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Hey, Pal, Those Funky New Uniforms Aren’t For You

Traditionalists, just give it up.  Eventually every school in the country will have a half-dozen or more mix-and-match uniforms to don on gamedays.  Blame Oregon.  Blame Nike.  Blame whomever, but the era of traditional, easily recognizable unis is dying away.

You see, kids don’t care about tradition.  They’re kids.  They have no sense of history when it comes to a team’s look.  They simply want to wear something flashy, cool and different every week.  And recruiting is the name of the uniform game.  It all comes back to the kids.

Paul Lukas of ESPN’s UniWatch Blog caught up with Under Armour’s Adam Clement — the man who designed the bizarro Maryland uniform at left — and he asked the designer if fans were part of the target audience for the glut of gaudy new duds teams have been wearing in recent years.  His answer in a word: No.

 

“We want the players to feel strong, powerful, and invincible when they wear the uniforms.  We know there will always be fans who like what or dislike what we do, but we don’t build the uniforms to impress the viewer.  We build them to help the school gain visibility, to help them catch the eye of the potential recruits, and to make the current players feel special when they come out of the tunnel.”

 

Now, if you’re asking yourself if a uniform can really make players “feel special,” just look at the players’ reaction to this Central Michigan uni unveiling back in August:

 

Central Michigan Football Uniform Reaction

 

Or watch these Ohio University players celebrate when the wraps were taken off a new black jersey in 2011:

 

Ohio Football: Reaction to Black Jerseys

 

You and me?  We’re not the target audience.  If you don’t like seeing every team decked out in black uniforms and matte helmets, tough luck.  We’re all just gonna have to get used to it.

Kids love those things.  And as long as kids love ‘em, more and more schools are going to start wearing ‘em.

 


16 comments
redav
redav

The only thing wrong with this is that there is also an interest in selling more merchandise.

alamoaggie08
alamoaggie08

i don't mind a little variety as long as they don't go overboard (a la oregan and maryland).  besides donning a white helmet here and there (has that curse finally been broken?), a&m has had very little change over the years.  sometimes you need a little suprise to provide a spark, like they did with the black unis against miss st.  it was a morning game, they were a little tired, and miss st. was wearing commemorative unis.  none of the players knew they'd even made black unis for the team, so when they walked into the locker room and found them they were completely shocked and energized.  that was fun and good for the team's moral, but there's no reason to go too far beyond that. 

BamaBreeze
BamaBreeze

It's worth noting that neither of these teams are ranked, Ohio played two Wednesday night games, and Central Michigan is 6-6. These teams are DESPERATE for attention.

SpencerMoore
SpencerMoore

The uniforms are fine. However, if you have black uniforms and your colors are purple and gold or red and white then you've gone too far.  I think it should be an NCAA violation if teams use a primary color that isn;t one of their stated school colors (am 98% kidding; however, at least teams should be called out for it).

HoustonVol
HoustonVol like.author.displayName 1 Like

First, Even TN has tweeked their uniforms through the years. Stripes, no strips to double stripes on the pants and helmets. large orange collars. Black and blue outlines on the numbers, etc. No major overhauls like Maryland, and Oregon, but still changes. All schools modify their uniforms to some degree. However there are plenty of programs that don't have to make wholesale changes to make an identity. (Michigan, PSU, OSU, Bama, TN, Tx, OU, USC, UCLA). Oregon used to be one of the worst programs in the US, Maryland has always been a middle and below team. To crack through the clutter - they had to break the mold. Face it, beyond conference changes, is there even a reason to discuss Maryland football beyond uniforms?

 

As for the TN black uniforms, they were a throw back uni to when Tennessee actually wore black back from 1911-1920. I guess we were WAY ahead of the trend. I keep waiting for someone to put some type of checkerboard pattern on the shoulders/sleeves/pants. We all know it is coming, just when is the question. Plus will it be a one time uniform or season long change.

