Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Call them the Maryland Terribles

As the college football season unfolded this weekend, there was plenty to look forward to. The iconic Maize and Blue at Michigan, and those classic "wing" helmets. The gold Trojan emblazoned on the red helmets at USC. Texas' simple yet storied orange Longhorn. And the plain white numbers that identify every Crimson Tide helmet at Alabama. Rites of autumn, one and all.

And then there's what we were forced to look at Monday night, when Maryland took the field for its season-opener against Miami. The picture above gives you a pretty good idea of what they looked like if you were lucky enough not to see them live. Someone in my office at the New York Post came up with an apt description: "Flag vomit." And there was lots more consternation in cyberspace, with Maryland alumni and fans all over Facebook and Twitter screaming their disapproval.

Perhaps the best comment I saw was from someone on Twitter, who said, "Maryland's uniforms are so bad that a Miami player just said, "You couldn't pay me to wear those things ... well actually you could."

We already have been exposed to several degrees of ghastliness on the college football uniform front already with this season still in the infancy stage. On Saturday night, Boise State wore uniforms that could have been developed by the same folks who came up with MLB's ill-fated turn-ahead-the-clock unis from a few seasons back (Google "Mercury Mets" for a refresher). Georgia's silver-and-red ensemble in the same game looked like something Jonathan E. could have worn in "Rollerball." And the less said about the million and four horrid combinations worn by the Oregon Yucks, I mean, Ducks, the better.

All that said, we may have hit a new low last night. A split-down-the middle, Sybil-like concoction, with one side a takeoff on the red-and-white portion of the Maryland state flag, and the other mimicking the black-and-gold part. You may recall when the Baltimore Ravens debuted, they featured the Maryland state flag as part of their crest. At least they had the sense to draw the boundary there.

A few weeks back, the school held a press conference to show off their array of new uniform combinations for this season, developed by Under Armour, displaying 32 different looks. Some were better than others, but all were better than what they unveiled last night. And in case the horrid jersey and helmet designs weren't enough for you, the Terrapins' gloves and shoes featured the same sense-assaulting color palette.

Listen, as an artistic person, I'm all for creativity, trying something different and thinking outside the box. And the one cool aspect about all this was that the Terps actually wore different uniforms -- one of the aforementioned 32 -- during warmups Monday night, then did a complete wardrobe change right before gametime.

"I was proud that we kept this under the lid," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said during the ESPN telecast. "This is our 'Pride' uniform -- Maryland pride. This is part of the new branding we're doing here. We want to incorporate the state colors and let everyone know we are playing for everyone in the state."

It is, of course, all about branding, money and image. I get all that too. Someone once said there's no such thing as bad PR. You could then make the case Maryland stumbled into a gold mine.

Still, its hard to imagine anyone at the school giving the go-ahead to send the Terrapins on the field wearing these monstrosities thinking, "Boy, these look great. Our kids will be so proud to wear them."

Unless the powers that be in College Park, Md., are color-blind. That must be it.