As most of you have noticed by now, many of the new jerseys for the upcoming college hoops season have featured two new chest marks: a blue NCAA basketball logo and a manufacturer’s mark.
Here’s the short version of the backstory on this: The NCAA has been concerned about an increasing number of violations to Rule 3-5, which governs uniforms. So they’ve set up a system in which basketball uniforms will be submitted to an NCAA approval and authentication process. Uniforms that get the thumbs-up will get to wear the blue NCAA logo and will also be permitted to wear the manufacturer’s logo (which had previously been allowed on shorts but not on jerseys). The program — which is voluntary this season, mandatory next season for Division I, and mandatory in 2013-14 for Divisions II and III — was announced to schools a few months ago via this memo, and the rules about the placement of the new logos are spelled out here and here. I recommend taking a few minutes to digest all that material before reading further with today’s entry.
I’ve had quite a few questions about this program since I first learned about it. But due to a series of miscommunications (some of which were my fault), it took a while before I was able to interview the right people at the NCAA. That conversation finally took place a few days ago, when I spoke with Greg Shaheen, the NCAA’s Executive VP of Championships and Business Strategies, and Ty Halpin, the NCAA’s Associate Director of Playing Rules (who also sent out that memo linked in the previous graf).
Here’s the discussion I had with them:
Uni Watch: I know you were concerned about uniforms that were in violation of rule 3-5. What sorts of violations were you seeing?
Greg Shaheen: The way the rule was written had stayed unchanged for many years. And as manufacturing techniques continued to evolve — fabrics with multiple textures, sublimated designs, stripe elements in areas where we hadn’t seen them before, camouflage patterns — the rule was inconsistent with the times. So it was time for the uniform rule to be revisited.
UW: Were these violations happening with the high-profile Division I programs, or at the smaller programs, or both?
Ty Halpin: Every division, every gender.
UW: And how were these violations dealt with in the past?
Ty: The concept is that there wouldn’t be a technical foul unless the offense was so blatant that you couldn’t play the game, which has never happened as long as I’ve been at the NCAA. Normally we’d notify the institution that their uniform was not in compliance. If it was before the season, we’d ask them to correct the problem before the season started, if possible. But most often we noticed these things during the season, and in those cases we’d give them a time frame to comply with it, usually for the next season.
UW: And have other NCAA sports had similar problems, or is this mostly a basketball issue? I mean, changes in fabrics and graphics aren’t just limited to basketball.
Halpin: These problems don’t seem to be as prevalent with the other sports or with their rules committees, which may speak to the fact that they’ve kept their rules up to date while the basketball rule has gotten out of date. The other sports have probably addressed it more on an ongoing basis.
UW: Tell me about this new authentication mark, and what it signifies.
Shaheen: For several years we’ve wanted to have a unifying mark that demonstrated the continuity of the umbrella of college basketball, where all roads lead to March Madness. The mark is also intended to indicate a commitment to, and compliance with, the rules set out in our rulebook. So there’s a convergence of intent there.
UW: Were you taking inspiration from the way the NBA has the NBA logo on all its jerseys, and the NFL has the NFL logo on its uniforms, and so on?
Shaheen: In terms of common licensing practices, sure.
UW: What exactly is the approval process to confirm each uniform’s legality? Like, are hundreds of uniforms being sent to your offices, or are you simply reviewing computer files that show the design specs, or what?
Halpin: We’ve set up an online submission process where they can go in and answer a few questions we’ve set up…
UW: “They” being the schools?
Halpin: The schools or, most likely, the manufacturers. They submit the artwork and designs online, so that we can take a look and offer any suggestions or feedback before the uniforms are actually produced.
UW: There was no process for this before?
Halpin: No. Sometimes a school would say to us, “Hey, we’re considering this design and we want to make sure it’s legal,” so we would look at situations like those on a case-by-base basis. But there wasn’t any process in place like we’re setting up now.
