Ralph D. Russo
Look back at a college football game and the first reaction might be, “What in the world are they wearing?” Maryland outfits look like someone tore up the state flag and glued the pieces to a training uniform. Boise State gear could have been borrowed from the “Power Rangers.” This isn’t the first time that soccer uniforms have pushed the boundaries of fashion sense. But now, a trend started about a decade ago by Oregon – a team that loves costume changes – is sweeping the country. The scandalous uniforms are in it. While some traditionalists find them downright offensive, kids love them. It’s all that matters. “The uniforms are amazing,” said Maryland offensive lineman Andrew Gonnella. What Maryland is doing under new athletic director Kevin Anderson’s leadership is called rebranding. With a big boost from Under Armor CEO and former Marylander Kevin Plank, Anderson is trying to create a new image for the Terrapins. It’s a strategy reminiscent of what Oregon did in the mid-1990s, when it struck a deal with Nike, founded by alum Phil Knight. Oregon was looking for a way to bring more attention to its booming but still fairly anonymous football program. “Oregon didn’t have the history of USC, Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State or Michigan,” said associate athletic director Jim Bartko. “So we thought: that our tradition is innovation, or a shock value. “The days of Kelly green, yellow and white are long gone at Eugene, replaced by garish shades of school colors, as well as black, steel and something called carbon. Image is everything, baby! And the idea is to click with the 18-25 crowd, especially those 18-year-olds who also happen to be five-star rookies. These uniforms are definitely not for fans who grew up believing that Penn State playing in their white road uniforms against Alabama was the perfect color combination (although the numbers on Tide’s helmets were a little fancy). “The children are in the process of equipping themselves. They love these designs, ”said Maryland freshman coach Randy Edsall. “For the demographics we’re trying to get here, I’ve only heard positive comments from this age group.” The Terps had already unveiled a new look during the offseason, with 32 combinations of red, white, yellow and black on their pants, shirts and helmets. Then on Labor Day, playing Miami in the only football game that aired on national television that day, Maryland took it up a notch with the now famous – or infamous, whichever you prefer. – Pride uniforms. Haven’t you seen them? Close your eyes and imagine the state flag of Maryland with a black and gold bar pattern on one side of the helmet and shoulders, and a red and white cross pattern on the other side. Wait: There are matching shoes and gloves. Maryland players were familiar with the helmets and shoes before the Miami game because they needed to be broken in before kickoff. The shirts and pants were a surprise during the game. “They just went crazy. The room broke, ”Edsall said. Social media did the same and, just like that, the Terps were all the rage on Twitter. It’s exactly the kind of bump Anderson and Edsall were hoping to get, and it didn’t hurt when Maryland beat Miami. “A lot of it is driven by recruiting and the other thing is the income generation and the ability to market things that represent the University of Maryland and the sports department,” Anderson said. Edsall added, “If this university were to pay for this ad, we’d be broke. Many other football programs are also getting into the Flash. The Georgia-Boise State game doubled as a 3-hour commercial for Nike. The Bulldogs wore dark red jerseys and pants, with black numbers and fancy trims. In perfect contrast, much like a video game, Boise State wore mostly head-to-knee white, with a few pinches of blue and orange – Pro Combat Uniforms, as Nike calls them. Earlier today, South Florida claimed their big win at Notre Dame in a dark green Under Armor uniform, which also counts Auburn, Boston College, Toledo and South Carolina among the 13 football teams that ‘she equips – some more shockingly than others. Michigan State, Stanford, Army, and Navy are among Nike schools – there are dozens of them – that will be launching Pro Combat uniforms this season. Oklahoma State, another Nike school trying to remake its image, has also made fashion statements. The school colors are black, white and orange, but the Cowboys opened their doors with gray jerseys with orange numbers that were hard to read from the stands. “We loved them,” said quarterback Brandon Weeden. “As players we love them and ultimately – without disrespecting anyone – we wear them. We have to love them. I liked them. “Fair enough. Not everyone has to be a fan.” I think they’re awesome, “Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said,” as long as they’re on someone else.”
AP sports writers Jeff Latzke in Norman, Okla., And David Ginsburg in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.
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