URBANA, Ill. (AP) — The University of Illinois showed off new uniforms for football, basketball and other sports Wednesday that the school hopes will provide a recruiting edge.
The uniforms were unveiled for a crowd of about 300 athletes, plus a crowded auditorium of fans. But a key target is recruits considering Illinois.
“They talk about it a lot,” men’s basketball coach John Groce said, adding that he’ll be able to use the new uniforms on the recruiting trail almost immediately.
Athletic director Mike Thomas added that Nike “has a pulse on what today’s 17-year-olds are looking for.”
Athletes showed off all-white, all-orange and all-blue football uniforms with helmets featuring an updated version of the school’s longtime Block-I logo. Three sets of similarly colored men’s basketball uniforms also were unveiled.
Running back Donovonn Young wore the all-white football uniform. He said he hopes Illinois’ new look might lend it some of the national identity that Oregon has developed.
“Oregon is good, but their uniforms allow them to be cool,” he said.
The school also showed off a new shield-shaped logo that incorporates the Block-I as well as stripes inspired by the jerseys worn by teams in the 1920s that featured Illini great Red Grange.
Nike makes Illinois’ sports uniforms under a contract that expires next year.
The redesign didn’t cost the university anything other than travel expenses for officials to visit the company’s headquarters, assistant athletic director Marty Kaufmann said.
The company will cover part of the cost of the new uniforms for the school’s 19 teams under the terms of the contract. But Illinois typically has to spend the “several hundred thousand dollars” a year more that the contract doesn’t cover, Kaufmann said.
The school also hopes the new look keeps Illini fans talking about the school’s teams at a time of year when most sports are winding down or finished. And Illinois expects some kind of boost to merchandise sales.
“We haven’t had a huge change in a while and this is something that probably re-energizes a little bit your fan base,” Kaufmann said.
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