyone wearing them is a really cool feeling of unity, and it all goes back to help students. There have been attempts to make the process more corporate, but we want to keep it within student control.”
The profits from The Shirt – which in a normal year can be as much as $800,000 – are split between student activities, student government and union, a fund for low-income students who have unanticipated expenses, and the “student experience fund” for students who have demonstrated financial need.
Diggs says his time as a member of the Notre Dame Scholars’ Program has prepared him for his role as president of the Shirt Committee tremendously well.
“I’ve had to adapt quickly and learn on the fly as well as conduct myself to represent Notre Dame, which all translated to being on the committee, specifically when working with vendors, licensing, and the bookstore,” he says. “I’m science pre-med, so sitting in a presentation with CEOs was nerve-wracking, but I was prepared.”
Diggs also tries to emulate Kristin Andrejko (HY’19) in his presidency. Andrejko was the president of The Shirt Committee during Diggs’ freshman year, and he said that the way she managed and mentored people helped him understand leadership.
The Shirt 2021 is available at the ND Bookstore and at ndbookstore.com.