Maryland uniforms weren’t the only fresh thing about its season opener

Mike Wise
Columnist September 5, 2011

One night under the lights and this New Era already feels bold, striking, a kaleidoscope of combustion.

Having checked out Maryland’s, um, “creatively designed” uniforms, the game wasn’t half-bad either.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

Before just the seventh sell-out crowd in Byrd Stadium history, Under Armour launched its fall catalog Monday night in College Park, outfitting the home team in a box of Crayolas. Or it borrowed Calvin Borel’s jockey outfit from the Preakness, I couldn’t tell.

In related news, Maryland and Miami bumped helmets in Terrapins Coach Randy Edsall’s debut. A riveting ACC season opener, it featured seven lead changes, stupefying offense, monster hits and a drama-laden finish, eventually won by the Terrapins, 32-24, after Cameron Chism ignited a soggy crowd at Maryland with his pick-six that sealed the win.

Splotches of color. Pomp. Passion in the fourth quarter. It was college football unsuccessfully masquerading as a fashion show.

I came to see Danny O’Brien’s arsenal of deep outs and touch throws to receivers in stride, to witness the Maryland sophomore quarterback’s uncanny knack for moving his offense at blazing speed.

I came to see Miami’s resolve after eight players were suspended for allegedly taking impermissible benefits from a poseur now doing time for his Ponzi scheme crime, to understand the psychology of apparently the only Hurricanes not paid the past eight years by a naughty booster. (Imagine the hurt done to some kids: What, I wasn’t good enough to have Nevin Shapiro cut me a check?)

But after the morality play and the marketing seminar, substance buried style. Bullish offensive production pancaked pageantry.

It wasn’t easy. The people who want to give the cool kids something new to wear put up a good fight, trying to steal the night.

By the way, what happened to Under Armour’s machismo? It once gave us the manliest of commercials, remember — “We Must Protect This House!” — featuring a large man bellowing from his gut in a locker room of frothing players. Grrrr. Made you want to put your helmet through the wall.

Now it’s, “We Must Finish Third on Project Runway!”

I don’t want to say the Terrapins’ checkered-cab, black-and-gold helmets were garish or too gaudy. But Craig Sager called and asked for his closet back.

What to do postgame, ask O’Brien a question or hail him for a ride back to the District?

You also have to feel for the players, having to change their entire uniforms between warmups and kickoff for dramatic effect. “Ha. Look at Matt Furstenburg in his red pants. What was he thinking?”

“It took about 10 minutes and three to four people to get them on,” said place kicker Nick Ferrara, who kicked four field goals. “They fit like a glove and everybody’s eyes popped when we finally did it. But, yeah, it was work.”

Edsall’s proudest moment after the victory actually involved the new unis. Because not one player or staffer said boo about the chosen colors earlier Monday, Edsall thought it meant his guys can be trusted with family secrets.

“We blew the lid off the place when we came out,” he said.

Oh, the game. As stated earlier, flat-out riveting. The Terrapins dominated early and looked about to run away with it when O’Brien had a horrible miscue and was intercepted in the end zone. Then Miami wormed its way back, ripping off long runs against a Maryland defense that so wanted to get to the quarterback.

With Miami now example A1 in “How To Get Into Trouble With the NCAA,” national interest piqued this week. Maryland distributed 400 media credentials and the press box was as full of reporters as I’ve seen since a Florida State game several years ago that had ACC title ramifications.

And while it’s easy to point a finger at Miami at the moment, let’s not get carried away with the hypocrisy. After all, O’Brien’s red No. 5 jersey sold for $70 in the Under Armour store at Byrd Stadium, a portion of which will never go to the player who made that jersey a commodity.

Indeed, they tried to move product Monday night beyond Edsall’s program. Urgent updates came five minutes into the game from College Park central about these new PRIDE uniforms. The Importance Quotient of the e-mail was ranked “High.”

Look, I think it’s great a former Terrapins special teams player became head of his own sneaker-and-apparel company. Under Armour big cheese Kevin Plank is quickly becoming Phil Knight East.

But with 39 seconds left, when Chism stepped in front of Stephen Morris’s pass and took it to the house, football had clearly trumped fashion. And as much as the bells and whistles are needed to move the needle now, that was a good thing.

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