By Aaron Carter, Ellen Stodola and Jesse Yomtov
COLLEGE PARK – After unveiling the new “Maryland Pride” Under Armour uniforms for their season-opener Monday against the University of Miami, the University of Maryland football team was hit by a national barrage of negative feedback.
LeBron James tweeted his displeasure: “OH GOSH! Maryland uniforms #Ewwwwww!” On ESPN’s flagship show, “SportsCenter,” on Wednesday, anchor John Anderson suggested that Maryland’s uniform was the worst of all time.
But on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, the uniforms were a hit.
“I liked that the uniforms matched the state flag and not just the school colors,” said Claire Quinn, a student at the university.
The team’s helmets and shoulder pads each featured the signature black-and-yellow checkered pattern of the Maryland state flag on one side and the red and white cross on the other.
“The Maryland flag is one of the coolest state flags in the country, and I thought they did a good job of showcasing the pride folks have of being from Maryland,” said Kenny Gartner, a 2011 Maryland graduate.
Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour, the company that designed and manufactured the uniforms, was born in Maryland and also played football for the Terps.
When University of Oregon alum and Nike founder Phil Knight began outfitting the Ducks with flashy new threads in the early 2000s, Oregon’s national visibility increased. Plank’s brand has, for now, accomplished a similar feat for Maryland.
In fact, after a 1996 Cotton Bowl loss to the University of Colorado, 38-6, Knight asked his design team how they could make the Ducks more attractive to student athletes, according to an August SportsBusiness Journal article.
The new Maryland uniforms were designed to “showcase the program’s pride in representing Maryland,” Matt Mirchin, senior vice president of sports marketing for Under Armour, said in a statement.
Maryland’s red, white, yellow and black might even be poised to pay financial dividends for retail stores in College Park.
Less than 24 hours after the game, The University Shop, adjacent to the College Park campus, had students seeking jerseys and apparel from Monday’s game, said Maria Proctor, an employee at the store.
Anticipating a reaction from students, the store has ordered clothing shipments of a similar design, she said.
If merchandise sales improve, retailers might be able to expect additional revenue from other Maryland sports.
“This is just the first step in a rebranding campaign with Under Armour,” Maryland deputy athletic director Nathan Pine wrote in an email. “You can expect to see elements of the state flag incorporated into the design of new uniforms for our other sports teams.”
He noted that the design on the uniforms for other sports teams may not be as “pronounced” as the football uniforms.