Under Armour has certainly created buzz with its outlandish uniform attempts, particularly with their CEO, Kevin Plank’s alma mater, Maryland in 2011. Northwestern is now officially an Under Armour school and all 19 varsity sports are getting completely new uniforms and ‘Cat gear will be much more readily available at retail through the partnership. Additionally, Under Armour has already begun subtlely branding itself as part of a beautification of venues on campus. Classy looking purple banners drape fencing along Lakeside Field. The baseball and softball stadium outfield walls are customized graphically with the same consistent purple. Little things I know, but a harbinger of some much bigger things that are to come, especially with the new facilities (sigh) overhaul.
There were two things yesterday that caught my eye in this new world order in our Under Armour relationship and neither one of them was technically Under Armour. First, news spread of Maryland (Under Armour school) going to a pewter and black field a la Boise State’s infamous smurf turf. The Broncos have used in-game on-camera gimmickry to brand their program since 1986 when the blue field was installed. Conceptually, it’s a smart move and was pioneering in many ways. However, if you ever watch them it is downright annoying from a visual experience standpoint. Central Arkansas (FCS) went the same route last year installing a purple and grey striped field which caused many on this site to speculate whether or not NU should’ve gone there first (I’m so happy we haven’t). Now, Maryland is in “no comment” mode on the recent buzz about their turf becoming a branding initiative. Images have started making the rounds of what a Maryland field would look like as fans get excited about field and court decor possibly second only to uniform design. In basketball, Northwestern succumbed to the latest fad in shaded courts joining the ranks of many, lowlighted by Oregon
State (thanks JHodges!) in the dare-to-be-different hoops court category. Granted, the ‘Cats choice was a fan vote that resulted in a NU home court that looked like the dry erase marker for the color purple was running out of ink (that and yet another shade of purple was adding to our inconsistency of brand imagery). Back to Maryland, it made me wonder how much involvement Under Armour had in these discussions as Maryland acknowledged they haven’t made a decision implying that a new field color is in the consideration set. And of course, if Maryland was talking to Under Armour about this, what kind of radical conversations are going on between Baltimore (UA headquarters) and Evanston?
Personally, when it comes to fields and courts I’m a traditionalist. I like green footbal fields and light brown courts. You want to paint the endzones – go nuts. You want purple in the lanes on the border, fantastic. After that I think it tends to be more bush league and gimmicky, especially considering the prestige of our B1G affiliation. No, that doesn’t mean I want to be stuffy and old, I want to be classy. But, I also wonder what kind of impact these things have on 17-year-olds. I know those of us pretty far removed from the recruiting age are losing more and more touch with our impulsive decision-making ways of yesteryear, but little things matter. When it comes to uniforms, even at the alleged smart schools, this type of thing matters. Facilities are enormous. Kids realize they’re going to be spending a good portion of their undegrad experience in the facilities – gym, weight room, training room, dining rooms and the like. Major college athletic programs have created virtual sports bunkers where kids every waking moment and tweet are attempted to be monitored and what better way to ensure they are dedicated than having any conceivable need fulfilled within 50 feet of the athletic facility? But, get most kids with the truth syrup and the perceived little things like a uniform color or brand affiliation can be an intangible difference maker. Yesterday, a reader forwarded me this YouTube video of the Ohio Bobcats learning they’d be getting black uniforms last season. Just look at the spontaneous party that erupted when this MAC school learned about it (the uniform company was Russell)
I can tell you that when NU and Under Armour unveil the 2012 Wildcat uniforms it is going to be a big deal for not only our athletes, but our fans. Huge. We’ll be dedicating days to the history of the NU uniform and my guess is a spirited debate about “tradition” and what that means at NU. Bottom-line is that I’m thrilled about the Under Armour relationship as I know it has already had a positive lift in recruiting circles. It’s an opportunity to extend our brand at retail in unprecedented fashion. And, it’s another element of the new NU which can continue to build its tradition as the Dark Ages years continue to slowly, and I mean slowly fade away from those that hold the pen and try to influence opinions.
One of the more obvious recruiting strategies NU is employing over recent years is to become “the first”. For the second time in two days, Louie Vaccher of WildcatReport.com posted a story about a prospect glowing about Northwestern because of this very gesture. Yesterday, we learned that Charles Woodson’s nephew, James Crawford, a stud DB from Florida, held NU in high regard and reserved a special spot for them for this reason. Now, we learn that WR James Clark from New Smyrna, Florida is of the Crawford mentality. It turns out we were the first to offer the stud WR who holds 21 offers from the likes of Auburn, Penn State, Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and a host of others. Clark though, specifically states that NU’s Marty Long being there first in the spring, when he wasn’t even practicing, meant a lot to him and is one of the reasons he has NU at the top of the list. The recruiting news has been hot and heavy from WR and PurpleWildcats.com as of late and I just get the sense we’re due for a flurry of signings as we’re considerably behind last year’s pace and at the bottom of the Big Ten in terms of number of commitments for 2013 (2). I think we all agree it is a quality over quantity thing, but commitments seem to have their own unique sense of momentum. It’s time to get that going.
Man, I’m hoping the LTP ticket counter is not a litmus test for this season’s excitement. We’re stuck at 42 NEW season tickets on our quest to secure 200 NEW season ticket holders. Help me help you help us as we try and get friends, neighbors, sports fans away from the misery of the Cubs (sell the rest of your tickets on StubHub at $3 a piece and you can almost afford a season ticket!) and get them focused on Evanston. Add a ticket to your allotment and help us help NU set the alltime high for season ticket base (we’re closer than you think). Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share your story. Who’s got next?
BC = Play Action?
Uh-oh. Two words scare me more than any others for the NU defense: play action. That’s the philosophy new Boston College OC Doug Martin wants to employ with his RB by committee approach. Martin describes the program’s backfield in the wake of losing all-time rushing leader Montel Harris as a powerful, downhill triumverate of backs. This is worth a read to help you get better educated on our 2012 home opponent, the BC Eagles.