College football players in 2018 want to wear Nike products, or maybe other big brands like Under Armour or Adidas. But probably just Nike. Apparel sponsors have changed a lot throughout the years, from back when everyone just wore Converse.
But do you remember these brands making college football gear earlier this millennium? Most of these made sense at the time, at least.
This mall staple evolved into a teenage outfitter, with polos and graphic T-shirts popular in the ‘90s and 2000s.
Yep, this was also UConn’s outfitter in the early 2000s. The uniforms were fine, to be honest, but the colliding shoulder stripes look dated now:
“When there was this word of ‘hey you guys are going to switch to Aeropostale,’ I mean for sure, my initial reaction was like ‘wait, what?’” former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky told SB Nation via phone interview. “Because when I was a kid is when kind of Aeropostale, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch kind of blew up a little bit.”
“Part of me certainly was a head-shaking like, ‘Wait, what are we doing?’” Orlovsky continued. “And part of me was like ‘Well they’re going to be better than the ones we’ve been wearing.’”
When UConn played the Hurricanes in 2002, Aeropostale gave the Huskies a special treat — silver pants to wear on the road.
“I remember our coach sat us in a meeting and said ‘Aeropostale’s gonna give us these silver pants for the Miami game.’ It was like, when you see those viral videos when a kid gets a scholarship — that was our team’s reaction,” Orlovsky said. “It kind of was legit the greatest thing ever because we were so used to what we had, and the expectations weren’t that high.”
For Orlovsky’s senior season in 2004, the Huskies switched to Nike, which remains the program’s outfitter.
“We kind of knew that we were a good football team, but when we made the switch from Aeropostale to Nike, we actually felt like a real college football team,” Orlovsky said. “We felt like we belonged on the field, if that makes sense.”
“As a kid, I don’t know if I was aware of it, but now I’m removed, you realize how big of a deal it was for you as an athlete to have that,” Olovsky continued. “And I think it was truly one of those things where you finally felt ‘OK, now we really, really, really belong because you’ve got the swoosh and we’ve got the swoosh.”
Pitt had a deal with Aeropostale too, around the same time. Aeropostale outfitted Pitt coaches and gave players warm-up gear, not actual jerseys:
When Pitt football Coach Walt Harris strides along the sidelines at Heinz Field this fall, take a minute to check out what he’s wearing. No, not the headset. The clothes.
”He’s going to look much hipper than he did in previous years,” promised Chris Finazzo, senior vice president and general merchandising manager for Aeropostale.
No offense, but this clothier to the teen market is confident its fashions will re-make the man.
You know you are getting older when you have find a shirt with Walt Harris at Pitt, made by Aeropostale. pic.twitter.com/ui9K1JDdJm— Tim O'Brien (@obrien800) March 22, 2015
You know New Balance, the running shoe brand favored by dads everywhere.
Up until 2009, if you can believe it, New Balance outfitted Central Michigan.
central michigan chippewas football is sponsored by new balance, they should be called the "cheap"ewas— Jarvis (@jwrightdamyth) August 16, 2011
CMU switched to Adidas in ‘09. When the deal was announced, it looked like a positive step:
Perception is everything.
In addition to the “cool factor” of Adidas, their company also provided CMU with the best bid; a bid which Dave Heeke insinuated would save the university thousands of dollars--hard to argue with that.
Any way you lace this athletic apparel deal up, it is good for recruiting, the athletes and the university.
You know Reebok, which made those ‘90s inflatable shoes:
The company sponsored Boston College until 2009, when the school switched to Under Armour. The uniforms were OK, but they were pretty basic:
“The Reebok uniforms were not a great period for BC,” BC Interruption’s A.J. Black said. “The Eagles of course are maroon and gold, and Reebok never got the right shade of the color on the uniforms, instead featuring an off red.”
Look at these shoes!
WOW!!! Reebok Question "Boston College" PE from 2008 .. these are serious! pic.twitter.com/Tm7XUalQS9— Jason Donnar (@jason_donnar_03) March 1, 2014
Reebok also had a deal with Iowa in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The jerseys were fitting for the decade, but had a weirdly centered Reebok logo:
“In general, they’re pretty similar to what Iowa wears today,” Black Heart Gold Pants’ Ben Ross said. “They are, however, the uniform of Iowa legend Tim Dwight. When one thinks of Iowa’s Reebok unis, Tim Dwight is the first thing to cross the mind. Perhaps Reebok gave Dwight some sort of superpower, which is fine with us. They aren’t the “Banana Peel” jerseys that preceded them, and that’s probably a good thing. So do we miss Reebok? Not really. At least, not as much as we miss Tim Dwight.”
