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Oregon’s Football Uniforms No Longer a Joke

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

 

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Oregon Ducks football program must be feeling pretty gratified.

Since the 1995 Rose Bowl, the program and its athletic department have spent countless amounts of time and money making “ugly,” “embarrassing,” and “laughable” uniforms.  At least that’s what outsiders spent the better part of their time writing and telling anyone willing to laugh with them.  But more than 20 years since that Rose Bowl versus Penn State, the Ducks have parlayed that same “ugly,” “embarrassing,” and “laughable” garb into unprecedented success at their university and a level of success nearly every other athletic department in collegiate sport would give their left you-know-what for.

From lightning yellow, to diamond studs.  Block lettering, to today’s (or yesterday’s based on Oregon’s rate of turnover) wings.  And “storm troopers,” to “disco-ball helmets.”  Oregon and their marketing machine have spent the last 2 decades making stars of a school previously doomed to supporting roles.

In the last 8 years, the football team has played for 2 national titles, the volleyball team made it to the national championship game, softball 3 of the last 4 College World Series’, and men’s golf has recently been ranked #1.  In addition, men’s cross country won 2 national titles, track and field owns 7 indoor and 1 outdoor national championship, and the baseball team – which was resuscitated in 2009 – has been to the NCAA Tournament 5 of the last 6 years.  Success by any standard, and a far cry from any visionary’s hopes for an athletic department treading water more than 20 years ago.

In addition to the aforementioned success on the playing field, such success has been matched financially.  A recent study uncovered Oregon as the leading revenue-earning athletic department in the country amongst public universities, and one of just 24 self-sufficient institutions in the NCAA.

And those “ugly uniforms” deserve a significant portion of the credit.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity.  Or so an adage has told us.  But while a bit of a literal stretch, Oregon and their marketing department took that, coupled with research geared towards the wants and needs of the 18-year-old recruits they coveted to heart, when developing the groundbreaking strategy regarding their revolving unis.  While the historically great programs in collegiate sport pointed to their tradition, Oregon turned their back on it and set their crosshairs on innovation as the vessel to take them to the Promised Land. 

Now, years and generations of uniforms later, Oregon’s “laughable” attire is being replicated by seemingly everyone in the collegiate game.  Every school has alternative uniforms, the “disco-ball/mirror” helmet can be seen by schools like Washington, Baylor, and Notre Dame to name a few, and even the most traditional powers have veered from the norm regarding what they wear on those cold Saturday’s in Fall.  Oregon has changed the game and in the process, created a brand drawing interest from coast to coast.

Last year’s football recruiting class included kids from Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Hawaii, and of course California and Washington.  Kids thousands of miles away, yet familiar with and openly rooting for the Ducks growing up.  An unlikely scenario 20 years ago, but a common theme amongst kids in even the most uncommon areas of the country.

Thanks to the uniforms.

It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen solely because, but Oregon’s uniform revolution kick-started a metamorphosis of previously ugly ducklings into a sports nation of flourishing fowl.  The Ducks of today are not the Ducks of 20 years ago, and the punchline they were due to the innovative route they chose to take has become the road more travelled for everyone else trying to catch up.  They’re winning at an unprecedented rate, generating revenue at an unprecedented level, and attracting attention from prospects from unprecedented regions of the country.  It isn’t and accident and it isn’t a joke anymore.  

It appears the Ducks are the ones laughing now. 

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Most Devastating Sports Injuries

Here is GoLocalPDX's list of Oregon's most devastating injuries that have occured within the past 10 years.

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