Eat your heart out, Nike.
Not trying to take a swat at the Swoosh or anything, but Adidas delivered a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown when the apparel giant's new football threads for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs were unveiled Tuesday.
In fact, the only things missing from the fashion show inside McKenzie Arena were a reporter from Vogue, a runway and some hip-hop tunes to breathe a little life into the mannequins modeling the clean, classic uniforms in road white and home navy blue.
Otherwise, the Mocs' game gear passed the eye test with flying Blue and Gold colors as bulbs flashed and TV cameras rolled.
"I love 'em," said junior defensive end Vantrell McMillan.
"They'll probably get us wins," sophomore reserve quarterback Alejandro Bennifield said with a grin. "I saw 'em on Twitter. I really like the half shirts. We're going to look great for our fans."
The half shirts are a kind of undershirt to wear beneath the pads before the game jersey goes on. Their sleeves consist of endless ribbons of the word "Chattanooga" in gold and white against a blue background. The undershirts will be the same for both home and road unis.
"The process is called 'sublimated,'" associate athletic director and longtime equipment manager Mike Royster said as he discussed the technology that places the word "Chattanooga" into the fabric. "It won't ever fade. They'll last longer than cotton T-shirts and they don't retain moisture as much. They call it 'air knit.'"
That said, if the fashion police theoretically could lodge one complaint about the new uniforms, it might be those undershirts, which from a distance could make the entire team appear as if every player's biceps were covered in blue and gold tattoos. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that.
But that might be the only misstep in the move from Russell Athletic to Adidas. And even then, that complaint would be far from universal if you listened to the players or the weight that UTC coach Russ Huesman places on his players' opinion about the uniforms.
"The players like them — that's all that matters," Huesman said. "Everything's about the players. If it's not, you're not doing it the right way."
However, it's also about the players not yet signed. And when it comes to the next generation of Mocs, Huesman said that the Adidas brand "is already paying dividends" on the recruiting trail.
Yet if you think the Mocs are about to quack like the Ducks of Oregon, changing uniforms at least once a game, if not every half, think again.
"I didn't want anything gaudy," said Huesman, which might explain why there are no stripes on the sleeves, pants or socks — only "Chattanooga" across the chest — and why the helmets are white with a single gold stripe down the middle bordered by two narrow blue stripes with a large Power C on each side above the earholes. The facemasks also are white. And for the first time in his 40-plus years at UTC, Royster said the game pants won't have belts.
"Coach doesn't like that, but the players do," he said. "I'm still not sure about it, but we had them all try on pants before we ordered them to make sure we had the right size, then made them sign a form that this was the size they ordered. So if the pants don't fit, they can't blame us."
And should the fans somehow grow bored with those white helmets, don't blame anyone but Huesman, since he's made it clear his hard hats won't be changing from week to week, as may become Nike's plan for UTC's big brothers in Big Orange 115 miles up the road in Knoxville.
"We've won two straight (Southern Conference) championships wearing white helmets," the seventh-year coach said. "So we're not changing helmets. Those helmets will be on our football team all season."
But can clothes make the Mocs? Is UTC about to dress for success? Can these sleek new uniforms really produce a win or two, as Bennifield suggested, which might propel the Mocs into the NCAA playoff semifinals or beyond for the first time in school history?
"I don't know," Huesman said. "I never really paid that much attention to uniforms when I played here. If it was comfortable, I liked it. I'm that same way now. My wife will tell me I look terrible, but if it's comfortable I'm OK with it."
Everybody should be OK with the new look come the season opener against Jacksonville State at Finley Stadium on Sept. 5. But just in case the reigning emperor of the SoCon turns out to have no clothes this season, Huesman said it might not be his fault.
"I may have approved them," he said. "Then again, I can't remember what I had for lunch today."
Nevertheless, expect these Mocs to strike a pose with another SoCon championship trophy come November before becoming the fashionable pick win it all in January, which is the way it should be for guys who wear white hats.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.
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