Updated Sat, Nov 2, 2013 10:44 am
The Ohio Bobcats did not just pick up any old win in their 41-16 victory over the Miami RedHawks. The Bobcats won in style as they donned their new all-white uniforms. Ohio made it look easy while wearing its new threads, but a lot of preparation goes into a win. So, too, does the making of a college football uniform, in which there is much more than meets the eye.
Over the past three years Ohio has sported several new additions to its wardrobe. According to Matt Morton, the Bobcat’s equipment manager at Peden Stadium, a new uniform typically starts as a simple idea. Decisions and ideas come from Morton, Ohio’s director of football operations Jason Grooms, head coach Frank Solich, and even athletic director Jim Schaus.
The first addition in recent years came in 2011 when the program unveiled its black jersey and black pants against Marshall.
“That one came about because we had an opportunity with Russell Athletics in our contract to be able to do it so we acted on it, and got it done,” Morton said on its origins.
Just a week later on the team’s road trip back from Rutgers, Morton said Schaus approached him with the idea to complete the ‘Cats blackout look with a black helmet. Six games after they played Marshall, the Green and White wore all-black with its new black helmets against Temple.
During the summer of 2012, Morton said Schaus approached him again, with the idea of adding a green helmet to Ohio’s attire. The Bobcats kicked off the 2012 season with a win at Penn State while wearing their new green helmets with white jerseys and green pants.
Morton said the idea for the all-white brick uniforms originated back in January. Soon after, Morton and Grooms were working on a design with Russell Athletic, Ohio’s athletic outfitter.
“We knew we wanted to add something new – an alternate uniform,” Morton said. “We talked about doing something new … and it just kind of came up, ‘What about the bricks?’ The bricks are just such a big part of the university and the city of Athens and the community here so we wanted to incorporate that into the uniforms.”
With a brick design on the jerseys’ green numbers as well as the sleeves, the new uniforms are a nod to Ohio’s campus as well as the Battle of the Bricks rivalry. In addition to the bricks, a script Ohio logo is centered above the numbers on the front of the jersey and an attack cat logo is centered above the number on the back.
“The bricks are the best part,” true freshman Tarell Basham said. “We’re brick city, here.”
“It’s something different,” senior safety Xavier Hughes said. “All-white even down to the gloves is something we don’t normally do.”
The uniforms are made of Russell’s newest jersey material. The new material is lighter in weight and also wicks away moisture better than previous designs. Morton says the upgraded material allows for better performance on the field.
“It is a clean simple uniform but there is a lot of attention to detail that goes into this stuff,” Morton said.
After an idea is planted, it starts to sprout as Grooms and Morton begin working on a design with Russell.
“We kind of think about what direction we want to go and work on it from there,” Morton said. “There is just a lot of back-and-forth, like, ‘Send us this. We want to see it like this. Alright, tweak this.’”
“It’s a good partnership,” Morton said of the school’s agreement with Russell. “It’s a constant conversation back and forth and we have a lot of freedom on our end to do what we want within our vision and how we want the team to look.”
So what is the look Ohio aims for?
“The look that we want to go with here is clean and simple, but updated and new, Morton said. “I feel like we have accomplished that in the two new uniforms that we’ve rolled out here in the last three years.”
Though Hughes said he loves the new white uniforms, the all black look is still his favorite uniform combination.
“You can never go wrong with it,” he said.
Morton’s favorite uniform is the more traditional look that Ohio wore in its win at Penn State.
“My favorite has to be the new white uniforms, hands down,” Basham said. “[I] love ‘em. They look good and they fit well.”
Overall, the entire squad is very happy with the new gear, and they like its fit.
With four jerseys, four pairs of pants and three helmets the Bobcats have a lot of options to choose from before they suit up on game day. Of the 48 possible combinations, Morton said the team has worn eight different combinations. Those eight looks are what the decision-makers are pleased with and what Solich has approved.
Morton and Grooms decide long before the season what the ‘Cats will wear for every game. Both men put together a uniform schedule – from the helmet down to the socks – as early as June.
“We sit down with Coach Solich to get his input [because] he obviously has final say on everything,” Morton said. “He is pretty in-tune with what the guys want and he knows Jason and I are as well. He gives us a lot of freedom.”
According to Morton and the players, the multiple uniforms that occupy every player’s locker do a lot for the program.
“I think it says that we’re committed to taking care of our student-athletes, making sure that they are in the top materials and products year in and year out,” Morton said.
Hughes believes that the new uniforms show the positive direction in which Ohio Football is moving. He says winning has been coupled with better funding. Most importantly, the players are seeing their hard work paid off with wins, but also new uniforms.
“It’s like a payday for us,” Hughes said. “It’s the start of something new and it’s something that we like, so it makes us play harder.”
Basham agrees with the notion that new uniforms boost performance on the field.
“Look good, play good,” he said. “When you look good you’ve got to play twice as good as you look.”
Uniforms even help the Bobcats off the field, especially on the recruiting trail.
“The more jerseys you have the better,” Hughes said. “Players want to wear stuff like that. Every young player wants to look good on the field. It makes them feel better and comfortable. That’s what brings people in. I promise these jerseys are going to attract [recruits’] eyes. I guarantee that.”
When the black uniforms were revealed to the team two years ago, the players’ reactions were caught on film. Soon after, the reaction went viral and thousands saw the Bobcats’ jubilation. Morton believes the video, in a way, introduced Ohio Football to the rest of the nation and prospective recruits. Basham was one of those recruits.
“Before I committed here I saw the video and that really hyped me up, just seeing [their] excitement,” he said.
As beneficial as uniforms can be, Morton says the most important benefit is much simpler.
“The bottom-line is it’s fun,” he said. “I think that’s the thing that gets lost in all of this. It’s fun. People can see the energy that it gives the student athletes, the coaches, and even us. And then the fans get excited. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about creating energy and I feel that our game days are great. Our atmosphere is great and I feel like this is just one more piece of that.”
Morton says the next step for the new white uniforms should be implementing them into the uniform rotation. He says fans should expect to see them again this season.
Fans can catch what the Bobcats will wear next when they travel to Buffalo to take on the Bulls (6-2, 4-0) on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. The showdown for first place in the MAC East will be broadcasted on ESPN2.