Tradition or change? Former Michigan football players split on alternate uniforms
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Should change be embraced or feared?
Apparently, when it comes to the Michigan football program's beloved uniforms, it all depends on who you ask.
"I like a little change," Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson said during WTKA's "Mott Takeover" radio event Friday. "I especially like the one with the 'M' on the front. I like a little change up. I played for three teams: Michigan, Oakland (Raiders) and Green Bay (Packers). Three teams with great tradition. Green Bay ain't changing, Michigan's worn some different jerseys and Oakland wasn't changing.
"I've been fortunate to play for teams that have had strong tradition, but I like a little change up. It looks good to me."
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said earlier this week in Chicago that he continues to support the idea of varying the Wolverines' uniform schemes throughout the season, and more alternate dress combinations could be on the way for Michigan next season.
Last season, Michigan wore a total of six different uniform/helmet combinations during a 13-game season.
The Wolverines wore their traditional home jerseys, pants and helmets against Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and San Diego State.
During Big Ten play, the Wolverines wore traditional home and road jersey/pant combinations, but added numbers to their helmets for the first time since 1968.
Against Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium in September, the Wolverines unveiled their "Under the Lights" legacy home uniforms. Then, a month later in East Lansing, Michigan pulled a last-minute switch and brought out their legacy road uniforms.
To cap it off, Michigan tweaked its dress code once again, wearing an alternate road version of the legacy-schemed uniforms in its Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
That's a lot of change. Too much, in fact, for some.
"I'm traditional," former Michigan offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson said. "There's a reason I grew up in south Florida watching Michigan on TV and there's a reason that I came up here to go to school. It's because I saw those uniforms.
"I watched them growing up my whole life. Nothing against Adidas, I'm sure they make a great product."
A member of Hutchinson's offensive line brethren, former All-American tackle Jake Long, completely agreed -- calling Michigan's traditional uniforms a college football classic.
"It's classic, it's a staple in college football," Long said. "Me, personally, I like the old-school regular uniforms."
Whether the former players are on board with the jersey tweaks or not doesn't matter much to former Michigan safety Marlin Jackson.
Jackson values everyone's opinion on the matter, but believes the new and unique jersey schemes have a positive impact on recruiting -- something Oregon has taken to a completely different level with their brightly-colored Nike-created combinations.
If changing uniforms bring in top talent, Jackson says he's all for it.
"I like them, I think it's sweet and I think it's good for recruiting, too," Jackson said. "You're showing kids you've got a little bit of flavor, a little bit of change. I think kids like that.
"I was at the Notre Dame game, and the environment was amazing. That was the best college football atmosphere I've ever been in."
As far as current members of the program are concerned, winning is more important than any uniform combination. Offensive coordinator Al Borges said his wife, Nikki, might have a stronger opinion than he has.
However, he was a pretty big fan of at least one alternate jersey.
"I like how we look every game," Borges said. "Though I will say this, the uniforms we wore against Notre Dame were pretty cool."
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Brandon further explained the process behind alternate uniforms on WTKA during Friday's radiothon, saying the ultimate decision on when and where Michigan changes uniforms is made by coach Brady Hoke and the players.
He added that minutes following Michigan's win over Notre Dame, quarterback Denard Robinson approached him with one simple request: "Can I keep the jersey?"
According to Hoke, that says plenty about the program's stance on alternating uniforms.
"I think the throwbacks the kids wore against Notre Dame, they were excited," Michigan football coach Brady Hoke said. "They thought they were great, they were excited about it and the fan base was excited about it.
"Football's changed. How kids perceived and how kids look at things. Michigan is still always going to be Michigan and we're going to be as traditional as anybody. But once in a while, there's an opportunity to maybe do something different. And I think our kids embrace that."
New jerseys? Old jerseys? Throwbacks? Futuristic looks?
As Michigan forges forward in the Hoke era, there is no shortage of opinions on what the program should do with regard to how it looks.
Some like change, others can't stand it.
And then there's Steve Everitt -- an always outspoken former star center who perhaps put it better than anyone Friday: Everything else is changing in football anyway, so what's one more thing?
"If it was my choice, it would be straight traditional, but that is so far gone and in the rearview mirror, those days are gone," Everitt said. "I remember getting interviewed my senior year before the Rose Bowl about a playoff system. It was in its infancy stage back then, now it looks like it's going to happen. Then you had Miami playing in the Rose Bowl, and all traditions went out the window.
"So, what the hell's a jersey at this point?"
Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.
