There has been an ongoing debate since before the season even started as to if the Pac-12 had surpassed the SEC as the conference that reigns supreme over college football. Five weeks into the season and it’s still being debated, and expect the conversation to rage on throughout the season as the Oregon Ducks look to overtake the Alabama Crimson Tide for the top spot in the polls.
While that is still being settled, I can declare one thing for certain: The Pac-12 is rockin’ the freshest uniforms in all the land.
The trend started when Phil Knight and Nike began their partnership with the Oregon Ducks in 1995, but has only recently begun sweeping the nation. Because of its close proximity to the Nike campus and Knight’s relationship with the university, the Ducks have always been the trendsetter for uniforms of all sports. In the 21st century, it turned from the Ducks simply making a fashion statement into a big recruiting tool.
The three major companies involved in uniform design are Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. Nike has the overwhelming edge in numbers, but the market is far from a monopoly. In addition to Oregon, Nike makes the uniforms for every Pac-12 team except UCLA and Utah, and 87 NCAA college football teams overall.
The past two weeks, the Washington Huskies and Arizona State Sun Devils have debuted three new helmets. Washington wore its shiny, new chrome helmets with purple jerseys and purple pants against the Arizona Wildcats last Saturday, while Arizona State debuted its first maroon helmet for the “Maroon Monsoon” against USC. At coach Todd Graham’s Monday press conference, they unveiled a new helmet with flames on it for the Sun Devils showdown in Texas versus Notre Dame – also breaking out new jerseys, though made by Adidas.
Both new helmets worn last week garnered praise from around the nation with the occasional quibble of, “Leave it on the field and stick to traditional uniforms!”
Unfortunately for fans who like the classics, that’s not going to cut it anymore. The SEC has dominated recruiting for over a decade, now, but those programs are known to stick with tradition. Alabama and LSU, two of college football’s powerhouses, both have uniform deals with Nike, but haven’t seen hardly any change in design. With style playing a growing role in recruiting, are players going to keep going to traditional programs, or are they going to continue to trend to programs like Oregon and Washington, who have continued to evolve their uniform design?
This is what can elevate the Pac-12 over the SEC. As recruits begin to care more and more about the uniform they play in, rather than the coach and players they play around, the tides will slowly turn – it’s already begun with the rise of the Ducks.