 

As for the Central Michigan uniforms - wouldn't you get excited about wearing something other than their standard brown (dark maroon) and gold uniforms? There is no way you can make that original color combination look good.  

historyphdguy
historyphdguy

 @HoustonVol There have been small evolutionary changes for most programs including Tennessee's since WWII. Adding the Power T to the helmet in 1964 wasn't a radical departure to me because it helped clearly define the Tennessee team on the B&W television of that era. I wasn't denigrating the concept of change because it has worked well for many schools over the years. I was thinking more of the Oregon Nike situation where they have change for change's sake and to promote Nike's line of wild uniforms. I know Phil Knight is an Oregon alum who is the $$$ behind this effort but it has spread across the college landscape. The positive is that it can help attract these young recruits who like the various new looks. Obviously they believe it gives them an edge when recruiting against other elite programs by having this as an extra incentive. If their record was 1-11 rather than 11-1 every year I am sure the different day-glo unis wouldn't enter into the conversation. The negative for me is that there are some teams (like the ones you mentioned) that I do not want to see make such a radical departure from their traditional look. Maybe it is a sign that I am now in my mid-40's and I want to yell at these kids to get off of my lawn... lol. 

 

Television drives a lot of the changes as well. Adding names to the backs of jerseys helped those at home watching know who the players were. White away jerseys allowed home viewers on B&W TVs be able to distinguish the two teams. These new jerseys stand out on our HDTVs and draw attention like you said to teams like Maryland who had a lackluster season. They can help the mid-major teams garner attention when playing Tuesday, Thursday and Friday night games on ESPN. I know Tennessee added the black trim to the numbers on their away jerseys to help viewers see them more clearly. I appreciated the change because it was hard to distinguish those numbers at times in the past. Of course high-definition has changed how we see the game... literally. I see much more of the game now on HDTV than I ever did live at Neyland Stadium and the seats are more comfortable, the bathroom wait non-existant, and the snacks & drinks are much cheaper in my living room. I do miss having intoxicated fans yelling obscenities around me but I do have a crazy Uncle I can invite over to replicate this when needed.

 

I keep hearing that my alma mater ETSU will bring back football. Now if they do I would expect them to come up with some creative uniform combinations because they have little in the way of tradition being the little brother to mighty UT down in Knoxville. So I would be cool seeing my Bucs with a visually exciting uniform knowing it will take them years to build a winning program. See you next season up on Rocky Top. Forget uniforms, I am looking forward to seeing how Coach Butch Jones & staff does with this moribund program. I am cautiously optimistic that we will see a better product on the field. Even if the Vols are better we have a tough schedule so we may have to wear black all year to mourn more losses until CBJ can turn things around.

ChaseTheTrainWarren
ChaseTheTrainWarren

tradition is great ..... if your team has one, at one point in time none of the traditional schools uniforms didnt look the same way. In the vain of Tenn, every year can be someones 1964, don't be such a stick in the mud about uniforms when it has nothing to do with your team, if you want the teams to look like they always have dont watch anything but the spring games

OtownGator
OtownGator

Image the reaction if these guys won the lottery!

BamaBreeze
BamaBreeze

The common thread in those two videos is that the kids showed minimal excitement about the new uniforms until the black jerseys were unveiled. If your team's biggest selling point is "come to [insert college] and you can wear a black uniform," your program is destined for mediocrity.

historyphdguy
historyphdguy

I agree with Barnett that there are certain programs that have uniforms so iconic they don't need to get the special ultramodern alternate versions treatment. Alabama is such a tradition rich program I can't imagine them going this route. My Vols are another tradition rich program and we have always worn the Big Orange and the Power T (added to the helmet in 1964). There was one exception when Kiffin had the team wear black for a home Halloween game against South Carolina in 2009, Otherwise the Tennessee team of today looks like the UT team of the 90's, 80's, 70's, 60's, etc. Maybe it is a Southern thing for us to prefer keeping our uniforms the same. I am sure the pressure to make money for the university and to lure kids will eventually hit every school but some will take longer than others. 

BamaBreeze
BamaBreeze

That's great. Meanwhile, Alabama has signed the #1 recruiting class four of the last five years, they're about to win their third BCS championship in four years, and their uniforms haven't changed in 50 years. Players that care more about looking good than winning go to Central Michigan and Ohio. Players who believe winning IS looking good go to the SEC.

buddha22
buddha22

@Barnett Barnett, please.

BamaBreeze
BamaBreeze

@buddha22 What part of my post do you disagree with? The best high school players go to the beat programs, regardless of the color of the uniforms. Show me where a 4- or 5-star kid went to a school because of their gimmick uniforms.

redav
redav

That's exactly why Oregon and Ok St have been landing better talent lately - the fact that the schools' programs appear more up-to-date, cool, and fun than others. Of course, 'bama & Oregon aren't exactly going after the same type of player. Believe it or not, kids choose schools based on more than just their chance of winning a national title. It certainly appears that when the decision is close, things like uniforms, music, and how their teammates have fun can be the decisive factor.

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