Syracuse Unveils Gray Jerseys: Not Horrific, But Proves Nike Controls SU

One alumni’s plea to take control back from the sneaker people.


(Update: 10:27a – Syracuse’s new gray jerseys designed by Nike have been unveiled. Reaction via twitter ranges from “Someone at Nike needs their head examined” to “I’m gagging and vomiting at the same time.” Personally, my expectations were so low, and my respect for the sneaker people so small, the new unis are not nearly the hate crime I figured they would be.

While the gray bulk of the jersey is predictably lame, the Nike fashionistas actually added an entirely orange piping down the side. In our world, that’s a major victory. The rest of the uniform is essentially the regular version – orange neck trim, block “CUSE” in capitalized orange, block orange “S” on the shorts. 

Gray actually works well with orange, as opposed to – oh, any other color in the spectrum. Orange is not the easiest color to match with anything. White, black, blue, gray is basically the list of compliments to orange. In this regard, the sneaker people were lucky.

Because above all else, no matter if you love the uniforms or not, the reality is that these are not Syracuse’s new uniforms. They’re Nike clients’ new ones.

“Each of the nine programs selected have won NCAA Championships in Nike apparel. In addition to Syracuse, the participating schools include Arizona, the Baylor women’s team, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Connecticut (men’s and women’s) and North Carolina.”

Well, halle-friggin’-lujah, we’re part of the lucky nine. This is not about a relationship between Nike and Syracuse where the sneaker people uniquely craft a uniform specifically for the school. There is no thought of the characteristics of SU, its fanbase, or tradition. It’s a mass fashion line, like Haggar redesigning their khakis or the GAP rereleasing its sweaters. The Orange uniform change is the same change the Baylor women are going to get. Think about that.

I honestly pity Daryl Gross and Nancy Cantor and whoever else should have the final word on these things. They have no voice and no backbone when it comes to the sneaker people. They signed a contract which brings the athletic department major money, are lumped in with other “elite programs,” and probably rationalize to themselves “We are getting new uniforms just like Duke! Wheee!” Meanwhile, they have zero ability to say no, because the power and influence of a billion-dollar athletic footwear corporation that “knows best” is telling them what sells.

God forbid our jerseys reflect something Syracuse-centric. And don’t give me the ridiculous Hall of Languages “sweatback” under the numbers. Marquette and a host of other schools incorporate the same idea. We’re just like every other tween, looking across the lunch table at what the “cool kids” are wearing, and begging mom to buy us the same exact outfit.

The uniforms are not horrific. Wearing them once against USF won’t kill anyone. I’m sure there are some SU fans that think they’re cool. My concern is the inability to ever say no to the almighty Nike gurus. This entire song and dance gives me less hope than ever. At one time, the Nike people told SU orange-on-orange-on-orange was a good football look. Now, it’s an even better idea to resemble UConn and Georgetown. Will someone at Syracuse ever tell Nike no?


* * *

With the newest Syracuse jersey whispers predicting a gray version will be unveiled soon, it’s time to ask ourselves, “Where does it stop?” Orange fans have largely resisted Nike’s constant uniform tweaks over the last five years. However, we’ve been blessed by some terrific basketball, and jerseys look pretty good no matter what when walking off the floor after wins. So, we’ve generally let it go, outside of a continuous low grumble.

Taken in small samples, the current Syracuse basketball jerseys are not revolutionary. Plenty of teams wear the sleeveless, muscle shirts these days. It says “Orange” in – amazingly – orange. And the new block “S” adorns the baggy shorts.

But when compared to the past lineage of SU’s dizzying array of awesome jerseys, one thing is painfully clear: the current crop is the low point of Syracuse fashion. It lacks elegance, uniqueness, or a nod to history. It’s blocky, and uninspired, and (forgive me while I throw up) incorporates silver.

The 1980s unis still hold up unbelievably well, and not just for nostalgic purposes. Orange script “Syracuse” has always been a personal favorite, orange numbers, orange piping down the side. The mid-90s John Wallace jerseys? Orange “Syracuse” across the top, orange numerals, orange trim. The Carmelo duds? Not only are these the only national championship jerseys, but again, they were primarily orange.

(For what its worth, I own a Sherman Douglas, Lawrence Moten and Jason Hart jersey. One from eBay, one from the Salvation Army, one from Manny’s. You can guess which came from where.)

So how did SU administration allow Nike to surreptitiously plant silver in the uniforms? And why have the uniforms gone so far out of whack with what the heritage of Syracuse basketball has been? And how in holy hell is the ORANGE going to roll out gray uniforms?!

