BYU basketball held their first practice of the 2015-16 season on Monday afternoon, but the action on the court didn't capture the public's attention — all eyes were turned toward the runway.
Well, figuratively, at least.
After a week of hints and hype from assistant coach (and nascent social media powerhouse) Terry Nashif, the Cougars unveiled their latest slate of uniforms on the program's Twitter account.
This was an unusual, but welcome move — even though they get them virtually every year, BYU isn't known for drawing attention to new uniform designs. I don't think they've ever done a dedicated unveiling of any type that I can recall — usually anyone interested in seeing the team's latest threads has to tune into the Cougar Tip-Off to catch their first glimpse. And seeing as how little the Cougars' jerseys have actually changed in recent years, that approach makes sense. If you're just going to wear some barely detectable variation on last year's exceptionally traditional, navy-and-white get-up, then why bother creating a brouhaha?
But this year is different — not just in the fact that BYU stepped up their P.R. game, but also because Dave Rose's men are going to carry a significantly revamped look onto the court when games begin next month. Don't get me wrong: no one is going to accuse the Cougars of becoming The Next Oregon. Nike didn't go too wild here — many of the traditional elements that have come to define a BYU basketball jersey remain. But there are also enough new, distinctly modern flourishes that this year's set feels different in a way that hasn't been true in year's past.
And that begs some obvious questions: If the uniforms are so different, was the change for the better or for the worse? Are they hot fire or hot garbage? Are any of the jerseys themselves an explicit attempt educate everyone about Utah's pioneer heritage?
These are the real questions — and the people demand the answers. Thankfully, I consider myself to be a devout uni-watcher. In fact, I might actually enjoy the jerseys almost as much as I enjoy watching the games themselves. (Almost.) With that noted, I think it's clear that I'm pretty much as qualified as anyone on the Internet (read: not qualified at all) to offer my expert take (read: spout off some completely subjective opinions) on the sartorial value of these new duds.
Let's see what Nike hath wrought.
What a great way to start off. This year's home jerseys bring a fresh, modern edge to the Cougars' classic look. The silhouette of the uniform remains the same, the general color scheme (navy lettering on a plane white base) is recognizable, and the block-lettered "Brigham Young" remains above and below the front number — but that's pretty much where the familiarity ends.
The 2015-16 home kit features a new, serifed typeface for the school name, which is laid out in two horizontal lines. This looks much cleaner and more appropriately sized on the shirt, particularly when compared to last year's comparatively cramped, arched lettering that always felt like an overcorrection from the oversized monstrosity that was the 2013-14 set. In fact, the new lettering appears to more closely resemble the university's official typeface for athletics — so hooray for brand synergy!
But it's not just a new typeface. The lettering of the school name has also been "knocked out," or outlined in blue with the inside left white. This is another change of pace from BYU's traditional, all-navy block text. It's a subtle difference, but I think it balances the shirt well around the dark numbers. Overall, a big net positive on the top.
The biggest changes come on the sides, where Nike has introduced some light gray angled paneling that appears to fade in and out as you run down the length of the jersey, vertically. This is a significant departure for the Cougars, who have mostly stuck to very traditional design aesthetics in recent years — virtually always some subtle variation on two basic white lines piping the sides.
The side-paneling will be polarizing. Some will undoubtedly feel that it is too new age — "too adidas," if you will. But I like it. Combined with the new lettering, I think the home uniform makes for a refreshing update on a classic concept that still keeps its soul in tact.
VERDICT: HOT FIRE
You might wonder how one could possibly take the exact same jersey we saw above — a perfectly excellent piece of clothing that I considered to be "hot fire" — and somehow change it in a way that would put the road version squarely in "hot garbage" territory. But somehow Nike has succeeded in doing just that.
As you've undoubtedly noticed, this is essentially the home uniform but with three changes. First, the most significant one: the color scheme has been shifted to incorporate a navy blue base, as you would expect with a road kit. However, the problem for me comes with the side panels.
Whereas the panels were light gray and non-intrusive on the white home set, providing a subtle touch of modernity, they are now royal blue against the road jersey's navy backdrop — a color combination that has never done it for me in any way, shape or form. There's a reason very few team do it. It just doesn't work. It hasn't worked for the Dallas Mavericks for the last 15 years, and I don't think it works much better for BYU here.
The other two changes are a similarly mixed bag. On the positive side, the road uniforms include the newly approved "Sailor Coug" logo just below the back neckline, which is a very nice touch. But on the negative side, the lettering — which was so crisp and proportional on the white version — seems oddly out of whack again here, almost bordering on the cartoonish oversizing of the 2013-14 edition. (Also, it's not knocked-out like the home lettering, so minus points for that, too. Where's the consistency?)
I'm not sure why the lettering is somehow different between the home and road sets, or why the "Sailor Coug" logo wasn't included on both, but it all adds up to a road uniform that just feels a little slapdash and quite a bit inferior to its home cousin. To be fair, I could see these in action on the court and end up loving them — but until I'm convinced otherwise...
VERDICT: HOT GARBAGE
I've long called for BYU to add a proper throwback jersey to its fashion repertoire. It's been long overdue, but either the program or Nike never seemed adventurous enough to try it, and that's been deeply disappointing to me. In fact, this has been such a passion of mine that I even spent a whole chunk of my life that I'll never get back on writing an entire column arguing why the Cougars needed — nay, deserved — an historically accurate Danny Ainge-era throwback jersey. So I care about this a little bit more than any human being ever should.
Last year, my prayers were briefly answered when BYU sported some powder-blue replicas of the classic 1980s look in a home game against Utah. But they were sadly never worn again the rest of the season. Forlorn, I wondered if that moment of throwback-fueled ecstasy was nothing but a truly exquisite dream that I'd woken up from too soon.
But now we're here — and all is right in the universe.
On the 35th anniversary of the Cougars' last (and only) tournament run to the Elite Eight, BYU officially has an alternate jersey that does Danny and the boys proud. Hallelujah!
There's not much more I can say about these jerseys by way of analysis, because they are perfect. Everything from the unique, hand-cut lettering to the simple blue piping to the tasteful addition of a small "Sailor Coug" logo on the side of the shorts — it's all absolute perfection to me.
If I was going to quibble with anything, it might be that the cut of the arm holes looks a little strange from the back, but that could just be how the jersey was laid out for this specific photograph — and at this point, complaining about these beauties is like whining that you want more sweets after eating the world's largest ice cream cake. Oh, you want more? Would you like a side of diabetes with that, or would you just like me to sprinkle it all on top?
If we're being honest, BYU should just return the home and road uniforms and wear these bad boys for every game for the rest of forever. And then some.
At long last, my desperate prayers have been answered. I can now live life as a happy man — and not even an obscene amount of co-mingled navy and royal blue could ever taint my happiness. This is how you redeem yourselves, Nike.
VERDICT: FIRE SO HOT THAT IT'S ESSENTIALLY LIQUID MAGMA