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The Golden Rule

Tim McCarthy

There's a golden rule that applies to both sports and design: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Don't break up a team after it wins a championship and please don't redesign the Tropicana packaging. This rule also applies to the world of design within sports.

A couple years ago, Grantland released one the most interesting articles I've ever read called How Does Oregon Football Keep Winning?. The reason? The uniforms.

Starting about 15 years ago, when Oregon was trying to recruit high schoolers for their football program, they realized that they couldn't offer heritage like Alabama or Penn State. So what did they do? They made cool uniforms that 18 year olds would want to play in.  With the help of Phil Knight, Oregon alum and head of Nike, they were able to create some of the most modern looking uniforms around. Across their jerseys, helmets and shoes with their never ending palette of matte blacks, Storm Trooper whites and neon yellows there are over 500 uniform combinations. 

In the past ten years, the Ducks have made it to The Rose Bowl, The Cotton Bowl, The Fiesta Bowl and even a National Championship game. Thanks to clever marketing revolved around uniforms, the Oregon Ducks are now a relevant college football program.

http://www.solecollector.com/niketraining/?p=5497

The football Ducks of Oregon are something new. They didn’t get people to watch because they got good. They got good because they got people to watch. They are college sports’ undisputed champions of the 21st century’s attention economy.
— http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6909937/how-does-oregon-football-keep-winning

I think this is brilliant marketing and I totally understand with this strategy works for new programs or new brands for that matter But what I don't understand, is why other schools are trying to follow this trend when it doesn't quite make sense.

For instance, why would Notre Dame, a school with tons of heritage, school history and some of the most iconic school colors try to introduce a new set of uniforms? I understand that a new release of uniforms boosts apparel sales, but these are a disgrace. What does this wasabi green and random zig zag crayon pattern have anything to do with Notre Dame?

New Notre Dame Uniforms

Adidas NCAA basketball uniforms

Would the New York Yankees even consider messing with the pinstripes? Absolutely not.

This is like when the hottest girl in high school cuts off her beautiful long blond hair because she wants to look edgy and cool. Well guess what, it looks stupid. When you've got a good thing going, don't mess with it.

Irish football uniforms introduced in 2012

Same thing goes for their new football uniforms. These aren't as bad as the wasabi green ones but all the new additions to the uniform has killed the classic image that Notre Dame is known for – especially the change of the helmets. A few football teams have the gold helmets (New Orleans Saints & San Francisco 49ers), but I always thought it was cool that Notre Dame never had any logos on them. Personally, I think it's better to distinguish your team or brand with something iconic rather than tons of bells and whistles. 

Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger being carried off the field.

Rudy is one of my favorite movies because it tells an amazing story about an underdog who hustles his way to his dream despite being told he was too small or not athletic enough. For some reason, I can't image this movie being as impactful if the team had wasabi colored uniforms.