The SEC Coaches' Q&A: Uniform design

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
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RichtScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesMark Richt says new jerseys are exciting, unless you lose in them, like in these against Boise State.
All week long, we're bringing you the Playbook SEC Coaches' Questionnaire to hear from the coaches, in their own words. Last year, we discussed the hot topics of the day, such as which coach was the best-dressed, which clichés are the worst, and what type of music they listen to.

This year, we've got some new faces -- even two new teams -- and a set of new questions. Monday, the coaches dished on eating in recruits' homes. Today, we present a discussion on the uniform design arms race in college football.

The changes will be documented in excruciatingly detailed fashion on Wednesday on Playbook in the legendary Uni Watch college football season preview. Check back then for an comprehensive look, down to every stripe, patch and sticker across the country.

Until then, here are the SEC coaches, talking about their philosophies on keeping up with the times:

What do you think of the uniform design trends in college football, and do all the changes help in recruiting?

Gene Chizik: Everybody's got their own flavor of uniform and what they prefer and what they like. And then you've got Auburn, for instance. We're very comfortable with our uniform and our logo and those won't change. Then you've got people that want to go on the opposite end of the spectrum who want to get out there and get real flashy with everything. To a certain degree, that appeals to some young guys. If they do it, it's usually recruiting-based. They want some pop for the recruits. But does that make a difference to recruits? I don’t know. I wouldn't be able to speak, because we don't change our uniform.

Kevin Sumlin: It's extremely important to recruiting. We look at it as a chance to create energy, not just in recruiting, but for your current players. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but you'd be surprised to see the look on players' faces even when there's a change in the middle of the season. I think it's important in our situation ... we wanted a look that embraced the past and tradition, because of our great history as a university. But we also wanted to combine it with a look that would create some energy in recruiting and our current players, and I think adidas did a great job with that.

Derek Dooley: I think if a player is choosing a school because of their uniform, it's probably not a player I'm interested in getting anyway. Does it generate some good buzz? Yeah. But we happen to be at a school that has such a great tradition, that not many schools have, that we would be crazy not to honor and grace that tradition.

James Franklin: Oh, I think they definitely affect recruiting. It's exciting. It's another way to brand your university and brand your team. The old saying -- look good, feel good, feel good, play good -- that's a part of it. I think guys want to look good going out on the field and feel comfortable what they're wearing. I think part of it for us is not just the styles and things like that, but it's also the type of material it is -- lighter, stays drier, and those types of things. There are a lot of things that go into it.

Les Miles: You know, that's interesting. I think that it makes it a little more exciting, a little more fun, a little more relevant, a little more today. I don't know that it's tremendously important to recruiting. I think there are many, many more things. ... But it's become a real issue. And everybody wants to have the hottest uniform. The great thing about LSU is we have a beautiful, traditional uniform. And whatever little changes you make to it become really exciting.

Nick Saban: Well, I think there are two sides to that. I think this is a generation gap question, because we have a lot of folks, like at Alabama, who are traditionalists. And they have an expectation of what an Alabama football team should look like. It's a uniform that they've seen for years and years and years and years. And it's a tradition that they expect. And then you have the younger generation that kind of likes the changes, and the souped-up uniforms and the chrome headgear, and things that are more MTV-like, you know? So I think you have to create a balance between the two when you're in a leadership position to try to respect both sides of it and try to do a little of all of it.

Gary Pinkel: First of all, we have brand-new uniforms this year -- new helmets, everything. We worked with Nike on that. You can use combinations. Before the University of Oregon, I would've said it was insignificant. But I've seen that, with Phil Knight and how he's helped that program financially, and kids love it. We had a Beast Mode uniform back in 2008, when we played our last game of the year, and our fans loved it. It's a positive, no question about it. For kids, it resonates. They like it, and that's what it's about. So we're going to do our share of it, also.

Will Muschamp: Well, I'm more of a traditionalist, and I believe you can have a traditional jersey. We've won a bunch of championships with an orange helmet, the white pants, and the blue jersey. We'll change it up here and there when our kids ask. It's not the jersey you're wearing, or what the uniform looks like making you play well. It's how you've prepared. Most kids in the recruiting process that start asking about uniforms, I realize very quickly they may not be for the University of Florida.

Steve Spurrier: I think kids nowadays do like a little bit of dazzle, but I think the tradition of the uniform has to sort of keep its place. Some of those last year were a little overboard. But if that's what the players wanted to wear, and they play well in those uniforms, then that's OK. It's all based on winning and losing.

Dan Mullen: I think it helps in recruiting. It shows you're not afraid to think outside the box, or try something new or be creative. Our guys, we've done that. We've gone out and put on a new style uniform at least once or twice a year besides the traditional. Not just recruiting. Our kids get all fired up about it too. On game day, just try something new. It takes me back to my college days, when you used to get that shirt and tie on for that big human anatomy/physiology exam ... the look good, feel good, do good approach. I think they take that the same way on game day with the uniforms.

Hugh Freeze: I'm a huge fan of that. I do think they affect recruiting. Whether you're a Nike school or another school, it affects recruiting. It does. Some kids tend to want to go toward a different direction with that. I'm glad we have some wonderful uniform combinations, and Nike's been wonderful to us. I'm even thinking -- we're very traditionalist at our school with uniforms -- but we're toying with how can we get us one unique look in the future. I think the kids enjoy it. If it makes them feel better and play better, I'm for it.

Joker Phillips: First of all, I really like the traditional look. But it definitely has impacted recruiting. We have to keep up ourselves. So we've made some changes in our uniform. Because that's what sells. That's the day and age we're in. Kids like flashy uniforms. They like changes, they like different combinations. So we've made that change also, because we thought it would help us in recruiting. And it has.

John L. Smith: I think it's huge to recruiting. I think the kids look at it as if you look better, you're going to play better. They're all into the look. It's all about the look. In the old days, it didn't matter, you know? And as far as I'm concerned from a coach's standpoint, I don’t think I'm influenced. All I want to do is make sure our team feels good about it. They like what they see. They like getting dressed in it. And then just go to the field and play hard. Because I'm not big on it one way or the other. But the players are big on it and it influences recruiting.

Mark Richt: I think guys like it. I don’t think there's any doubt that the players like it. The fans like it if you win, and they definitely don't like it if you lose. One year we came out with some black jerseys and beat Auburn that night, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened. Then this past year we go with the Pro Combat uniforms against Boise State and get beat, and it was the worst thing that ever happened. [Laughs] I think the fans kind of judge the uniforms on whether you win the game or not.
Dave Wilson is a college football editor for ESPN.com. He joined ESPN.com in 2010 and previously worked at The Dallas Morning News, San Diego Union-Tribune and Las Vegas Sun.

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