One developing story we'll have to keep an eye on in 2009 is the ending of WSU's contract with Russell Athletic and the start of a brand new one with...
Yes, that Nike. The fine folks who brought you this.
Nike: the company that adds black as a school color when it isn't a school color. Nike: the company who valiantly pushes the boundaries by giving your favorite team a wild assortment of stripes, piping, or both. A company that messes with tradition in favor of jersey sales. We should be afraid of what that holds for our new football and basketball uniforms. Right?
You heard right - I like Nike. Now that's not to say I like everything Nike does. But the one thing you get consistently with Nike is quality. You'll notice it on the field and in the merchandise. For example, Nike is the only company that gets our color of crimson consistently right (except with our women's basketball jerseys, but I'll give them a pass on that one). Even more crazy, Nike makes a more exact replica jersey for our football team than Russell does. And Russell made our freaking jerseys in real life. On the field you can tell the difference. Look at Hawai'i with Nike and Hawai'i after Nike. Or, for basketball, how about Memphis before Nike and after Nike. Nike's designs are a heck of a lot cleaner and just plain look better, in my opinon. We are better off with the swoosh than we are with Russell or Adidas.
There are two Nikes, however: Good Nike and Bad Nike. Good Nike does this and this. Bad Nike does this. It's critical that Good Nike makes an appearance for WSU. A lot of whether or not Good Nike shows up has to do with the institution, like when Penn State or Texas simply refuses to modernize for the sake of merchandise. Schools that don't care as much get Nike's experimental garbage. Of course Russell would have never done anything like that to us.
UW unveiled their new Nike gear this weekend, with mixed reviews. Obviously the look is pretty sharp and classic, but us Coug fans can take solace in the fact they are still using blurple and tan rather than purple and gold. Also, there's the whole fact that the color purple is just plain ugly. You can't overcome that flaw.
Still, we've reached a turning point in our football uniform history (we'll talk basketball later). WSU has never had one traditional, classic look. The closest we've come is in the 90s with the Drew Bledsoe-era jerseys. This look is the closest historically to what I think most Cougar fans are looking for today. We've kind of-sort of gone back to that in recent years (see picture above), only with the perplexing double-outlined numbers. Our home uniforms are great - the kind of look I could see us keeping long-term. The road uniforms, well, are not. It's not that I don't like them, it's just I'm completely annoyed by the lack of gray. Try to find some gray on those unis. You can't. And it's a shame given how awesome the gray-based road Apple Cup look is. Our colors aren't crimson and white, Russell.
And while it's nice to go classic, I still have a soft spot for the Gesser Rose Bowl jerseys. They were, if nothing else, unique. That is, until Russell sold the look out to Toledo a couple years later. Still, there's something attractive about those jerseys that I just can't put my finger on. I have a #1 replica jersey (Jerome Harrison), and a new-era #5 jersey (Bumpus), and I gotta say I like wearing the old one more. It's weird, but for some reason that look works for us. Still, you can't go wrong with classic, so if Nike avoids the ultra-modern look this time around I won't be hurt.
If Nike does go modern, let's hope it's something subtle like the newer Miami jerseys. And not something ridiculous like you know who. You can make modern look classy, and I really hope Nike goes that route with us.
What do I want to see? Here's the breakdown.
Helmet: Gray. With the Cougar logo. All the time. I apologize to the script fans out there, but it is dated. We have one of the best logos in sports, so why not use it?
I'm OK with an alternate crimson helmet with a gray Cougar head and gray facemask. But I'd like to see it used sparingly.
Jersey: Crimson, of course, but with gray numbers instead of white (and no outline). On the road we can go with white jerseys and crimson numbers, with a gray outline. And give us a unique number font. Not something crazy like Oregon or the new Lions' jerseys. I'm talking something like a modified block number font, like the Cardinals or the Cowboys' alternates. Nothing weird, just something unique to WSU that could also be put on the basketball jerseys. As for the rest of the jersey, you could put the Cougars script or the Coug head on the sleeves (no numbers), and maybe one of those Texans-style shoulder stripes. But nothing else. We don't need the jersey to become overloaded with crap. And please God, no back stripe.
Side note: the only acceptable form of piping is Wake Forest's.
Pants: Nothing wrong with our current look, although we should eliminate the white stripe, and just have gray pants with two small crimson stripes down the side. Classy and simple. Occasionally we can bring out crimson pants with gray stripes, or white pants with crimson stripes. I don't see any reason why we can't switch things up every once in a while.
Still, for the majority of the time, gray helmet and gray pants are a winning look.
Shoes: Black, but I don't care about this quite as much as some Cougar fans.
There you have it: my WSU uniform wish list. And easily one of the dorkiest columns I'll ever write for this site.
But, whatever. Don't screw this up, NIke.
Whenever the new jerseys come out (which may not be until summer because we're still under contract with Russell Athletic), you'll get my full review. And down the road we'll also take a look at the ever-changing Cougar basketball jersey. Stay tuned, Coug Nation.