I’ll tell you how: Because the people making the jersey decisions are being motivated by focus groups and fashion trends and marketing numbers, and have absolutely zero connection to the university itself. The same people who are feeding Gross and Cantor Syracuse’s fashion advice, are telling Oregon to put wings on its shoulder pads and Marquette to place a shadow of campus on its jersey backs. 

There is no understanding of where we came from, or what’s important to the fanbase. The fashionista who is working on gray uniforms for Syracuse graduated from USC, owns a labradoodle in her downtown loft in Portland, and couldn’t tell you the Hall of Languages from Rosetta Stone.

But who’s fault is that? The Syracuse administration, for allowing big business to run them over with a dollar-and-cents bulldozer. Where’s the school backbone to say, “Send that mockup back to 6th Avenue. We’re not doing anything that looks like – blecch – Georgetown.”  If you want Nike to help you push product, or market to a younger generation, or help bring SU’s uniforms into the new millenium, more power to you. But you employ them. Not the other way around. It always feels like its the tail wagging the dog.

First, we went from Orangemen to Orange. Then we incorporated the ever-expanding block “S” at midcourt that will soon extend to the 300 level. Now we’re looking more like the Hoyas? Where does it stop? When the football team trots out orange-on-orange-on-orange uniforms that make us look like a carrot juicing crime scene? (Oh, that already happened.)

Darryl Gross has helped modernize and monetize an athletic department that was in dire need of both. Nancy Cantor has steered a steady ship amidst the Bernie Fine saga. The basketball team is #1 in the country. This is not meant to shred anyone who may be in charge. It’s simply to point out, whoever is in charge, needs to take control back and quit allowing Nike to run its own little Barbie and Ken runway without regard to who we are as a university. 

Readers to have ripped the new idea. Callers to Brent Axe’s radio show on the Score 1260 have lamented looking like UConn and Georgetown. Hey SU: You see those 30,000 people that show up every night in the middle of brutal CNY winters to make you rich? Try listening to them for once.

Posted: D.A.

26 Comments on this Post

  1. The Orangemen “gray”? an there be a dumber idea out there in the mind of a person having trouble connecting to the mother ship?

  2. Louie and Bouie era uniforms are by far the best of all time. Simple with cool blue/orange/white siding. White unis with orange lettering and dark blue trim were sharp.

  3. orangeskin

    The gray uniforms are a terrible idea, and in case anyone forgot, SU lost to Kentucky when Nike came up with the brilliant idea of the Orangemen (they were still the Orangemen then) wearing blue uniforms. Please no gray SU, just say no. If anything, they need to go back to the 80s uniforms. The script Syracuse was a good look. Of course the shorts would be a lot longer now, but other than that, I’d be all for Nike breaking out some “throwback” uniforms as opposed to going with gray unis.

  4. Mike Merret

    The whole gray debacle started when our facemasks when from blue to gray after the Mcnabb era. I’m grateful that the duct tape has been removed from the back of the jersey, but the gray letters are still terrible to the eye. Just like most fans I think the 80’s version was the best and should be restored. Better yet the gray uniforms should be retired before their rolled out. Such a disconnect between the fans/community and the big wigs is intolerable. At this rate it won’t be long until were wearing all gray uniforms, maybe w/ a dash of red, and playing half our games in new york city, and a couple in new jersey for good measure. We are Syracuse and our color is Orange!

  5. Orangecrush22

    First off…terrible idea bringing out “Grey” uniforms.

    Secondly…i say if ‘Cuse ever comes out wearing “grey” uniforms, everyone in the stands should get up and leave. I def would.

    A petition needs to be sent out…

  6. NoEx'Cuses

    Everyone needs to calm down! Nike has made Syracuse a leader in uniform design, choosing us as a few number of schools to usher in a new era of Basketball uniforms. Don’t discount the impact this has on potential recruits. And though I may not like the idea of “grey” unis, we haven’t even seen what they look like yet. (though when I think of grey unis it reminds of me UConn, GTown, and Ohio State, yuck!)

    Still, I think the uniform sets we have now are some of the best in college basketball. (have you seen some of the awful designs out there? i.e. Marquette) The current set is simple, clean, and sharp. The jerseys and shorts are cut nice and the problem of the frock look has been fixed. Also, I love the orange/blue waistbands with “‘Cuse” in the middle.

    Finally, our uniforms are not Alabama football’s. If anything, the history of the Syracuse uniform can be defined by constant tweaks and changes. You can’t just pick out the era you like the best and then blame every uniform design not like that as not staying true to “who we are as a university.”

    I guess my point is that some tweaks and changes can be good. And having Nike has overall helped update our athletics look and improve our marketing, which were both desperately needed when Doc Gross arrived.

  7. Couldn’t agree more with NoEx’Cuses. Let’s wait and see them before we get all hot and bothered. If they suck, unleash the hounds.

