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Maryland Football Uniforms Ugly, Attract Needed Attention

The Maryland Terrapins upset the Miami Hurricanes 32-24 last night in college football’s opening weekend. But all anyone is talking about is the ugly uniforms.

Among the Twitter reax:

“OH GOSH! Maryland uniforms #ewwwwww!” – Heat forward LeBron James

“For the uniforms alone, Maryland should be charged with lack of institutional control…” –Eric Stangel, head writer for the Late Show with David Letterman

“Maryland’s uniforms are confusing at best!” – Steelers safety Ryan Clark

“Anyone on Maryland have “HE HATE ME” on the back if their jersey?” – NFL free agent safety Gerald Alexander

“Diggin Marylands color scheme tonight! By far the most unique I’ve seen!” –Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles

“I like Marylands uniforms alot.. Very good concept by Under Armor” –Seahawks receiver Mike Williams

“Maryland uniforms look like they was in #anygivensunday” –Bills receiver Donald Jones

Stengel’s quip is both the funniest and the one closest aligned with my reaction. ESPN’s Jay Bilas gets an honorable mention for,  ”The 1970’s Houston Astros have just released a statement that they would not be caught dead in the new Maryland football uniforms.”

According to a press release from Under Armour, the new duds are “inspired by characteristics specific to the Maryland state flag and the University of Maryland… the jersey numbers, cleats, and gloves all feature a custom Maryland flag print.”

After the game, new coach Randy Edsall defending the Terps’ fashion statement. ”I was proud that we kept this under the lid,” he said on ESPN. “This is our pride uniform — Maryland pride. This is part of the new branding we’re doing here. We want to incorporate the state colors and let everyone know we are playing for everyone in the state.”

Asked what he’d say to those who thought the uniforms were a bit over the top, Edsall replied: “I’d say, ‘No way.’ We are the state university of Maryland, and we’re proud of it, and we’re proud of the state colors we have.”

It’s an interesting concept and the Maryland state flag is actually very attractive. The left side of the helmet, the left shoulder decoration, and the left glove use it quite nicely. A bit garish, perhaps, but workable. But doing half-and-half? It’s just aesthetically jarring.

The Maryland flag actually juxtaposes the yellow/black and red/white schemes, too, but in a symmetrical pattern.

Red and white are, of course, Maryland’s traditional uniform colors. Why not do the helmet, shoulder decoration, and gloves in the checkerboard and make the rest of the uniform either white on red or red on white (depending on whether at home or on the road)?

But I’m a middle aged white guy. As the selected tweets show, young football players actually seem to dig the new look. And that’s probably more important than appealing to guys like me.

Grantland‘s Michael Kruse argued last week that the University of Oregon transformed themselves into a national football power with their Nike-funded garish uniforms.

[T]he most consistently conspicuous portion of Knight’s lavish contributions are the team’s much-discussed uniforms — the yellows and the greens, the blacks and the grays, the highlighter neons and the stormtrooper whites, the many different helmets and jerseys and pants and socks and shoes, the more than 500 possible combinations in all.

The football Ducks of Oregon are something new. They didn’t get people to watch because they got good. They got good because they got people to watch. They are college sports’ undisputed champions of the 21st century’s attention economy.

[...]

“The whole thing happens on TV now,” Knight said in 1993. “The final game of the NCAA basketball tournament is better than any runway in Paris for launching a shoe. Kids climb up next to the screen to see what the players are wearing.”

So after the Cotton Bowl loss, Knight asked the Ducks’ coach a question, and he asked Nike’s designers a question.

He asked the coach: What do you need from me?

He asked the designers: How can we make teenagers who are good at football want to come to the University of Oregon?

About a year later, on the other side of the country, the head of a think tank and a visiting scholar at Berkeley’s Center for Research on Social Change gave a wonky talk at a conference in Cambridge, Mass. “We are headed,” Michael H. Goldhaber said, ”into what I call the attention economy.”

