Every so often there's a uniform everybody talks about. Thirty years ago it was Marquette's untucked jersey. In more recent years, the Golden Eagles' uniforms have become fairly pedestrian, but now the school is about to set tongues wagging again, thanks to this new design.
Although the Marquette design is loaded with little gewgaws, the trend in college hoops this season is toward simplification. Up and down the country, teams are toning down or even eliminating stripes and piping, and many of them are moving away from those annoying NikeWorld collarbone horns that were so common last season. In fact, the biggest trend this year is the expansion of Nike's other recent design template, the System of Dress (first showcased by several teams during last season's NCAA tourney), which features snug-fitting jerseys with so little ornamentation that they look like simple sleeveless tees.
At least more six teams are adopting the System of Dress this season (they'll be listed in a sec), and that's fine by Uni Watch, since the no-frills jerseys generally look pretty sharp. Granted, the same can't be said about the extra-baggy shorts, but that problem extends to plenty of non-System teams too. Actually, the biggest problem with the System of Dress is the hopelessly awkward name -- who wants to say, "System of Dress" even once in this lifetime? Fortunately, Uni Watch is at the ready with a substitute moniker: Since the System is tight on top and billowy on the bottom, much like a gown, Uni Watch will henceforth refer to it as Frocks for Jocks.
With the season about to get underway in earnest tomorrow night, here's an alphabetical rundown of this season's new looks (with the usual caveat that many schools have undoubtedly flown under Uni Watch's radar, so feel free to send additions and corrections here):
• Uni Watch's favorite color combo is green and gold, so anything going on at Baylor is always of interest. They've got a flashy new design this season -- a big upgrade over last year, especially when viewed from the side (old, new). The rear view, unfortunately, becomes problematic once you look below the waist. Lots of additional pics here.
• Why would Clemson change from a perfectly fine uniform to NikeWorld horns? Go figure. Also: Note the black memorial strip for the Virginia Tech shootings, which all ACC teams are wearing in various spots.
• Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik has removed the player names from the jerseys.
• If you want to chart a textbook case of eccentricities giving way to bland corporate templating, look no further than Evansville, which in recent years has gone from quirky to classic to, this season, NikeWorld.
• Florida has abandoned the NikeWorld horns and is going with a modified version of the gator-print Frocks for Jocks uni that the team wore one time last season. Here are the new designs: home, side view, rear view, road, and rear view.
• Georgia Tech isn't a Nike school, but it has totally copied the Frocks for Jocks concept of tight jerseys and baggy shorts, evolving from this to this. The shorts striping resembles a fault line, but at least it's relatively thin, so it doesn't look so bad.
• Iowa has been going without player names in recent years. New coach Todd Lickliter wanted to restore the names to the jerseys, but it wasn't clear if he'd be able to, because the name-free jerseys had already been ordered and the number placement was a bit high, leaving very little space for the names. Looks like they've squeezed the names in, though, using small-ish type.
• Like all the other Kansas sports teams, the Jayhawks hoops squad has traded in its old typography for the school's Trajan font (still a controversial move in some quarters). The road jersey looks like this, plus there's a red alternate uni, but don't expect to see it very often -- this article quotes coach Bill Self saying, "I don't like wearing the red very much. There's no reason we wore red [in an exhibition game] other than we've got to wear them once or twice [for adidas]." Finally, the team will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1988 NCAA title team by wearing '88 throwbacks on Feb. 16 against Colorado.
• No uniform change at Kentucky, but here's an odd tidbit: When Billy Gillispie was coaching at Texas A&M last season, the school logo appeared on his belt buckle. This season he's coaching at Kentucky but appears to be wearing the same A&M buckle.
• LSU is now in the Frocks for Jocks camp. There will still be three uniforms: home (old, new), road (old, new), and alternate (old, new). All of the new jerseys feature the SEC anniversary logo as a chest patch.
• Maryland has switched from this to a much cleaner look -- or at least that's how it seems at first. Upon closer inspection, there's some checkerboard trim on the shorts and a seriously weird rear-jersey design. Uni Watch kinda likes it -- feels like an old ABA design. The lone downer: the chest insignia, which is a total snooze.
• Weird situation at Memphis: The piping on last season's uniforms (home, road) was actually in violation of NCAA uni regulations. But because it was adidas' error, the team was allowed to keep wearing the uniform. This season Memphis has a modified version (home, road) with stripes on only one side -- very odd. (The same situation, incidentally, unfolded at Rutgers, where this has been replaced by this; here's a closer view.)
• Syracuse began wearing Frocks for Jocks during last season's NIT tourney and will keep on doing so this season, plus they've added a blue alternate jersey. Also, the collar logo now has a clear plastic coating -- no photo of that yet, though.
• UCLA, continuing its university-wide celebration of the athletic department's 100 titles in various sports, is wearing a yellow "C" (C = 100, get it?). When first unveiled, the C was just plain yellow, but now a blue outline has been added.
• Utah, now being outfitted by adidas instead of Nike, has gone slightly retro, switching from this and this to this and this. They'll also be wearing a 100th-anniversary patch, as you can see in the background of this photo. As always, the Utes will have "Utah" on the back instead of player names, and the new shorts will include the word "Muss" -- a reference to the school's student section. Further details here.
• Something weird is going on up in Washington, where the team's once-traditional look (home, road) has been supplanted by something that's, well, a little less traditional -- especially when viewed from the side and back. The fabric looks kinda pajama-ish, too -- ugh.
• Wisconsin has adjusted its side trim, going from this to this. And in what promises to be a hosiery spectacle par excellence, the Badgers will honor their 1941 championship team by wearing '41 throwbacks on Dec. 3. Uni Watch urges suspensions for any players who don't pull those socks all the way up!
That should be enough to keep you busy for now. Know of any schools that were left off the list? Send info and links here, and Uni Watch will run updates in subsequent columns.
Finally, the NCAA has adjusted a few of its official uni-related regulations. You can see the new language here.
(Big thanks to everyone who's contributed info in recent weeks, and extra-special thanks to David Sonny, Justin Porter, and new Uni Watch bench coach Bryan Redemske, all of whom provided crucial research assistance.)
Lost and Found
Last week's football game between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, which found four Hokies wearing repurposed Yellow Jackets jerseys with handwritten nameplates because their own jerseys turned up missing, was probably the most entertaining uni-related story of the year (for additional details and photos, look here). But it's hardly the first time players have been forced to improvise on the fly after their uniforms were lost or stolen. Uni Watch is busily compiling an extensive timeline of such incidents, which will form the basis of next week's column. See you back here then.
Paul Lukas invites the Nike marketing team to use "Frocks for Jocks" as much as they like. His Uni Watch blog, which is updated daily, is here, his answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here, and his Page 2 archive is here. Want to learn about his Uni Watch membership program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.