UW: And once these online submissions come in, who reviews them?
Halpin: Our secretary-editors, who work for the Rules Committee, would be the first people to review them. And then NCAA staff, which would be me or one of my colleagues.
UW: I know submission is voluntary this season. Do you have a sense of what percentage of schools have chosen to participate?
Halpin: I don’t know about a percentage, but we’ve had at least 200 sent in.
UW: And have they all been approved, or were there any you’ve had to turn down?
Halpin: There are quite a few where we’ve made suggestions. “Hey, this logo’s a little too low, but if you move it up you’ll be approved,” or “You have the American flag patch on the wrong side” — that kind of thing. There’s been a pretty large percentage where we may have had a minor suggestion of that nature. And then a handful where they were just completely off.
UW: If a school doesn’t choose to go through the process this year, and they end up using the same design next year, can they simply submit this year’s design for next year’s approval process?
UW: Jerseys that carry the new authentication logo will now be eligible to wear the manufacturer’s logo as well. I’m confused about that — why are those two things linked? In other words, what does a manufacturer’s logo have to do with the approval process? Was that a carrot to get the manufacturers on board with this?
Shaheen: Actually, it’s reflective of the fact that our bylaws allow for inclusion of that manufacturer’s mark, and that takes precedence over the playing rules.
UW: Wait, if the manufacturer’s mark has always been allowed basketball jerseys, why has it never been used? I was always under the impression that it was specifically not allowed for basketball jerseys.
Shaheen: Well, within the hierarchy of our rules structure, the player rules for basketball precluded the mark. But at the same time, our bylaws allow it. And when you have a conflict between the playing rules and the bylaws, the bylaws take precedence.
UW: You’ll have to forgive my ignorance here, but can you explain the difference between the playing rules and the bylaws?
Shaheen: Sure. The playing rules are the rulebook governing a particular sport.
UW: And those rules for basketball have said that there can’t be a maker’s mark..?
Shaheen: Correct. However, the bylaws are the overarching governing code of the NCAA, and they do allow for the mark. So there’s been a discrepancy there, and the bylaws take precedence in that type of situation.
UW: So this is sort of like the U.S. Constitution trumping a state constitution.
Shaheen: That is correct.
UW: And nobody was aware of this conflict until now..?
Shaheen: No, I think it has been realized. But the issue was that we needed a wholesale review and update of the uniform rule. So in the course of that dialogue, as we’ve recognized the need to update the uniform rule, that’s one of the things we’ve clarified and addressed.
UW: But if the bylaws always allowed for the maker’s mark anyway, then can a school now add the marker’s mark even if it doesn’t go through the authentication process?
Shaheen: For the next couple of seasons, when the program is voluntary, that’s certainly the case.
UW: What was the past rationale for the playing rules not allowing manufacturers’ logos on jerseys? I mean, what was the original thinking on that? And whatever that thinking was, has it now changed?
Halpin: I think that probably underscores how long ago these original rules were written. It dates back to the days before that was a common thing, and nobody really thought about the bylaws superceding it until we started having this larger discussion about the uniform rule. It was just one of those evolutionary steps that needed to occur.
UW: In past years, teams competing in the NCAA Tournament in have worn a circular NCAA jersey patch. Will that still be the case, or will this new mark replace that patch?
Shaheen: While it hasn’t been finalized, my understanding is that the new patch was designed specifically so that the blue disc can go over that mark.
UW: Are there any plans to add a similar authentication mark for other NCAA sports, such as football?
Shaheen: I think the other sports will obviously be aware of it, but there are no plans for a larger initiative, no.
And there you have it. Frankly, the reasoning behind the maker’s marks seems a little flimsy — I mean, based on what they told me about the bylaws, Nike could have been putting swooshes on every hoops jersey for years now. Was Nike really not aware of that? That’s a little hard to believe, no?
In any case, college basketball is now poised to become Logo Creep City. Jerseys will now have the new authentication mark, a maker’s mark, and usually a conference logo, plus many of them also have American flags and/or little neckline logos. That’s a lot of visual clutter for a sport whose jerseys offer such limited real estate.
Meanwhile, what does this new program mean for the schools? As it turns out, longtime Uni Watch reader Brandon Davis is the sports information director for Dominican University of California, a Division II school in the Pacific West Conference. I had spoken to him a few days before I spoke to the NCAA folks:
Uni Watch: How and when did you learn about this new program?
Brandon Davis: We received a PDF in August. That was the first I had heard of it. We were like, “Huh — well, that’s good to know.” Especially since we had already ordered our uniforms by then.
UW: So from your perspective, they should have told you a lot earlier in the game?
UW: Who’s your outfitter?
BD: We wear Nike, but we’re not really a Nike school, if that makes sense. We don’t deal with Nike directly; we go through a vendor, Sport Chalet, and they deal with Nike for us.
UW: And the uniforms you’d already ordered, this was a new design for this season?
BD: Yes. Most of our sports are on a two-year uniform cycle, and we order in July or August. Luckily, our uniforms hadn’t shipped yet when we got the PDF, so we had to tell Sport Chalet.
UW: And were they already aware of this new program?
BD: They didn’t seem to be. So first we had to let them know that we wanted the certification done, because this season it’s optional.
UW: How did you arrive at that decision internally?
BD: Basically, I had to tell my athletic director, “Hey, we need to get this done now if we want to wear this same uniform next year,” and he then had to go to Sport Chalet.
UW: And the reason you needed to get it done now is that you’re on this two-year cycle, right, and you figured that if it’s mandatory next year, you might as well do it this year..?
BD: No, we have to do it now in order to use these uniforms next year. Otherwise they become obsolete.
UW: So you couldn’t just submit this year’s design next year?
BD: No, they have to be fresh when you submit them, and it has to come from the manufacturer, not the school.
UW: So once you decided to go ahead with this, who had to send what to where?
BD: As I understand it, the NCAA has to inspect a file, like a PDF. And that’s why it has to come the manufacturer, not from us, because we could fudge it.
UW: So your file was submitted, and now you’re waiting to find out if you passed the test?
UW: You said your uniforms hadn’t shipped yet when you told Sport Chalet about this, but had they already been produced? Like, are they sitting in a box somewhere?
BD: I believe they manufactured them already. We may have gotten the NCAA approval and I just haven’t heard about it yet. Another big part of the problem is customs. Our volleyball uniforms got caught up in customs for a month, because a lot of this stuff is made in China.
As you probably noticed, there were some confusing bits toward the end there. One at a time:
• First, as Brandon himself pointed out in a follow-up e-mail shortly after our chat, the program will not be mandatory for his school next season — it becomes mandatory next year for Division I, but it won’t be mandatory for Divisions II and III until the 2013-14 season. “Still,” he says, “for schools that try to get three seasons’ worth out of their uniforms, this would affect them this season, and schools on a two-year cycle who order next season would need to gain approval while the program is still voluntary.”
• But that last statement from Brandon only holds true if teams can’t submit an existing uniform for approval. And while that’s Brandon’s understanding, Ty Halpin specifically told me that teams can submit an existing design.
• Brandon’s understanding that only the manufacturer can submit a design also runs counter to what the NCAA folks told me.
Clearly, there’ve been some communication problems here. I’m not trying to suggest that either Brandon or the NCAA is at greater fault (my hunch is that both sides could have done a bit better) — it’s just interesting to see how one school has been dealing with the new guidelines. I’m guessing other schools have had communication issues as well, if only because some of that is inevitable when rolling out a new program.
Meanwhile, as of yesterday, Brandon’s school still hadn’t received its uniform order, and it still isn’t clear whether the uniforms were given the NCAA’s seal of approval, although Brandon is now working under the assumption that they won’t get the new logo. “We’ll see when the jerseys are finally in hand,” says Brandon, “but unfortunately I don’t think we’ll have the NCAA mark until we truly need it in a few seasons.”
Floor show: One thing I had hoped to include in my NBA season-preview column was this year’s slate of court designs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the artwork from the league in time for the column’s publication, but I have it now. You can see all 30 courts in the slideshow below, or access larger versions here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Very uni-uneventful World Series game last night, although I got several e-mails from people who said Tim Lincecum’s cap looked very broken-in, so they must have put his cap patch on one of his old caps. True enough, but there’s nothing new about that: The very first Series to feature cap patches was in 1996, and John Wetteland insisted on using the same battered, sweat-stained cap he’d been wearing all season long, so they just put the patch on that cap. … Wait, there’s this: C. Gildehaus thinks this may be the first World Series in which both teams’ starting catchers wore the hockey-style masks. Perhaps someone with absolutely nothing worthwhile to do today could check on this for us. … For the record: I have no idea whether this Nats prototype photo, which has been circulating for the past day or two, is legit. I do know, however, that I really like the script that Larry Torrez submitted to the team last year. He says he got no response.. … Attention NYCers with bicycles: Another Big Apple Tweed ride is slated for Nov. 21. … Interesting NOB on this old USFL jersey (good find by Eric Stangel). … Serious douchebaggery alert from Alex Parisi, who decided to enter that Toronto FC design contest. “I wanted to apply a white-on-white look for the Adidas shoulder stripes,” he writes. “But when I tried to submit that design, I got this message.” … The winners of the contest to design Wisconsin goalie Scott Gudmandson’s mask have been announced (with thanks to Jeff Ash). … Love love love this shot of Charlie Conacher in a Wrigley’s gum sweater (big thanks to Jon Hanson). … I was gonna bid on this jersey, but the price got a little too rich for me. … Russ Havens, whose TicketStubCollection.com site is one of our advertisers in the left sidebar, notes that World Series ticket design ain’t what it used to be. … Love these old soccer postcards (as noted by Anthony Bales, who learned about the postcards from Deadspin). … Becky Taylor, who provided yesterday’s Ticker photo of Georgia Christian Institute wearing long pants in 1956, has now provided a great shot of the same school — then known as Dasher Bible — wearing pants in 1950. … Good photos and info on the Lakers’ championship rings here. … Always interesting to see Washington High School from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and their two-tone pants (with thanks to Cody Schuiling). … Latest rumor brewing in Oregon: silver shoes. … I’m not sure which is stupider: that some NBA players like to wear their headbands upside-down or that the league has now banned the practice. Of course, there’d be no such thing as an upside-down headband if the NBA hadn’t insisted on putting its logo on all of them. … If you like old logos, defunct teams, and throwbacks, you’ll flip over this online shop, which is pretty much retro central. Lots of great stuff here, from Ivy League football and ABA teams to minor league hockey and the WFL. Have fun with this one (big thanks to Andy McNeel). … Speaking of old-timey logos, look at this magnificent Seattle Rainiers mark. … Oregon’s “carbon fiber” football helmets have inspired a lacrosse prototype (with thanks to Jeff Brunelle). … This week’s New Yorker has something you don’t often see in that magazine: a football cartoon. The first thing, obviously, is that it isn’t funny. The second thing is that I wonder if the artist is even aware of the ProCap. And the third thing is that football players no longer wear sleeves or forearm padding, but we’ll chalk that part up to artistic license. … Man, the Knicks’ old uniforms really were amazing (big thanks to Grant Goldman). … Very unusual sweater design for the 1958 Victoria Cougars. And look at at the guy in the front row, far left — unique positioning of the “A” (great find by Jake Doyle). … New uniforms for the Australian Baseball League. Drew Douglas attended the Melbourne Aces’ launch event and took these photos.