To kick off our Great Western Uniform Bracket 2011, newcomer Utah takes on Arizona State’s new Nike look for the right to face UCLA in the second round next week. Never mind that the Utes rock what could be one of college football’s least inspired ensembles and ASU is debuting its new style this season–this could be a good one. It’s Under Armour versus Nike; established Pac-12 veteran versus conference rookie; Sunbelt versus Mountain; red versus a slightly different shade of red (throw in the mustard color of ASU and things get really dramatic).
Overview: Arizona State
The Sun Devils’ threads have not yet seen game action, and what we know about them comes almost exclusively from a Nike/ASU event in April, when the two parties showed the new branding off to the public. Arizona State has largely done away with the traditional Sparky logo in favor of the new pitchfork mark, which will replace the demonic cartoon on the team’s helmet (although the back of the hat will still feature a scaled-down Sparky decal). While the colors remain largely the same, the team will have a new, all-black alternate uniform, and the whole line will more closely resemble a Nike Pro Combat style. While the home jersey will remain maroon and the away jersey white, the team will have the option to switch pants around to create more uniform combinations. With white, yellow and maroon pants (the black will only be used for the alternate scheme) the squad can mix it up from week to week:
Sure, the word “attitude” is used far too many times in the video, but the new branding does give ASU a contemporary, cutting-edge (haha) look that many schools don’t get from their uniform suppliers.
The new branding identity for ASU certainly gives the school a 21st-century update (one that, considering its problems with technology, Arizona State desperately needs) and a more distinctive mark for televised games. But the change also breaks from ASU tradition; although Sparky always held a pitchfork, that the Sun Devil himself will be gone from the helmet in favor of an ultra-sleek Nike design removes some of the charm and pageantry that contribute to the fun of college sports. At least the physical mascot will still roam the sidelines on Saturdays.
Keep in mind something else about ASU: regardless of how well Nike designs uniforms for the school, Sun Devil colors are more or less hideous.Yellow and maroon isn’t as bad as it gets, but it ain’t beautiful, either. They work well with the Sun Devil mascot and the school’s place in the Sunbelt, but they hardly constitute an elegant color palette.
The school’s home outfit makes better use of the maroon than their old uniforms did, and, like all the other new ASU jerseys, includes a tasteful tribute to former ASU player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman just below the neckline:
The black alternate jersey, all the rage in college football and fleshed out with numbers that transition from yellow at their tops to white at their bottoms, rounds out a nice new arsenal of gridiron style for Dennis Erickson’s team.
Now for their opponent in the first round: Utah.
Utah also gets new uniforms for the 2011 season, although their change won’t be nearly as drastic as the one that’s set to go down in Tempe. BlockU.com had the scoop on the Utes’ new unis last week, and Under Armour has not changed much. The home uniforms will still be all red and have pseudo-armpit stripes in white, but the team will do away with white stripes on the sleeves. And, for the first time in years, the helmet color will match the color of the shirt beneath it. (Can someone explain: How did the helmet go on not matching the rest of the uniform for more than a couple of minutes, when a designer accidentally punched in the wrong color code? Apparently no one in Utah has an eye for color.)
Let’s not get carried away with small discrepancies between the uniforms of last year and those of 2011. After all, they’re similar enough that we can judge Utah on either (or both).
At the risk of sounding like an unpaid and unendorsed corporate shill, Nike could probably do a much better job with Utah than Under Armour is currently doing. If Nike came in and used Utah’s crimson and white to construct a Stanford-esque, traditional jersey for the Utes, the team would look a whole lot better in Salt Lake City. But now, Utah is stuck with UA (after signing a 5-year deal with the manufacturer in 2008), which loves the extra outline, stripe and logo where minimalism would do just as well or noticeably better.
Utah’s look isn’t bad, it’s just boring and ruins its own potential. On the field, it’s not so much an eyesore as a forgettable style and a missed opportunity for the school to brand itself in front of national television audiences. That’s a chance they don’t pass up when they break out their digital camo alternate uniform, but that’s an entirely different story, and one that you can judge for yourself. At least they’re for a good cause–Utah auctioned off the jerseys after wearing them in a November 2010 defeat to TCU and donated the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project.
There’s another component to all this uniform talk that directly affects Utah athletically and academically: flashy new football jerseys create a lot of buzz and revenue for a school, and Utah is currently losing out. Granted, they’ve played in a non-AQ conference until 2011 and their big merchandising contract is likely in the future, not in the past. But even in doing the research for this uniform summary, it became clear that Arizona State walloped Utah in the battle for content available on the web to look at, read about and purchase. Regardless of the aesthetics involved, those extra pieces of gossip and fan dollars can help out a public university in a difficult economic climate.
Voting in this match-up is now closed. Check back at DailyAxe.com for results of the voting.