Coaches make fashion statement

Meyer, assistants hit recruiting trail with loud, proud letterman's jackets

Updated: December 13, 2012, 10:25 AM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The first message is delivered from a distance.

The large block 'O' is hard to miss, popping off the black backdrop with the scarlet letter outlined in white. That's effectively the neon sign that announces Ohio State has arrived and is open for business.

Ohio State jacket
Courtesy of Ohio State UniversityOnly 14 of these special Nike Ohio State letterman's jackets were made for the football coaches and select staff.
The next message is more subtle and requires the audience to come a little closer.

Stitched on the same black or patched on to shiny, almost-blinding white sleeves are reminders of the history of the program. Conference titles and perfect seasons, a Buckeye leaf and national championships, they're all represented somewhere in what amounts to a more traditional, face-to-face sales pitch.

The vehicle is the same in this advertising campaign, which has become one of the hottest in college football after the unbeaten season Urban Meyer produced in his first year with Ohio State. And while the unique letterman's jacket that every member of the coaching staff has to wear on the recruiting trail probably isn't going to be one of the biggest motivating factors for a high school player facing a decision about where to sign this offseason, the attention it's receiving on sidelines across the country obviously doesn't hurt as the Buckeyes spread the word about their resurgent program.

"I get teased by other coaches from some other schools, asking me where I plug the jacket in and all that stuff since they're bright and shiny and they're pretty neat," cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. "They are eye-catching and I get comments everywhere I go, not just from kids, but adults and parents and all kinds of people. But the great thing is they tell the history of Ohio State, too.

"Most of the rest of the folks are walking around with pretty much standard, whatever jackets. It's not like ours. I appreciate the teasing, because it means it's making an impression on somebody."

The Buckeyes have had the last laugh all season long, getting their momentum rolling with an undefeated season that will carry far more weight than any fashion statement. But from Meyer on down, the guys heading out to meet with commitments, current targets or watching future prospects have apparently taken their appearance on the road just as seriously as they did putting out a winning product this season.

The jackets, for starters, are almost impossible to miss -- and with only 14 of them currently in existence, they're as unique as they are attracting to the eye. That helps set Ohio State apart seemingly from the moment a coach steps foot in a school or on a sideline to do some scouting, and every little edge can help as it tries to finish up a class currently ranked No. 5 in the country and continues establishing its brand recognition for the future in the process.

"Honestly, it's an Ohio State jacket, so it automatically grabs instant attention," Massillon (Ohio) coach Jason Hall said. "The black one, the O on the right chest, it sticks out. Then obviously with it being Ohio State, you notice it right away. Every coach has their little quirks about the gear they wear and what they give the staff, but that's interesting. There's not many people that do a letterman's jacket.

"I think it's a big attention-grabber and really attracts people -- 'Oh, geez, that's Ohio State.'"

That's only part of the formula with the jacket for the Buckeyes, who certainly don't want to be anonymous when they roll into a town and aren't trying to be discreet about the big 'O.' It also requires closer inspection to count all the championships, with national crowns stitched on the back and conference titles counted up on the sleeve.

But aside from completing the equation by making sure there's a passionate recruiter actually wearing the thing, there's currently still one item missing. Since it was made before the final game of the season, the list of undefeated campaigns is incomplete for the moment.

There is, though, a brand new patch specifically designed to commemorate the perfect 2012 season waiting to be sewn on the right sleeve. But first Coombs will have to be willing to take his jacket off for a couple days to actually have it applied.

"It may not be until spring, because I don't want to part with it right now," Coombs joked. "You want to have something that sends a message about who is there.

"We like to think our brand is pretty important, and we want to get it out there. This jacket really does that in a big, big way."

Get up close and it can do it in a smaller way, too. Both approaches appear to be getting the word out.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter