Fresno State will get a boost from Nike in its efforts to expand and elevate the Bulldogs’ brand on a national level, working with the apparel giant’s design team to create uniforms and clothing that — if history repeats — has a very good chance to catch the eye of the players and fans and pique the curiosity of recruits.
“They’re going to be designing and putting together new stuff for next year,” Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter said at the Mountain West Conference Media Days. “They have a design team that kind of plans out for the year uniform combinations and who you play. That’s something way beyond my artistic scale, but they’ll be working with us and those are the kinds of things that are exciting for recruits.
“It’s kind of like the Internet and social media. Everything is always moving forward and if you don’t keep up with it, you’re going to get left behind. And for kids these days, I think it’s because it’s such a visual generation and everything is on their phones, looking cool in a uniform has become important to guys. It may not be important to 50-year-old guys who coach, but if it’s important to the 17- and 18-year-old guys who you recruit, then it better be important to you.”
Athletic director Jim Bartko said Fresno State is in the early stages of a project that could take 12 to 18 months to complete — at Oregon (where Bartko worked before coming to Fresno State), it was a three-year transition. The Bulldogs this fall will have the same uniform combinations as last with helmets in red, black, white and chrome; jerseys in red, black, blue and white; and pants in red, black, blue, white and a light gray.
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But if nothing else, all of the Bulldogs’ athletic programs could be very well dressed in the future with more and more dynamic options, with input coming from players, coaches and fans — all of it tied to the Bulldogs’ history in the central San Joaquin Valley.
“It’s not something you can just do overnight. But we’ll look at our scripting, we’ll look at our colors we wear on game days and we’ll look at all of that,” Bartko said.
“When I first came (to Fresno State), I was surprised at the number of uniforms that we had, the helmets and the different colors, the branding. Each school you go to is different. You know, you have to be who you are. We have traditions. We have the bulldog, we have the green ‘V’ and we’re going to be who we are. We’re going to be what our players want, what our fans want. We’ve made great strides here, but we’ll see some steps in the next couple of years.”
Oregon obviously is the most visible Nike partner, with any number of uniform combinations from helmets to jerseys and pants to socks and shoes. The Ducks reportedly are able to break out a different combination in every quarter of every game through the year 3344.
But Nike has a long client list and has designed uniforms for a number of programs, Boise State in the Mountain West Conference included. Coach Bryan Harsin said the affiliation has been invaluable in establishing and now driving the Broncos’ brand.
“Huge,” he said. “Nike has been so big in what Boise State has become, in my opinion. That relationship, the branding, what we’ve done with them, how they’ve helped us with our merchandise and all that. We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in, I truly believe that, without them.”
And there is an excitement when they introduce a new helmet or uniform combination.
“I think it’s just exciting,” Harsin said. “Like anything, whatever sport it is that people follow, I think it’s just exciting to see some different styles at times, especially in the market that we deal with, too. You have 18- to 22-year-olds … the same old thing, there’s tradition to it, don’t get me wrong on that, but there’s also fun in just having something new.”
Fresno State captured some of that in 2013, wearing new all black uniforms for a Black Out game against Nevada that drew a sellout crowd of 41,031 to Bulldog Stadium.
As silly as it sounds, the fact that we’re on national TV as many times as we’ve been, kids see us with cool uniforms and our profile goes up.
Last season, Fresno State introduced chrome helmets and blue jerseys and pants.
And with the Nike deal the Bulldogs will be taking a bigger step into the future, which DeRuyter said could be a boon to the program’s profile and recruiting efforts.
“As silly as it sounds, the fact that we’re on national TV as many times as we’ve been, kids see us with cool uniforms and our profile goes up,” DeRuyter said. “We’re able to sign kids not just in the state of California, but in Texas, Nevada, Arizona, that watch us on TV. Those things are good.
“Those kinds of things sell themselves, because they’ll see you on TV with all of it and if kids see you on TV and they think you’re cool then it becomes the new ‘it’ thing.”