Media Day on Tuesday at the University of Central Arkansas turned into “Project Runway.”
We got a glimpse of what the well-dressed Bear football player will wear this fall.
Color coordinated and tight — with appropriate accessories.
When you enter football offices, you expect to see large photos of burly, growling guys. Tuesday, the slim mannequins that greeted a visitor, more along the build of Heidi Klum than Hulk Hogan, exhibiting some of the new adidas uniform combinations for UCA were a bit disconcerting.
Say yes to the uni.
UCA officials even released the new look in a six-segment tease on social media.
The Bear uniforms have a base color of Tootsie Roll Pop purple. Let’s call it Plum Bear or Purple Reign. The tops are form fitting with “Central Arkansas” prominently displayed on the front. The tops leave little to the imagination and are not what most of these players are going to mow the yard in when they are 40. When I was in school, if I had worn a shirt that tight I would have been sent straight to the principal’s office and the parents called.
The fit was the fantasy that many of us entering puberty wished Annette Funicello would choose to appear wearing her Mouseketeer T-shirt.
Remember the days when players got one pair of pants and a plain home and road jersey? The Bears will have five different color combination of tops and pants.
At Media Day, they displayed various arrangements of purple and white.
The unis blended nicely into shoes of black matte or silver and black that match the matted black helmets. They come with matching socks of of gray and white. The Batman-style pants hit just above the knee or a little below it. Several players will be showing a lot of leg. There are matching accessories such as arm bands and silver, white and purple gloves.
I’ve just pinched myself. I just wrote that paragraph describing a football media day.
“We were trying to figure out how we could get the jerseys over pads,” said UCA quarterback Wynrick Smothers. “I’m gonna wear a chest and rib protector and I’m gonna look like ...”
A superhero. A transformer. A video game player.
“But I love them.”
“It motivates you; You take a lot of pride in them,” said Jonathan Woodard, one of the most imposing players in the uniform.
With today’s athlete, it’s about stylin’ and profilin’ and looking good with stuff that is going to get sweaty and soiled.
It’s about keeping up with “duck dynasty.” That’s the Oregon Ducks, the push-the-envelope fashionistas of college sports.
“Everything we do is recruiting 365 _ whether that’s uniforms or facilities to skyboxes to turf,” said Conque, who noted athletic director Brad Teague and equipment manager Jonathan Ables negotiated a five-year contract with adidas. “It’s the 18-25 demographic with the student-athlete. We have to stay in the game with people around the country and in our conference. We’re linked with a quality brand as adidas also outfits Notre Dame, Texas A&M and several nationally known teams. But we tried not to get too exotic.”
“Central Arkansas” in big letters across the front was also intentional.
“We’re trying to establish Central Arkansas as a national brand,” said Conque, who was a marketing major in college. “In most of our marketing, we’re going to use and stress Central Arkansas. It’s the kind of identity and branding you have to do nowadays.”
When Smothers, the senior leader for the Bears, trotted onto the field in his solid purple uniform, trimmed nicely, some folks teased that maybe he should have worn a helmet and the team seeing him in full gear was like seeing a bride in her gown before wedding day.
Conque, excited that the players were excited, tried to look past the glamor.
“My key concern is how these players in those uniforms are gonna play.”
And the focus shifted from fashion day to football talk.
Appearance wins a Media Day. Blocking and tackling wins championships.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)