So you may have noticed that the Syracuse Orange wore a very un-orange uniform this past weekend. Granted, there were plenty of folks who liked the look. I even said that I thought they looked okay up close (but really bad from afar). The Reverse Monet, I was told.
But everyone else was thoroughly unimpressed...
USA Today - No. 1 Worst Uniform of the Week
There are lots of cool trends happening to college football uniforms currently. Syracuse tried to put them all together and it was a TERRIBLE MISTAKE.
SBNation - Syracuse wearing every uniform trend at once
Gray! Matte! '90s pickup truck graphics! This is the definitive 2012-2014 college football uniform, and that is not a compliment.
New York Post - NCAA members uniformly put money above all
Those hideous non-orange, Nike-designed-and-delivered uniforms worn by the Syracuse Orange against Notre Dame on ABC/ESPN on Saturday night, were the latest evidence that colleges, from the presidents on down, will sell anything, including their great traditions.
And from the Twitters...
I literally had to think to myself: Who is Notre Dame playing? Not sure how that helps a college as a brand.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) September 28, 2014
All I know about Syracuse's uniforms is that they were designed by a committee— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) September 28, 2014
Maybe Carmelo will buy the Syracuse football team new uniforms because what they're wearing now is atrocious.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) September 28, 2014
Numbers on backs of Syracuse uniforms look like they were done with duct tape. I'm not running out to buy one. #SUvND— Dennis Deninger (@DDeninger) September 28, 2014
I think they're ruling on the Syracuse uniforms in addition to the fumble.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 28, 2014
After seeing Syracuse's uniforms, I am resigned to thinking I'm watching the XFL for half the college games I flip on.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) September 28, 2014
Syracuse is wearing the ugliest effing football uniform I have ever seen http://t.co/DVl8lzPILP— Jason Kirk (@JasonKirkSBN) September 28, 2014
I come here not to add to the pile but just to extrapolate on the topic. Rather than turn this into yet another "THESE UNIFORMS ARE GROSS, DOC GROSS," let's talk about why these uniforms offend so much.
I'll be the first person to tell you that, if Syracuse if winning football games, I don't care what they're wearing. Go out there in Hanes beefy-Ts and Umbros for all I care. If you win football games, that's all that matters. That's what solves everything.
Winning solves everything. EVERYTHING.
But these uniforms aren't about winning. They're about #brand. They're about going after that sweet slice of media pie that we've been told we are promised so long as we go looking for it.
Look at Oregon. They're the benchmark. They started wearing silly uniforms and everyone made fun of them, but, guess what? They've played for a National Title. They go to Rose Bowls. They're an elite program. See? That's why you do it. Because A + B + C + D = GREATNESS.
Silly uniforms are not the reason Oregon has gotten to where they are as a program. It's helped in the "There's no such thing as bad PR" game, but it's not what makes them a perennial top-ten team.
That's the millions of dollars Phil Knight dumped into their facilities, their programs and their university.
That's the wins they've accumulated on the football field.
Oregon could have shown up in these outfits and, if all else was equal, they'd still be where they are today. The uniforms are the hook but the millions upon millions put into being world-class facilities and attractions is what really did it.
That's why people hate this uniform craze. Because it's a bunch of schools aping the wrong idea of what works.
Baylor didn't get better cause they started wearing alternate uniforms. They got better because they invested in their program and hired a stud of a coach to guide them.
Indiana can wear all the stripe-y helmets they want. That's not what's going to turn the corner for them.
Miami's constantly trotting out new uniforms but they don't seem to be getting back to their glory days anytime soon.
Take the documentary, "Super Size Me." Ask anyone what it's about and they'll tell you it's about a guy who eats nothing but McDonald's for a month and watches his health deteriorate. But here's the thing...that's not what the doc is actually about. That's the hook. That's the thing that you notice and you remember. But the documentary is actually about something much bigger. The role of food in America. The food that we feed children. Where our food is coming from, etc.
A lot of people saw the hook as the thing to take away from the film and they started replicating that idea, with less and less success as they did it. That's because the hook isn't really what made the movie successful. It's everything else that's after that.
The point is that the alternate uniform craze is a byproduct. It's a flashy side effect meant to distract everyone from the cold, hard truth. Not everyone can compete with the top tier when it comes to what really matters (i.e., money, facilities). But this uniform thing is a thing that the top tier programs are doing and it's something easy for everyone else to emulate. So you slap on a grey uniform even though the word orange is right there in your name and call it "branding" and you've got yourself some kind of perceived advantage.
Only...do you actually have any kind of advantage? You say that recruits love it, but if everyone else is trotting our crazy alt uniforms, what makes you so special? You're just another school with a shiny new thing, same as the rest. And besides, if shiny and new is what attracted high school students the way you say it does, Penn State and Alabama would be 0-12 every season. Have you seen their uniforms? BORING...
In these situations, I'm always reminded of the anecdote I picked up from the unveiling of our Nike basketball uniforms a few years back. I'll just go ahead and copy it below because it is basically the mantra that Nike, Syracuse Athletics and so many other colleges are using as their reasoning for doing what they're doing. And it's the same reasoning they'll use when the eventual "back to basics" uniform trend usurps this one and everyone is wearing what their school wore back when "tradition mattered" and other such things. As long as people are talking, that's all that matters.
About a half-hour into my writing, a Nike rep set up shop next to me. He said out loud, "I just heard Darren Rovell is talking about the uniforms," which struck me as an interesting thing to say because the "talking" that he was referring to was more like "trashing."
At this point, I turned to him and said, "You probably shouldn't check CBS Sports." He replied, "They don't like it?" I concurred and his response said it all. "As long as they're talking about it," and went back to work as if I had told him the sky was blue.
That was no revelation. It was not shocking to hear. I've read many articles on the "as long as they're talking about" mantra that carries the endless Oregon uniform monstrosities.
I'd just never seen it in person. There it was. Confirmed. It does not matter what you say about these uniforms, only that you say something.
Hate Syracuse's uniforms? The joke's on you. The joke's on all of us.