The current atmosphere surrounding big time D1 college athletics uniforms says that more is more, and that more is better. Teams are seeking higher levels of customization in their designs, and programs like Oregon Football whip out new uniforms almost every single week. But is this the way things will be forever? Is it just an ever-perpetuating arms race for gear? Or will we see a new trend emerge, where less is actually more?
Right now, the entire set up is market-driven, and schools’ officials will even admit that fact openly. Big time athletic brands get maximum exposure, the schools become more powerful commercial entities, and the jerseys themselves are sold for top dollar.
The players don’t see a dime of it directly, but they do benefit from the increased exposure for their program if they hope to go pro, and many still get a free education out of the deal. Athletes getting paid is a debate for another post.
The point here is that teams are all competing for more, more, more, but at some point there simply is no more, without verging on the completely ridiculous, and then the only new direction to go is less. We’re not there yet, but we’re well on our way.
What do I mean with less being more? Am I talking about simpler uniforms? Maybe, but that’s just style, and it will continue to change at a moment’s notice. Am I talking about less uniforms produced per season? Not exactly, as sporting brands want to flood the market with their top work. So what am I talking about?
Let me use the Kings of Gear, known to most as Oregon Football, as my first example…
Currently, the Ducks’ football program gets more new gear per year than any other team in the country. It verges on obscene. After it is used, players can purchase it, or it is auctioned off, and the proceeds go back to the Athletic Department. People love seeing the new uniforms, and sharing the new Nike Oregon design is always popular amongst gear heads. But why does all this giving have to be limited to Oregon Football? Why outfit these guys week after week in new gear? When is enough enough? Why not do something GOOD instead, especially if it can still benefit the program and brand?
What I would propose is that programs like Oregon and brands like Nike “donate” half of their new uniforms to cash-strapped youth or high school football teams. What I mean is this: instead of getting new all-white uniforms for themselves, Oregon and Nike could donate all-white Oregon-INSPIRED uniforms to a program in need.
The designs would still be top level, the interest would still be there, AND we would get to see Oregon style uniforms in a ton of different colors and schemes, depending on who got the uniforms. Not only that, but it would grow the game of football, and in lacrosse, we all know how important it is to continually GTG.
So it’s not about making less, it’s about keeping less for yourself.
If lacrosse has any relevance to this right now, it has to do with helmets, above all else. The biggest issue for the growth of lacrosse is the lack of availability when it comes to safe and usable helmets. I have heard this from people in New York City, Montana, Florida, Prague, and Australia, and seen it for myself time and time again. It is a universal problem. And yet, while many college programs get one helmet per year, some college teams get 2, or even 3, helmets during a season, and others also receive special playoff helmets.
This is where we, as a sporting community, can step forward and lead. Instead of buying an additional set of helmets, I would love to see college programs use that funding to Grow the Game, by purchasing helmets for programs in need, or for not-for-profit groups that work to expand lacrosse. They can make it a local gift, and have an impact right in their own backyard.
I enjoy a new helmet for a college team, I won’t lie. I get all giddy when a new helmet drops, and I see why manufacturers and programs team up to create new lids during the season. I know that practice helmets are a big thing too, and I won’t lie here either… I think they’re cool. But what I would really love to see is for programs to settle on one helmet early on, and then do some good for the greater community.
The opportunity for great PR for the program, and for the manufacturer is still there. The exposure can still be huge through sites like ours, Facebook and Twitter. But at the end of the day, a lot more good would have been done for the game, and for people within our community, that I just can’t see why this isn’t happening already. Add in the availability of HeadWrapz style products and completely new helmets make even less sense.
The luster of fresh new gear, all the time, will begin to fade at some point, and I think we’re close. What happens next remains to be seen, but if the pendulum swings the way I think it will, some greater level of giving will have to come into play… after all, how many helmets does one team really need?
One. The answer is that a team needs one helmet.
What do you think? Does the Less Is More philosophy have any merit? Who will be the first program to take this path? Or is it just more, more, more, for the rest of time?