  8. I’m glad, i want to see an alternate jersey idk why every ones freaking out about it. Also new jerseys do draw in recruits and always updating jerseys is almost a must anymore. Relax and lets seem them first, than we can debate. and as for the current uni’s I think there better than a lot of teams out there.

  9. Not for gray, but I like the current Nike HyperElites. They do have history and tradition built into the design. And it just feels so good playing in them with the light weight, sweat technology…

  10. Yeah, I don’t agree with the idea “let’s see if they suck and then yell about it.” Because then the uniforms just become a labratory of what Nike wants to try next. And Nike is not making these specific for SU – they’re unveiling the same sucky ideas across the country (grays are not unique – the shadow of campus buildings is now on many Nike schools). Have a backbone, say no to some stuff that Nike wants to try. “Let’s see if it sucks” attitude got us the orange on orange on orange football unis.

  11. saltine44

    ok, so here’s the dish….who cares about the gray unis. might be pretty cool, don’t hate before you see them. I don’t think SU should get into the habit of being Oregon-esc but 1 or 2 games might be nice. I only worry about changing things during a streak, don’t jinx what’s working. What would be awesome this year is to use the 2003 unis during the NCAA tournament. Especially with the final 4 taking place in New Orleans, it could bring good Karma and another Championship to the Orange!

  12. C’mon D.A., it’s already a lab… and frankly, I’d rather suffer through an orange on orange debacle every once in a while if it means the gear is cutting edge.

    SU has long passed the point of being able to claim a signature classic look (Alabama, Penn State, Yankees pinstripes, Winged Wheels, etc.) so in my opinion, the other place to be is to rock a contemporary look. It’s good for recruiting, it’s good for merchandising, and maybe… just maybe… it keeps Boeheim from yelling at the squirrels on his lawn. So it’s a big bucket of win all around.

    Also… do you know Doc G hasn’t sent fifty designs back to Beaverton with “Nope, JUST DO IT… AGAIN” scrawled on the design in orange marker? I don’t know either, but he strikes me as a guy who might just do that.

  13. What can I say? I’m a traditionalist. The Giants and Yankees and Rangers and Red Sox and Packers and Bears have it right. Old school works. Tradition works. I thought Maryland looked like puke this year, and Oregon looks like a highlighter exploded.

  14. The new grey UNI is out! Orange strip down the side. Block “CUSE” on front. Orange collar.

  15. The Jersey’s arent that bad. Just wish the design looked a little different from that of the other 8 schools. And the back of the jersey’s should have the Carrier Dome not a big “S”. Also looks like the grey and orange mix would look nicer if the orange was a bit darker

  16. Who cares!!! Melo’s story is still the real color of this team. Besides JB will still find a way to get beat some how by a weaker team. If we are wearing gray uni’s its their fault not JB’s or the teams fault. Stupid gripe of fans=color of jerseys. Get over it!! Worry about HCDM recruits leaving behind their verbals.

  17. We pay for the tickets an we are who nike is marketin to so our say does matter terry. Also its only for 1 game. Feb 22nd vs usf.

  18. orangeskin

    I’ve seen the jerseys and they are even worse than I expected. They are absolutely the worst unis SU has ever worn. The blue ones were better, and I would prefer them at this point. They stink, and D.A. is right. Nike is calling the shots and Dr. Gross and Jimmy B. nod their heads like sycophants due to the amount of cash Nike pays SU to wear their gear. Come to think of it, JB is even LESS likely than Dr. Gross to say anything as he gets hundreds of thousands a year to be one of Nike’s top tier of coaches. Coach K and Roy Boy get more, but that’s probably it except for maybe Bill Self. Thank God it’s just for one game though. Too bad it can’t be played in Phoenix since SU will look like the Suns in those unis. Of course, they can wear them the rest of the season if that’s what it takes to get Fab back on Saturday. Based on a tweet I just read, that’s looking more and more likely. That’s the bigger and more important story, but it’s impossible to report on a story with no new developments, just rumor and speculation.

  19. Gross has gone too far with our tradition. Putting number 44 in the rafters and now approving gray in our uniform? Send this moron back to California with his baggage packed and covered with USC stickers as was reported awhile back

  20. I’m with Chad. The jerseys themselves aren’t my huge problem – its that all these gray uins are cookie cutter and whatever Nike is trying to push at that time. And SU has no guts to say no.

  21. Poughkeepsie Popper

    These should not be worn unless Nike can prove they were MADE IN AMERICA and not in their traditional Southeast Asia sweatshops. SU has sold out to a company with no soul…

  22. SU old Alum

    Wear them one time when SU plays Colgate or some other early season patsy…then toss them in the trash.

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