AD Brandon, quit shopping around and focus on scheduling. Traditional uni's only including bringing back the maize colored pants.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.
If the current players and coaches like it, who elses opinion matters?
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.
Maybe one atlernate uniform per season, two at the very most, in some years. Four per season is way too much. I disagree with the Brady Hoke comment on the radio that the fans have no say in this, the fans are part of the Michigan football experience. That is why there should be a comprimise on limiting the number of times per season the uniforms are changed.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 9 p.m.
I agree with you whole heartedly MRunner 73. The fans are just as important as the team or for that matter more important than any coach or AD. I didn't hear Brady say that and I really hate to think he would be that insensitive or foolish as to slight the power base that makes the whole thing work, "the fans".
David Vande Bunte
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.
As far as alternate jerseys go, they weren't bad...although the home jerseys featured would look MUCH better if they took out the maize stripes on the shoulders, leaving it a simple blue jersey with a maize block "M" and numbers.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 3:33 a.m.
Personally, I'm totally indifferent on the uniform issue. I love the traditional uniforms and using them all the time. I also liked the alternative uniforms as well. I would prefer that they don't go overboard like Oregon does though.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.
I dont mind alternate uniforms.How about a home maize jersey with metallic blue winged helmet with NO numbers on it.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.
I like Ketchup you like Mustard.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.
Michigan's basic home jersey will never change. This article is talking about alternative jerseys. It's just a filler article because there is nothing else to report about right now
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.
Ah, come on Matt.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.
When a program without a history of excellence is trying to make a name for itself, sure, go crazy with the uniforms. It grabs attention, and it has helped Oregon in-particular put itself on the map by helping recruiting. A school like Michigan, with this much history, tradition, and brand-recognition already? It hurts more than helps in my opinion. If you want to use a throwback or something once in a while for a special game, great. But how special is it if you do it several times a year? What did we have? 5 different uniforms last year? Come on.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.
OMG different uniforms??? Just as long as you keep the beautiful beeeg block M on the front!!!
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.
Now, who you going to argue with? Big linemen like Hutch and Long (who will plow you into the ground???) or little bitty men like Woodson and Marlin Jackson (even if they can take your jersey off while defending you)? I wouldn't go against the big bad line!! Brandon--listen to the size and muscle. No more alternate unis. Michigan tradition is something to behold and cherish.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.
Woodson is 6'1'', 202lbs. and Jackson is 6' 196. I know they aren't humongous but hardly "little bitty men".
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 3 p.m.
People getting excited over uniforms? Puh-lease. The uniforms will eventually become like UEFA jerseys...billboards.
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.
don't give dave brandon any ideas.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.
Stay with the traditional jerseys and throw away the "throw back" jerseys.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.
Those little bumblebee outfits worn in East Lansing on October were SO CUTE! LOL! I will always remember that game as "The Flight of the Bumblebee"...big, bad Sparty chasing a bunch of overmatched little sisters all over the field before BURYING THEM! Keep it up. Where's the threat? THERE IS NO THREAT!
Mon, May 21, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.
4-6 in the last 10.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.
If Michigan was no threat, you wouldn't be on a Michigan site making idiotic comments! Dude make it easy on youself and accept the truth for what it really is! Translation: No one outside of east lansing cares about MSU football.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.
People use humor to mask panic and frustration, it's been documented. Those three little words will haunt the baby brothers in east losing and brand their coach for stupidity issues for decades. When you're only able to win 30.7% of your in-state match ups - you're threatened, very threatened.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.
There is no threat? Oh, ok. So it has something in common with your 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes. Good luck, dude. You're gonna need it.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.
You appear panicked.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.
You can't please everyone. As long as the base traditional uniforms remain a staple and an attention grabbing alternate uniform is used on occasion, I think you can keep some tradition and grab sales and recruits' attention. Don't mess with the helmet though.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.
They already have.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.
I am surprised Dave Brandon, a first-rate marketing person, would favor changes with the uniforms. I believe the clean, classic look of the Michigan uniforms - - either blue or white jerseys with winged helmets - - are Michigan logos, and marketing/branding 101 says you don't experiment with your logo; you stay consistent. There are certainly plenty of other ways to create excitement for the game envirnment, and Michigan has done a great job of that since Dave has been in charge.
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.
Like a spoiled little rich girl U of M has a fancy wardrobe. Maybe someone from the English Dept could explain to Mr Brandon the meaning of the word "uniform".
Sun, May 20, 2012 : 10:28 a.m.
They're only traditions if you keep them. I like the UTL uniforms, but don't want to see them all the time.