For the second year in a row, Nike will meet the formidable demands of both the 21st Century gladiator/athlete and its own stockholders with an alternative "system of dress" for 10 select schools. The uniforms were unveiled Wednesday morning in a Manhattan fashion show MC'd by ESPN mainstay Chris Fowler and featuring ex-Miami great Michael Irvin committing roughly 20 NCAA violations during his presentation of the 'Canes' alternative look. Each school (Alabama, Boise State, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, TCU, Virginia Tech and West Virginia) will debut the duds in a big game, some of them against a traditional rival. Click here to "explore" all 10 designs in depth, with customized soundtracks.
Like last year, the "Pro Combat" line ("Born of tradition. Built for speed.") goes to great lengths in its claim to honor the past while simultaneously leaving it grasping for dear life onto the bumper of a blinged-out Escalade designed specifically to appeal to teenaged recruits who consider Jay-Z a retro act. "Traditional" elements include hints of a Bear Bryant-inspired houndstooth design in Alabama's otherwise straightforward look; an old-school motif inspired by the Oregon State "Giant Killers" that upset No. 2 Purdue, tied No. 2 UCLA and upset No. 1 USC in a four-week span in 1967; and the inscription of a 70-year-old quote by former TCU coach Dutch Meyer, "Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice," which explains the inscrutable Antarctic motif designers chose for the Horned Frogs. It has nothing to do with the uniforms, but it's certainly no coincidence that West Virginia's model is dropped into the middle of a quarry just months after the deadliest U.S. coal-mining disaster in decades.
Otherwise, the details are attention-grabbing oddities like the ludicrously oversized Bronco logo on Boise State's alternative helmet and pants and the Tron-inspired design on Virginia Tech's numbers. (Because it's, like, a technology school, get it?)
The red-on-red look Ohio State plans to break out against Michigan on Nov. 27 (above) deserves special for attention for achieving the double whammy of a) Like last year's quasi-Storm Trooper look, barely resembling any uniform ever worn by any previous Ohio State outfit, at a moment when Buckeye fans are feeling especially touchy about the tradition of the Michigan rivalry, and b) Actually having the stones to conflate "Pro Combat" with actual combat by trading on World War II nostalgia to promote a football uniform.
To honor the 1942 national championship team – many members of which were subsequently deployed in the war – Nike rolled out a battlefield-inspired homepage, complete with air-raid sirens and flag-waving soldiers dodging fighter planes behind a faceless animation of a contemporary player who more closely resembles the 1942 notion of a Communist invader from Mars than a student-athlete. For the New York rollout, it brought up a veteran of both the '42 title team and the war, Charles Csuri, who dutifully invoked the Great Depression and millions dead across the globe before the program moved on to the finer points of the Buckeyes' camouflage-print "baselayer" and the replica bronze star that will adorn the back of their helmets and gloves, right next to all the swooshes. And for those of you who really respect sacrifice, you'll want to buy the official "1942" shirt, too. That is, if you love your country, and your Buckeyes.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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