There are more than a few discussion-starting topics surrounding Maryland football: Ralph Friedgen, James Franklin, the proper way to utilize Torrey Smith, and local recruiting, to name a few. But when a team struggles as badly as it Maryland's did last year, it's only reasonable to expect some more off-topic subjects to gain more prominence. One of those subjects this year: uniforms.
Uniforms have been talked about ad nauseum here in the past, so if you want more check out the links. But the most commented on football post we've had in the past month came when we asked if Maryland's helmets were ugly. Sadly, it seems that most people think they are.
Considering that was my favorite part of the uniform, I think it's fair to say a makeover would probably be welcomed by most. Besides, it's a tad overdue: these uniforms were worn by Joel Statham, for heaven's sake. Plus, I'm not loving the mojo they bring: since the new digs were introduced, Maryland's gone 35-38. Oh, and they're just plain old generic: I wouldn't go so far as to say Maryland's uniforms are ugly, but they ain't great.
Part of the reason of this expectation for a uniform change comes because it's, well, the popular thing to do in football these days, at least for big time programs. Look at Oregon. Even Virginia Tech breaks out alternate unis a few times a year; Maryland's only deviation since the inception of the current unis was when they went with the Wounded Warriors project against Tech last year. Heck, VT is even going to have another new variation this year.
And, no matter what you may think of the aesthetics of the idea or the jerseys, they sell. They sell to players, recruits, the fans, and most of all, sell the program as a serious one. When ESPN did their "College Confidential" player poll last week, Oregon was picked as having the best uniforms in the entire NCAA going away. One player said he wanted to transfer there just to wear the uniforms. Exaggeration? Probably. But when recruiting is barren, I think the coaching staff could use any pitch they can get. Of course, no one really knows what Oregon's going to wear each week, because they don't need to repeat. Like, ever.
Here's the thing: most bad teams don't do the whole "uni switch" thing because their outfitters usually have bigger things to worry about, like outfitting their good teams. The good teams that get those uniforms get a lot of press, can use the unis to recruit, sell more merchandise (which, for Maryland, is always needed), and all in all come off as a serious program - serious enough to have a one-shot jersey designed for them by a massive athletic apparel brand. The bad teams are stuck in the cold.
But Maryland's Under Armour only sponsors a handful of FBS teams: UMD, Texas Tech, Auburn, South Florida, and Utah. Out of that group, Maryland - UA's flagship school, thanks to Kevin Plank's allegiance and history with the team and the institution - is by far, or at least should be, Under Armour's top priority. And there's no way that a brand as distinctive, "edgy", high-tech, football-ingrained, and stylistically-inclined (bonus awesome commercial) as Under Armour can't come up with a forward-thinking, new technology-powered, awesome-looking uniform.
In other words, why has Maryland stuck with a generic, average-looking, apparently ugly head-pieced uniform, when there are so many advantages to introducing alternatives and so little standing in their way?
First up, the good news: if reports are to be believed, Maryland will be rocking gold uniforms against Navy, which at least gets a little variation. The bad news: if they're the same uniforms worn in spring ball, they're god-awful ugly. Seriously, Under Armour just paint bucket'd those things gold. Yellow works on a basketball court, kinda, and it works for Maryland because of the tradition and the meaning it has to the fans. Sadly, that doesn't translate to the gridiron. An entire team in that yellow...yikes. And last time I checked, marigold wasn't that intimidating.
A few ideas popped up recently. I suggested going throwback, big time. Fans tend to forget that in the 70s and 80s, Maryland was a serious football power. They competed both in the ACC and nationally, and seriously challenged that whole "basketball school" stigma that is so strong nowadays. So why not stir up some nice memories, remind the players of the storied history of Maryland football, and create some buzz by taking the uniforms and helmets of those eras as inspiration for some new ones? Seriously, is this that hard?
Maryland's jerseys under Jerry Claiborne or Bobby Ross weren't exactly distinctive or beautiful, but I'm not saying they need to take the jerseys straight. Heck, Ohio State took this as inspiration and ended up with these. And, quite frankly, the intent means more than the result. Get Boomer Esaiason to attend the press conference, have Torrey Smith and Adrian Moten model the jerseys, and instant promotion and excitement.
Or, if more subtle changes are due, how 'bout at least throwing in an alternate helmet for the "black-out" uniforms that Maryland breaks out once a year? Putting the classic "Terps" script on black was suggested most out of almost anything, and would look utterly bad-ass and intimidating for a big game (ugly, rough sketch).
Past that, a lot of people wanted a return to the 1997-2000 era, and quite a few just wanted the state flag. While both ideas have merit, I'm a big proponent of the script "Terps", thanks to its tradition and what it means for the program at large. I'm willing to accept a new helmet, don't get me wrong, but it'd have to be an upgrade stylistically for me to really get behind it.
My last idea was to make the thinner Wounded Warrior numerals Maryland's standard ones. They just look so much better than the gigantic blocks Maryland currently sports, in my humble opinion.
And yes, when Maryland's 2-10, this is worth discussing. In terms of a "storyline", I can guarantee you that new alternate uniforms, if they're introduced this year, will be front page news here. Well, everything's front page, technically, but you get it. It's a big deal.