Et tu, UCLA?
But why would UCLA ever muck with its classic — and classy — blue and gold? The scheme signifies championship tradition: 11 basketball titles, the Wizard of Westwood clutching his program and dispensing sideline wisdom, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton changing the game. UCLA — despite some recent struggles that have threatened the job security of coach Ben Howland — screams tradition and history, not unlike, say, the New York Yankees in baseball. You don’t mess with the pinstripes. Which means you shouldn’t mess with the Bruin blue and gold, right?
Wrong. On Thursday Adidas unveiled that six college basketball teams — Cincinnati, Kansas, Notre Dame, Baylor, Louisville, and UCLA — will wear new sleeved uniforms, complete with camouflage shorts, during the March postseason. That’s either camouflage, or those rockin’ Jams shorts from 1988 have somehow been resurrected.
If Baylor or Cincinnati or Louisville wants to go test new funky looks, go right ahead, I say. I’m not a fan of Notre Dame mint, but the school does have a history of trying out unusual hoops uniforms. We’re disappointed that Kansas, another program with a storied basketball tradition, is part of this sartorial experiment. As Chris Chase of USA Today writes: “Last I checked, the rules of basketball, written by former Kansas coach James Naismith, say nothing about wearing shorts that look like the ugliest pair of bathing trunks you saw on your last trip to the beach.”
But for whatever reason, UCLA’s new threads are the most unsettling. Maybe it’s because I was just on the UCLA campus this week for another story, and took a tour of the athletic Hall of Fame. The school has won a gazillion championships in all sorts of sports, and UCLA even recreated the den in John Wooden’s modest apartment, where he took visitors over the years. The exhibit has the furniture in the room, and the books and mementos Wooden kept on his shelves. What would Wooden think of the camouflage look? Would he fall over one of those sofas?
At least one person on campus agrees that the uniforms are hideous. “Shorts and sleeves are awful,” says UCLA psychology professor Robert Bjork, a longtime hoops fan. “It’s hard to improve on the Bruins’ traditional home/away uniforms.” UCLA did not return a request for comment. Writes an Adidas spokesperson in an email: ”We’re always looking to innovate and give our schools the newest, most progressive technology to enable them to perform at the top of their game, while providing designs and colors that get players excited and proud to put on their uniforms. At all levels we’ve found many players like short sleeve tops and bold unique styles to stand out on the court and we’ve received great feedback from players from the NBA to the NCAA. New uniform designs like UCLA’s are an opportunity to build on tradition while inspiring and exciting today’s athletes, students and fans.”
If any students and fans are inspired by this look, let us know in the comments.