Reebok suited up Northwestern in 1997, too:
Apparently the shoes weren’t great, per one former Wildcat kicker:
“When [future head coach] Pat (Fitzgerald) got injured, his foot got caught in the seams of the turf. And I also think it was an indication of the Reebok shoe I was told to wear. That was the first game I had worn the Reebok shoe and I didn’t like it. But that’s the business of college football. We had become a hot item and were told we had to wear Reebok shoes.”
Northeastern also wore Reebok until 2009, meaning this was the last all-Reebok college football game, right around the time Reebok stopped outfitting NFL teams as well:
Russell is primarily known for its incredibly comfortable sweatpants.
Since 1992, Georgia Tech has had a Russell Athletic deal, which ends in the summer of 2018. The Yellow Jackets are the last Power 5 school to not have a deal with Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour.
The Jackets have lost recruiting capital by not wearing one of the big three apparel dealers — Russell just isn’t a good look.
They’re joined by only three other FBS programs in that respect, as well as the Arena Football League, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Little League Baseball. I mean no disrespect to a really fun indoor football league, the world’s most entertaining basketball team, or anyone’s children, but that’s not exactly the kind of exclusive company that a Power 5 athletic program should be aiming to keep.
Here’s Nebraska modeling Russell back in the ‘90s, a more Russell-friendly time:
Other college football teams like Ohio and Southern Miss are also leaving Russell.
The jackets Starter made were next-level, and I definitely owned one when I was little:
But they also made jerseys worn by actual players. In the mid-’90s, for example, the Florida Gators wore Starter jerseys. You can see the logo on the sleeve below, with an “S” with a star next to it:
Thank you to a reader who pointed out that these are infinitely better than the abhorrent Alligator-print alternates Nike gave to Florida last year:
can somebody explain why this is better pic.twitter.com/J3nB7GGBu0— Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1) February 19, 2018
Shoutout to our readers for reminding us of the 1990s brand that supplied a handful of college football uniforms and was later bought by Converse, which was later bought by Nike.
Oh god how could I forget this Apex gem. pic.twitter.com/tw4W2y1DaJ— Geoffrey Storm (@geoffrey_storm) February 19, 2018
How are you gonna ignore Apex One? pic.twitter.com/BDmPCIi6aa— motor joany (@real_joany) February 20, 2018
It even supplied NFL jerseys, too:
Some of you all also pointed out that Champion was a supplier in the 2000s to teams like Purdue, Notre Dame, and Minnesota. The logo is a “C” with what looks like a line going through the middle of it:
Sports Belle was a thing!
I literally had no idea what this is (it was based in Knoxville and went under after its owner allegedly burned down its facility), but it supplied uniforms for Oklahoma State, Tennessee, and Nebraska back in the day.
SportsBell was Oklahoma St.'s provider in the early 2000s pic.twitter.com/msBREIvOL3— Ryder Kouba (@rsko83) February 20, 2018
BIG TIME PLAYER (and Wilson)
Here’s Kliff Kingsbury wearing some sort of alien brand of jersey at Texas Tech, pointed out to us by Mitch Harper on Twitter:
The pants are actually Wilson brand, the popular tennis outfitter. As for the jersey, a Texas Tech spokesperson tells me, “The jersey was from a company called Big Time Player. They were one of our uniform providers in the early 2000s. I’m not sure if they are still in business or not but I believe we went from them and Wilson to an agreement with Nike and then to our current deal with Under Armour.”
Big Time Player was based in Oklahoma, founded by a Sooners alumni.
And now we also have Jordan Brand!
Now, this technically falls under Nike, but the unique Jordan Jumpman logo is on the jerseys instead of the traditional swoosh. Michigan, UNC, Florida, and Oklahoma are wearing Jordan uniforms in 2018:
It’s a little odd seeing the Jordan logo on football uniforms, but as more teams get sponsored by MJ’s brand, fans will get used to it, especially since players love it.
Apparel sponsorships have come a long way.
With the modern brands that Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas have, uniforms look a lot better than they used to. In 20 years, though, maybe we’ll look back on one of today’s big three brands and laugh about the fact that they were in college football at all.