College sports undergo ‘uniform revolution’; Jacks also modernize

Growing up, many college sports fans are accustomed to the classic look of their favorite team, as schools would always wear one home uniform, and one road one.While this provides consistency, the younger, more technological generations may tend to grow weary of these bland aesthetics.

“I think the same jerseys get boring week after week,” sophomore Tommy Lane said.

Nowadays, schools such as Oregon and Oklahoma State have a plethora of potential football uniform combinations, ranging from helmets to pants. Not only do they have alternates, but they have alternates-of-alternates.

This goes for basketball, too. Local teams such as Ohio State and Wright State have been using alternate uniforms recently, and the Dayton Flyers sported novel blue alternate jerseys for their Old Spice Classic championship run in late November.

Why does this matter? New uniforms could be a recruiting strategy.

While some schools have established a traditional, old-school style (Nebraska, USC, Texas, etc.), others may not have developed such an identity. This lack-of-identity could lead to teams investing in multiple flashy alternate uniforms, in order to appeal to young high school recruits.

“I do think that a school’s uniform could sort of be a tiebreaker if a recruit is having a hard time deciding which school to attend,” Paul Lukas, ESPN columnist and uniform blogger, said via e-mail.

“Uniforms, shoes and the like do have an impact on recruiting.  Nike is the biggest and most visible shoe and apparel company out there and young athletes today like the ‘swoosh’,” Tony Caruso, equipment manager at the University of Dayton, said via e-mail. “Players do ask what shoes do you wear, what uniforms do you wear; it does not matter if it is football, women’s basketball or men’s basketball.”

Virginia Tech is a football program with multiple new alternate uniforms, many of them being throwbacks “like the ones Coach Beamer wore when he played at Tech,” Lester Karlin, Director of Equipment Services at Virginia Tech, said via e-mail. These uniforms were inspired by the Hokies’ jerseys in the 1960s, with similar stripes and helmet design.

Like Lukas, Karlin and Caruso agree that new uniforms are purchased partially to appeal to possible recruits.

“Every school uses their uniforms as a recruiting tool,” Karlin said.

“Marketing is a driving force in the uniform/shoe business. The shoe and apparel companies will make some outlandish-looking gear for contact schools; this helps get their name out there for retail sales” Caruso said.

Boise State, unlike Virginia Tech, is a program whose new uniforms have a more modern appeal, as they are one of many schools taking part in the ‘Nike Pro Combat’ uniform revolution.

Local schools, such as Ohio University, added a black uniform this year. For the third year in a row, Ohio State broke from their traditional look to sport a throwbackremix Nike Pro Combat uniform.

While this sweep of new NCAA sports’ uniforms can most likely be attributed to recruiting, these new uniforms have come in two different types: modern and redone-retro.

Some schools go for the completely redone, innovating look (like Boise State), while others go for a remake of one of their school’s long-gone throwbacks (like Virginia Tech).

“A drastic change isn’t a bad thing per se. But any new design- whether a drastic overhaul or a subtle adjustment- has to be attractive, functional, and all the other things that a successful design needs to be,” Lukas said.

When asked if redone uniforms hurt a program’s identity, Wes Edwards, equipment coordinator at Oklahoma State University, thinks not.

“I do not think changing uniforms hurts [a program’s] identity,” Edwards said via e-mail. “If changing your uniform gets people in the media to talk about your program, that is good for your program.”

Oakwood has changed up their athletic aesthetics in the past couple of years as well, trying for a more modern look. New basketball uniforms were purchased two years ago and new gold football alternates were purchased over the summer.

So as this ‘uniform revolution’ continues to sweep across the NCAA, be mindful that it does not occur without reason- recruiting plays a part in this new fashion era as well.

“If we get a recruit to sign because of the uniforms then it was worth it,” Edwards said. “Having all the talk about our uniforms does help us become more recognized across the country.”

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