Out of Bounds: How Teams Are Adapting (Or Not) To New Recruitment Methods

Jerseys identify teams. They help referees recognize who is who and are a point of pride for fans who wear their favorite team’s jersey whenever they play. Home field or home court benefits teams and fans alike as they try and make it as tough as possible of a place to play for the opposing team. In recent years, teams have been taking their jerseys and courts to another level.

They’re doing all of this to adapt to a new type of personality in recruits. Schools have to sell themselves to the new generation of recruits who believe that in order to perform well, they have to look good while they do it. It is becoming harder and harder for schools to sell themselves on tradition. Instant and gratification are the buzzwords for today’s kids. Things have to be tangible and tradition is certainly not a tangible thing. In order to have success, should schools change to the Oregon or Boise State philosophy?

New powers like Boise State and Oregon have always been at odds with traditionalists like Indiana. Which do you prefer? Photo courtesy Getty Images

New powers like Boise State and Oregon have always been at odds with traditionalists like Indiana. Which do you prefer? Photo courtesy Getty Images

What exactly is that philosophy you ask? It says that the nicest facilities, flashiest uniforms, and coolest places to play will attract better recruits and therefore lead to more wins and potentially national championships.

ASU somewhat bought into this idea when it rebranded itself two years ago with a new pitchfork logo and a new set of uniforms to include black and white in their jersey color scheme. The move away from the traditional Sparky logo was a big risk for ASU but after two successful football seasons, it seems as if the philosophy has worked to an extent for the Sun Devils.

The University of Oregon is by far the king of odd jerseys and court markings. They take the philosophy as far as it will go. Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, graduated from Oregon so Nike and Oregon have a very close relationship. Green, white, yellow, silver, black, and white gives Oregon football thousands of uniform combinations, not to mention a nice recruiting edge as well. The uniforms that Oregon wore during the 2013 Fiesta Bowl even had reflective numbers that changed color depending on the angle of the light. Their “liquid metal” helmets also had incredible reflective qualities.

The school’s basketball court is just as crazy. Matthew Knight Arena, which opened in early 2011, features a court that has the Oregon letter O in the center surrounded by fir trees to symbolize the 1939 National Championship basketball team nicknamed the “Tall Firs.”

The most famous football field in sports is the blue turf of Boise State. Now 26 years old, Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier hoped he could bring the university some notoriety with the blue field. A lot of controversy still surrounds the turf. In 2011, other teams in the Mountain West Conference forbade Boise State from wearing their blue uniforms at home. They said it gave BSU an unfair advantage by camouflaging the team. The ban on the uniforms will be lifted next season. The turf also gives off quite a large glare on TV. The team has found success in recent years and even won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma. Other schools have also followed suit, such as Eastern Washington’s team, which plays on a red field.

The question is, are these oddities a good thing for the world of sports? There are two schools of thought: Traditionalists who believe that anything beyond the original green grass and regular uniforms is wrong, and then there are programs like Boise State and Oregon. Examples of the former are becoming fewer and farther between. Indiana basketball is one of the last traditionalists. The program has never put names on the back of their jerseys because legendary coach Bobby Knight believed that the name on the front should mean more than the name on the back. Even after Knight left the program, the jerseys still remain nameless and the style of the jersey and the color has not changed.

In order to have success, schools need to change to the Oregon or Boise State philosophy, because if they don’t they will most certainly be left in the dust. Yet there is something to be said for tradition, as Indiana has the third-ranked basketball team in the country this year. So what is the right way to proceed? It’s a question left up to each school and its fans to answer, but it certainly looks as if things are headed the way of the flashy and the absurd.

 

If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me write about or cover this semester, have a comment about a recent post, or simply want to talk sports, contact me at nkruege1@asu.edu or via Twitter @npkrueger