Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

September 8, 2011

When you win, no publicity is bad publicity

Word had filtered out there would be a Maryland uniform change between pregame and the opening kickoff Monday night when the Terps took on Miami at Byrd Stadium.

Word, however, wasn’t that Maryland would turn the college football fashion world on its ear with the “Maryland Pride” uniform that had the Terrapins being called everything from Two Face, to chess pieces, court jesters, cabbies, perpetrators of unspeakable crimes against fashion and so on and so forth.

In short, everybody weighed in on the Maryland state flag look, from LeBron James, to Chad Ochocinco, John Daly, the ESPN talking heads, Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, the New York Times, CNN, Good Morning America and the Today Show.

Meanwhile, ESPN devoted an entire episode of Outside The Lines to the Maryland uniforms. Thus, anybody who had never even heard of Maryland football — and trust me, there were a heck of a lot more of them than there were of us before Monday night — was buzzing, tweeting, blogging or talking about the Terps’ daring fashion statement.

And that’s the point. Everybody in the country was talking Maryland football on Tuesday, which, in the long history of Maryland football, had never before happened, including when the Terps won the national championship in 1953.

So we ask, how can this be a bad thing?

Well, it would have been a monumentally bad thing if Maryland had not won the game, 32-24, but for one of the few times, the national TV gods looked down and smiled upon the Terps as they came away with one of the most important and easily one of the most dynamic victories in school history.

Most folks didn’t like the uniforms. In fact, most folks were appalled by them to say the least. And along those lines, my favorite tweet came from the person who wrote, “The Miami Hurricanes football team said, ‘You couldn’t pay us to wear those things.’ ”

Me? I liked them. I liked them a few reasons:

1.) The Maryland state flag. I think the Maryland state flag is one of the great state flags in the country, and I believe the flagship university of the state should incorporate the state flag and the state colors in their uniforms. That’s why I like the two new helmets previously modeled by the Terps and that’s why I like Mountain Ridge’s uniforms so much.

2.) The uniform provided an immediate jolt, not only to the sellout crowd in Byrd Stadium, not only to the Maryland players as they came onto the field, but to the millions of Maryland fans who were watching the game at home.

The juice and the electricity of the moment charged through television sets as fans either rubbed their eyes, immediately decided if they liked them or disliked them, or simply laughed out loud in utter disbelief.

That juice seemed to carry through the entire evening at Byrd to help carry the crowd and Maryland to a very important ACC win. And who knows? It could carry into the season, as not only do the Terps have more new uniforms to unveil, but a pretty exciting football team as well.

3.) Maryland won’t be wearing the Pride uniforms every week, if ever again. Supposedly, the uniform will now be permanently retired, although Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, the mastermind behind the new look, told ESPN he was under the impression the Pride uniform would be worn once, maybe twice a season.

We would expect Plank to say this, as not only is Maryland’s new brand being put out there for all to see and possibly purchase, but Under Armour’s is as well.

(The university says the Pride uniform will not be marketed for sale, although some of the originals will be auctioned off.)

Not only that, it’s marketing smarts for Maryland to have that notion out there, because every week of the season, from now until somebody comes along with an even more outrageous look, the same people who never had an ounce of awareness of Maryland football will wonder, “Will Maryland wear those uniforms again this week?”

That’s name and brand recognition that can’t be bought and it’s recognition Maryland has never had before. But it’s something that now exists, most importantly amongst potential recruits (you didn’t think they designed those uniforms for us, did you?). Thus, it is up to first-year head coach Randy Edsall and his team to seize this seemingly newfound awareness that Maryland is out there and build upon it, rather than try to ride it.

That won’t be as easy as it seems to have been on Monday night. The Terps have a tough road ahead, beginning next week with West Virginia, which will bring an offense to College Park that will make Miami’s look CAYFL.

So while all is simply boffo when it comes to the Terps’ fancy new duds and their first big win of the season, in reality, things on Monday didn’t go as easily as they now seem to have gone. Nor did they go as easily as they could have, or likely should have.

That’s the most important awareness Maryland can’t afford to let slip away.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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