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Football February 13, 2012 johnwooton 0

   By Jim McCue | Senior Contributor    Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good.    The debate over whether a football team’s...

   By Jim McCue | Senior Contributor

   Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good.

   The debate over whether a football team’s looks can translate into wins may not have many supporters. But that has not stopped Under Armour, Nike, and adidas from forging on in their growing uniform/brand wars.

   Under Armour was the latest to up the ante in college football when the rising sports equipment and uniform brand paid a reported $90 million to Notre Dame to outfit the Irish athletic teams for the next 10 years. That deal was richer than the $82 million that adidas paid in cash and product to Michigan.

   The primary catalyst for the uniform rage was Nike’s transformation of the University of Oregon’s uniforms around 2000. Alum Phil Knight created a new era in football uniforms and the battle for supremacy has raged on the college gridiron ever since.

   More recently, the trend to “dress up” uniforms and create an innovative athletic test lab on campuses has moved to high schools across the nation. Bishop Gorman-Las Vegas, the top-ranked team in the nation, has a seemingly infinite number of combinations to mix and match its Nike uniforms. Other top programs have been targeted by the “big three” in recent years as well.

   Folsom, the Sac-Joaquin Section’s top-ranked powerhouse, switched from Nike to Under Armour before the 2014 season, and is looking and feeling very good with the agreement. The Bulldogs were approached by Under Armour to become a part of the company’s Undeniable Program, which was launched in 2006 to partner with high-profile high school football programs to supply uniforms, apparel, shoes, and equipment.

   Folsom QB Jake Browning in a white-helmet lookDel Oro is also in the Undeniable Program and has enjoyed the UA brand for three seasons now. While both the Golden Eagles and Bulldogs are among the area’s most prominent football programs, success on the field is not the sole factor in Under Armour selecting schools for its top-tier uniform program.

   “Nationally-ranked programs are naturally the first teams to be approached to partner with Under Armour Undeniable, but we are looking for more than just the latest top program,” said Matt Valentine, who works in Northern California team sales for Under Armour. “We are looking for programs that are built on consistency and that we believe will be positive representatives of the brand.

   “With Casey Taylor at Del Oro and Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor at Folsom, we believe that we are getting quality coaches and people with programs that can be excellent representatives.”

   Folsom has enjoyed the partnership that has provided fashion and financial flexibility. With discounts on uniforms and equipment provided by the Undeniable Program, and apparel included in the deal, the Bulldogs were able to use some funds typically raised for uniforms and instead buy a second set of varsity helmets. With the white alternate helmets added to the traditional blue helmets and multiple pants and jerseys, Folsom has sported a different look for the majority of its games this season.

   “In many ways, this has been real positive for us,” Folsom co-head coach Kris Richardson said. “It’s really all about the kids. They know that they have college-level gear and uniforms, they run out of the Bulldog head through the smoke, and our facilities are great. There is a sense of pride in that for players, fans, and alumni.”

   Players from all over the section take pride in their schools and that also translates to their uniforms. All of the playersJake Browning in the more traditional Folsom look asked about the subject of uniforms and brands had favorite uniforms at the college and local high school level, but every one of them also played down the importance of brand in relation to performance.

   “I think that there are more important things to worry about than what brand you are wearing on the field,” Elk Grove
senior defensive back Shaunard Harts said. “Once you get on the field, the uniform and brand does not matter.”

   Folsom wide receiver Josiah Deguara and Del Oro defensive back Justin Burrage both professed to value function over fashion. Still, both have been impressed with the innovative designs and technological features included in today’s uniforms and equipment.

   “I had never worn Under Armour except for the compression shirts and gear under uniforms before, and I have never been one that has to have the latest stuff,” Deguara said. “But the uniforms are comfortable, they look cool, and the cleats are way better than I thought they would be.”

   While Under Armour is the “youngest” of the big three brands “” it was founded in 1996 and entered the high school uniform arena just 8 years ago “” it has supplanted adidas as the No. 2 supplier in the United States due in large part to the company’s constant desire to provide the most advanced athletic equipment.

   “We are still pushing innovation to give athletes every advantage on the playing field,” Valentine said, “and that is what will drive athletes and programs to Under Armour.”

   Sounds good.


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