Economics is the study of the allocation of resources that are scarce. These days, more and more, information isn’t scarce. Stuff isn’t scarce. What’s scarce is attention. The companies that win in an attention economy are those that win the eyeballs of people who have too much to look at. Too many ads. Too many screens in too many places. Too many games on too many channels on too many days of the week.

“This new economy,” Goldhaber said in Cambridge in January 1997, “is based on endless originality.

“If you have enough attention,” he added, “you can get anything you want.”

It’s a strange concept. The Alabamas, Penn States, and Notre Dames of the world are competing using essentially the same uniforms they wore in the age of black-and-white television. But the Marylands and Oregons may well need to do something a bit more unconventional to attract the attention of talented young athletes.

Photos: AP and Under Armour

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    Actually, I like it. Find it interesting and unique. If it is distracting, so much the better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. The uniforms apparently distracted the Hurricanes enough

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Boyd says:

    I’m not sure it’s an age thing, James. I’m half a generation older than you, and I find the Maryland uniforms visually appealing.

    More to the point, though, I wear striped shirts, plaid shorts and socks with my sandals. All at the same time, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Franklin says:

    Do I find it attractive? No. Am I glad they tried it? Yes. Variety is spice and all that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. I think they are bizarre and yet kinda interesting at the same time.

    I will say this: I only turned the game on because of all the Tweets and FB statuses about the unis, so ESPN should be happy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Trumwill says:

    Is this the official new uniform or a Uniform-of-the-Week sort of thing?

    Ordinarily, I *hate* the trend towards uniforms-of-the-week.

    But I hope that this was the uniform for the week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. pajarosucio says:

    I thought they were a good effort outside of the helmets. The harsh contrast was a bit much there. But even still, they are growing on me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. It’s a strange concept. The Alabamas, Penn States, and Notre Dames of the world are competing using essentially the same uniforms they wore in the age of black-and-white television. But the Marylands and Oregons may well need to do something a bit more unconventional to attract the attention of talented young athletes.

    Of course in Penn State’s case, just putting a blue stripe on the helmets caused a major controversy among the fans, so don’t expect any avant garde fashion choices there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Janis Gore says:

    I come from the Lone Star State and find the Maryland flag a mess. So, no, I don’t like the uniforms.

    Where did the the canted black and gold blocks come from? Looks like Nascar to me.

    And what’s the print on the shoes? It reads AU to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  10. Boyd says:

    @Janis Gore: Have a look at the Maryland flag above, Janis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Janis Gore says:

    That’s what I’m asking, Boyd. Where did the motif on the flag come from?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Boyd says:

    @Janis Gore: The design of the flag comes from the shield in the coat of arms of the Calvert family, the colonial proprietors of Maryland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Janis,

    The Maryland State Flag is based on the Coat of Arms of the family of Sir George Calvert, First Baron Baltimore, who was granted a Royal Charter for what is now Maryland by King James I

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  14. Janis Gore says:

    Yeah, I picked that up on Wikipedia, too, along with reconciliation after the Civil War, yadda, yadda.

    It’s still a visual mess and so are the uniforms. Are small teams in California going to tie-dye next year?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  15. Gary Danielson of CBS had the best reaction saying that Maryland is “trying to buy tradition” and “became the JERSEY SHORE of college football last night. They’ll do anything to say ‘look at me’!’

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  16. Janis Gore says:

    And none of that explains the shoes.

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  17. A voice from another precinct says:

    Look closely, the shoes are terp-shell motif–to go with the shell helmets that they showed in the showcase of the new unies on the web.

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  18. Dan Holder says:

    HATERS!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Janis Gore says:

    Oh, c’mon, hon. If I were a 22-year-old Maryland girl with pretty, tanned legs, I’d buy a little jersey and shoes of some sort printed the way those are (which other pictures show has a pattern of the two motifs overlaid), and wear it with the cutest, shortest flared white shorts I could find, and a big fat bow with all those colors in my hair.

    I think my big problem is the helmet. I have a hard enough time keeping up with action in a football game without that distraction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0