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An open letter to Georgia Tech, congratulating the Yellow Jackets for leaving Russell

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The Yellow Jackets have taken a huge step, and I’m legitimately excited for them.

Attn: Georgia Tech football

Bobby Dodd Stadium
177 North Avenue NW
Atlanta, GA 30313

To whom it may concern,

I hope this letter finds you well, and I am sure it does because today’s the day for you. This is an important milestone in your program’s history. After all these years, you have broken your chains and you’re officially headed to Adidas. But most importantly, you’re leaving Russell Athletic.

These jerseys are sweet, and you even got former player (now WWE superstar) Roman Reigns to come model them.

The key is the three stripe logo in the corner that represents a new partnership and a new day for the program. It’s a total overhaul, and even the mascot’s getting some shoes. It has been a long road, but it ends here. Perhaps this is more aptly referred to as a new beginning.

Your fans’ hatred of the Russell rags is well documented and well founded.

It’s not your fault that Russell became your cross to bear. You cannot be held liable for the sins of former athletic administrators.

Before any player on the team was even born, a deal was struck that made sense at the time. Russell might not have been at the top of the athletic apparel world, but they certainly weren’t in the cellar. Russell was the official apparel supplier for schools like Auburn, Washington State, and Alabama. It also had an exclusive agreement to be the uniform supplier of MLB from 1992-1999.

But the years have not been kind to Russell’s uniform business, and they’ve officially discontinued it with you as the lone major college program still in cahoots.

In 2012, the end seemed near. It, in fact, wasn’t.

The original contract was for 10 years, beginning in July of 2008. Then-AD Dan Radakovich had the option to cancel the final 5 years of the partnership prior to August 1, 2012. He elected not to do so. He left to be Clemson’s AD less than 3 months later.

For five more years you suffered as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour continued to take over the apparel game. Russell — and by extension, y’all — were left out in the cold as swag became weaponized throughout the sport. Every week your team brought a knife to a textile gun fight.

And that’s affected the program in the minds of the sport’s natural resource: recruits.

What was harming the program in the minds of of many became quantified with one survey by Pick Six Previews. They polled 100 uncommitted sophomore and junior high school football players, a third of whom agreed that a school’s uniform would have an impact on their college decision. Seventy two of them agreed that uniforms have “a great impact on [their] perception of a team.”

It is no surprise where Russell, and Georgia Tech ranked.

The recruits were asked to rate the four major providing brands on how “cool” they were. The averages were: Nike (9.5), Adidas (8.1), Under Armour (7.9), and Russell Athletic (2.9).


Georgia Tech came in #4 on the “worst uniforms” prompt, behind Alabama, Penn State, and Maryland (which was also tied for fourth on ‘best uniforms’).

In a game where perception is reality, Georgia Tech’s was not a favorable one. And your on-field product hasn’t been able to make up for the way you looked.

A trip down memory lane shows how, since that 2008 deal was signed, Russell and Georgia Tech have failed to keep up with the boom in uniform innovation touched off by Oregon.

Some aren’t bad, and the honeycomb helmets are a notable brightspot ...

Corbis via Getty Images

... but more often than not you rolled out uniforms that were too busy with way too much piping. And there’s also a broader lack of innovation in the set from year-to-year, and little to no rollout or hype.

Where other schools have parties to announce their uniforms, Georgia Tech players showed up to a mid-August fan day in 2016 wearing the same set from the year before.

Getty Images

They hit the field weeks later in a tweaked set.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

But even schools that make subtle changes to their uniforms make a big deal out of it.

Now you get to do the same, promising a series of events throughout the academic year to unveil new sets across all sports. You’ve finally got something worth unveiling in a special way.

Adidas used to be widely panned for their uniforms.

First of all, the on-field product is improving for Adidas and gaining on Nike and Under Armour.

You’ve chosen the three stripe life at a pivotal point in their own battle for sartorial supremacy. There have been some infamous sets rolled out in recent years. But Adidas did get on the short list for best alternate uniform last season.

Beyond that, Adidas has been doing well on the business front. They’re appealing to The Youths by leaning into their strength as a lifestyle brand, where Nike and Under Armour have struggled to divorce from their roots as performance brands.

“The overall ‘sneaker’ market is not great,” [Mark Sullivan, a sportswear expert] said. “Teenage boys, the main shoe buying customers for the past 40 years, are now focused more on technology and not shoes and clothing. As a result, the sales of premium basketball shoes are down.”

And after speaking to an administrator at a school that recently switched from Nike, I’ve gathered that schools get more attention and have a better working relationship with Adidas because it has a smaller stable of teams than Nike.

I close this letter simply by giving my sincerest plaudits.

Perhaps an elegant written salutation isn’t needed. The proof is visual in nature. You are out with the old and in with the new, and I couldn’t be happier for you.

Richard Johnson — SB Nation.