Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Xavier's new uniforms, and what they mean

By Eamonn Brennan

When it comes to clothing, there are aesthetics, and then there's underlying meaning. Let's start with the aesthetics.

From a purely visual standpoint, Xavier's new Nike uniforms -- announced by the school Friday -- are pretty awesome. The white, blue, and grey combination of Xavier's jersey, if I may say so myself, a rather fetching colorway, regardless of design. But the best part of Xavier's new threads are the shorts, which feature a big X that goes from the waist to the knee. It's a very cool look, and anyone who agnostically buys college basketball shorts (ahem, guilty as charged) on the regular should keep their eye out for the Musketeers. That's good stuff.

And just what do those new uniforms mean? Quite a bit, actually.

According to the school's release, the new uniforms are part of the Nike NTS Contract. What does this mean? Apparently, it's the "highest level of Nike contract [a school] can obtain without winning a basketball national championship." There's a reason that seemingly innocuous information was included in Xavier's release. That's because it dovetails perfectly with Xavier's attempts to change its reputation from a strong mid-major to a member of the national elite.

That the Musketeers don't have this reputation already is a bit unfair: The school has gone to the Sweet Sixteen (or better) in each of the last three years. It recruits from a large pool of talent. It has high-end facilities. The fact that Xavier is still struggling to hammer that point home comes through even in harmless news releases about new uniforms. To wit:
The 30-35 schools at this level currently include Texas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Florida State. Xavier is one of only six schools without BCS football that are at the NTS level, joining Gonzaga, Marquette, Saint John’s, Georgetown and Villanova.

“This is another important part of what sets Xavier apart as an elite basketball program,” said Xavier head coach Chris Mack. “Our players love the new uniforms and I know our fans will as well.”

See? We're elite! Look at the other programs who have the same Nike contract as us! Mack hammered this point home throughout the NCAA tournament, and it seems the program hasn't stopped since. It's no wonder why. But never fear, Musketeers. Hard-core hoops fans already know. Keep winning, and it's just a matter of time before everyone else does, too.

(Hat tip: The Dagger)