As I type, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall is on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” discussing, yes, his team’s new Under Armour state-flag uniforms. That’s in addition to screen time on PTI, Around the Horn, the Today show, Good Morning America, ABC World News, CNN, and who knows what else. That’s a lot of national publicity for a football team that doesn’t always get a lot of national publicity.
And that was at least partially the point, according to Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who discussed the new uniforms on ESPN Radio’s Scott Van Pelt Show.
“I think the uniforms did all the talking for us, and more importantly the team did all the talking on the field,” the Maryland alum said. “What we want is we want people to care and think about Maryland football. But we’re the flagship university of the state, and I think a lot of people that are from Maryland don’t really take as much pride in the school, and that’s what those kids are going out and playing for. I think we’ve got one of the coolest flags in the nation, and to get everybody to feel that they’re actually a part of Maryland football, I’d say that’s mission accomplished. The win, 1-0 and beating the Miami Hurricanes, that’s what really mattered.”
Plank said Edsall — who has a buttoned-up image — “was the one that was out there pushing us, saying I think this is great,” and specifically mentioned the impact this could have on Maryland recruiting.
“What we care about is what 17-, 18-year old kids are thinking about where they want to play football in the next couple years,” Plank said. “I think that’s what Coach Edsall is most concerned about, and I think that with that demographic we’re [doing] pretty good.”
Van Pelt also asked about the possibility of Maryland being to Under Armour what the many-uniformed Oregon Ducks are to Nike.
“Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia,” Plank joked. “Be careful how far that you go. This has nothing to do with anybody else, and that’s the last thing that we want to say. I think [Oregon has] got hundreds of combinations of uniforms. So we’re not trying to say let’s out-uniform anybody else. We’re gonna control what we can control....
“People tuned in [Monday] night. And an 8- or 9- win team last year, we went to the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. I think Maryland has the ability to be so much more, and I think the nation got a sense of that last night.”
Plank said the state flag uniforms wouldn’t be seen regularly, and that the school would “try to establish some tradition” with its weekly choices. But he seemed well aware of the national buzz.
“A lot of people are gonna have opinions, and yeah that’s good,” he said. “They were talking about the Maryland uniforms on the Today show [Tuesday] morning. I think that the nation was watching, but look, it wasn’t about how loud can we be and outrageous or anything else. If they’d gone out and gotten beaten, I think we’d be having a much different conversation. The uniforms aren’t meant to be defining of the team. That comes across with the character of the kids and the way they played.”