Let’s talk alternative uniforms.
I’m 46 and I hate them.
That isn’t, however, the end of the discussion. These uniforms aren’t for me and 40-somethings. They catch the eyes of two important demographics — 1) Recruits. They are the only demo for the people (coaches) who ultimately pull the trigger on the alt uni decision. 2) You guys, specifically those among you who’ll drop $150 or $180 or whatever it is for an authentic alternative or throwback jersey.
I bring this up today because I labeled “dumb” an alternative helmet designed by a nice person from Black Heart Gold Pants, a Golden State Warriors website, I think. That’s my opinion on these things. Sure, maybe they look cool or awesome or groovy, but do they help your team block, tackle, win? Of course not. Should I boil it down to that black-and-white line for whether your team should have them or not? No, it’s unreasonable and shortsighted on my part.
The world, unfortunately, doesn’t revolve around me. If it did, the four seasons would be college football, hockey, beer and fishing.
Kids — AKA recruits — love these. They want them. They also want flat-billed baseball caps and jeans with patterns on the butt. Kids want different things than 40-somethings. And guess who plays the game on the field?
You’ve seen the Indiana helmets. All six of them. IU coach Kevin Wilson released them this week. His players totally loved them. (Check the YouTube below. Seriously, it was like these dudes were 10 and opening a Wii on Christmas morning.)
Two points here: 1) Wilson and Indiana are going all-in. This is not a dip of the toes. This is not a test market. This isn’t a uniform gerrymander. This is full bore six different helmets and who knows how many uniform combinations. This is Oregon of the Big Ten, probably without all that speed.
I loved Iowa’s thought on Veterans Day with the uniform that was modeled in a military fashion. It was a wonderful gesture to our military. What it wasn’t was an alternative uniform. It wasn’t a Nike Pro Combat. It was dipping a toe and not jumping into the pool (mud pit, in my opinion) that is the alt uni.
Will that ever happen under Kirk Ferentz? Probably not. It’s not him. It’s not his vision for the program. Keep Ferentz’s history with the Iowa program in mind. He was right there when Hayden Fry brought the current uniform design and Tiger Hawk to Iowa in the early 1980s.
Ferentz will be 58 this August. Alt unis can kindly get off his and my lawns.
And 2) The reason Wilson showed them off this week? The Hoosiers are beginning to host high school players for their camps. This is smart-teking. (That’s “smart” and “marketing” pushed together. I’m sure no one has ever done that, so consider this the copyright.)
“We’re not trying to be gimmicky,” Wilson said during the unvieling. “We don’t want to be like an (arena league) team. But the kids like it. I think it will be good for the student body and I think it will be good for recruiting.”
Does the alt uni need to happen at Iowa? Does Ferentz need to relent for at least maybe one game? Yeah, he does. Call it a gimmick, but it’s what the kids (recruits) want. As thin of a reason as it might be (and as scary of a notion as it most definitely is), it might lure a recruit or two.
Ferentz has said repeatedly he’ll take a pass on the recruit that needs to see that. The logic is rock solid. Do you want someone who’s so easily wowed by shiny objects making critical decisions in game situations?
Maybe not, but can you afford not to shop in that market? Or to keep your program out of the uniform conversation? What are you missing?
I hate alt unis. Until I wear them in a game or offer a college the accidental and essential genetics to play the game, my opinion is moot.
These aren’t for me. They’re for Omar Truitt, Ross Pierschbacher, Jay Scheel and the kids (recruits).
So yeah, do it. My only request is no matte finishes. That’s been done to death. Oh, and if you can avoid the chrome abominations that Indiana concocted, that’d be good, too.
Other than that, have at it. It’s for the kids (recruits).