It was reported today by WaPo’s Eric Prisbell that Maryland’s new uniforms, which will be unveiled next month, won’t have players’ last names on them, signaling a change for the Randy Edsall era.
This is a classic “new coach move.” Granted, Edsall’s UConn Huskies didn’t wear names on the back (or NOBs, as us uni-philes call them), but it’s certainly a convenient way to make a statement about “team.” There are logical problems with this though, given Maryland’s current state in the NCAA landscape.
Think of the teams that currently don’t wear names on the back of their jerseys. Notre Dame, Penn State, USC . . . and now Maryland. Doesn’t something seem wrong with this picture? Given how classic the looks of those first three teams are, the whole anonymous player angle works beautifully. Those teams have looked mainly the same in every part of the modern era, carrying on a tradition that makes them identifiable and timeless. These new Maryland uniforms will probably be replaced in three years.
It probably isn’t fair to comment until the official unveiling, but if you play NCAA 12 or keep up with uniform news, you’ve seen what is more less Under Armour’s latest offering for the Terps. Disgusting, right?
The part about this that upsets me is that people are quick to bring up how uniforms help with recruiting. Oregon, for example, with its ever forward-thinking Nike partnership, has landed some big recruits since they started dressing like spacemen (and also overpaying for old highlight tape, but I digress). The logic makes sense. The recruits coming into colleges now are of the Twitter generation, post-millennials who are obsessed with style and “newness.” Snazzy, gaudy uniforms available in 200 color combinations are probably appealing to many recruits.
You know what doesn’t appeal to recruits? Not having a name on the back of the jersey. The kids that go to USC, Notre Dame and Penn State go there in spite of the fact that they play under an anonymous number. They go for the tradition, to play for JoePa, to walk in the shadows of greatness. To get to that point, those three schools had to win a metric ton of football games. They had to churn out stars at multiple positions, year in and year out. Even the Alabamas, Michigans, and Ohio States of the world have come around on player names on jerseys. For television and for recruiting purposes, people need to know who these kids are. Do you think Eddie Goldman, the best player in the region and the number four recruit in the country, wants to play without his name on his back? It’s hard enough being recognized as an individual defensive star, much less one who is just a number.
I get where Edsall is coming from here, it’s an old-school move and I appreciate that. However, taking such action would require two things. First, Maryland needs an old-school look to pull off the no-name-on-back approach. Second, it needs an old school winning tradition, where the program, not the player, is the star. I look at College Park and sadly, I see neither.