UWEC launches new era with redesigned football uniforms
Most sports fans base their excitement for a coming season upon new player acquisitions, a new coach, or a potential for a breakthrough to a championship. For me – resident uniform/logo geek of the Chippewa Valley – I eagerly count down the days until a team first wears new designs under the lights. As you may have surmised, despite all the anticipation for a new phase of Blugold football – this is their first season under head coach Dan Larson plus his fresh set of assistants – I most looked forward to the unveiling of the re-imagined football uniforms.
And an unveiling it was. Perhaps we think Division III college football is not “big-time” enough to warrant an in-depth creation process, a mission to coalesce programs under one aesthetic umbrella, or mannequins to properly display the look. Athletic Director Dan Schumacher considers that an outdated mindset, bringing a Division I mentality to UW-Eau Claire, which many of us witnessed in person during the football team’s recent second-ever Media Day, the first with a professional presentation in the Davies Center, including the display mannequins.
When Schumacher arrived in 2014, he noticed what many of us have: The overall Blugold athletic look was all over the place, which leads to mixed messaging – and costs more money. “It was clear that our teams had the freedom to choose color combination and design of uniforms with choice of footwear. … So for example, a team may have had Nike shoes and Adidas uniforms with different colors to that combination.” As he notes, you do not see that with the Badgers and Gophers. A public bidding process led to the selection of Wausau-based Eastbay to supply Nike equipment – a brand that, according to Schumacher, is preferred by 87 percent of those critical high school recruits and is able to service all the sports at UW-Eau Claire.
You have a provider, now how do you get the look you want? This is where Brad Raymond from Eastbay came into the picture, collaborating with the Blugolds – and, for football, especially first-year Head Coach Dan Larson – to execute the new design. “Working with Coach Larson when he got on campus, we designed a more-traditional look with some additional touches to complete the design phase of the uniform,” Raymond said. Using a software tool to observe other college programs, a desirable scheme was found. Witness that in the images: UW-Eau Claire emulates the Badgers and Iowa more so than Oregon and Maryland. However, the players and coaches have more than just a home and away option. “We also worked on navy and gold helmets to allow multiple color combinations, thus allowing Coach Larson to change the look at anytime,” Raymond said.
That gold you see – I had always been bugged by the aforementioned inconsistency between “athletic gold” (think the Packers) and “old gold” (like Notre Dame). The partnership with Eastbay and Nike led to a decision to settle on athletic gold, resulting in a more-vibrant color palette. Bolder colors are the trend across sports this decade, and the Blugolds made the more eye-grabbing choice.
Lest we forget, the purpose of a uniform is to help the athletes do their jobs. Raymond says Nike always wants to enhance those results through what the players wear. “Making cutting-edge uniforms that are lighter, more breathable and have more flexibility allows the athlete to perform at his/her highest level,” he said. Reading a copy of Nike’s specs sent to me by Raymond, you see the nylon fabrication, mesh panels, and other features that make these uniforms lighter, more durable, and more breathable. Much science has gone into the modern football jersey and pants, and the Blugolds will get the latest this autumn.
The totality of Blugolds sports have gotten and will get their versions. Volleyball and basketball gear has come out, and look for hockey this winter, all with the same brand. Notes Schumacher: “When you see the ‘E’ or two-color scheme (navy/gold) uniforms with the Nike swoosh logo, you automatically know it’s the Blugolds.” As for the future? The new look will stay consistent, but Schumacher says to expect some “fun designs” down the road.
To quote SNL’s Fernando, It is better to look good than to feel good. This new look accomplishes both. To make the Blugolds a winner, every element is a part. Says Schumacher: “We want to build a championship brand and the Nike/Eastbay partnership is helping us get there.” And the road will be one shade of gold.