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University of Maryland makes a fashion fumble

After a nationally televised victory, one imagines the Terps spending the next day basking in glory. Not waiting for a call from "What Not to Wear."

But as the University of Maryland football team hit the field for their season opener against the Miami Hurricanes, the blogosphere erupted in what might have been a first for a collegiate sporting event: More catty clothes talk than you'd hear on Seventh Avenue.

Football met fashion Monday night — and it wasn't pretty.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated said Maryland "committed several unspeakable crimes against fashion."

LeBron James, of all people, wrote, "OH GOSH! Maryland uniforms #Ewwwww!"

Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton Tweeted: "Abercrombie is paying the Jersey Shore cast to NOT wear AF clothing. I hope someone pays Maryland to never wear these horrid uniforms again."

And that was just for starters. For most of the game, on Facebook, on Twitter, on people's blogs, folks went on and on and on about the uniforms and their instantaneous, visceral disgust for them.

"Of course they scored," wrote ESPN's Pat Forde, about Maryland's ultimate victory. "Miami's eyes scorched out of their heads by Terps uniforms. Brilliant move by Kevin Plank."

The Terps unveiled their new, Under Armour-designed uniforms last month at a fashion show complete with a runway, blaring music and players strutting and posing in them like Victoria's Secret models. The makeover of jerseys, helmets and pants was born like all makeovers — from a desire for change. The school wanted a fresher, sleeker image — something cooler, something hipper, something that the new recruits couldn't wait to put on and show off.

After the fashion show debut, folks were talking mainly about how many looks were possible with the new designs. With four jersey colors, four pants colors and two different helmets, the team seemed to have 32 options — like Hollywood starlets, they would almost never have to repeat an outfit.

But there was more.

The uniform the team took the field with Monday night had never made it down the catwalk.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday that the plan was to surprise fans — and "lo and behold we pulled it off."

They at least pulled off the surprise part.

Edsall acknowledged that the design fell short in some people's eyes. To put it mildly. But he said as long as folks were talking about his team — that's O.K. by him. "It's great the people were talking about Maryland football," he told reporters.

Under Armour, meanwhile, couldn't say enough about their multi-colored creations, which they call the "pride" design. Where some fans were seeing a blinding mish-mash, a tacky collision of checkered flags, taxi cabs, state flags and who-knows-what, Under Armour saw only an inspired homage to the free state.

The company intended for the uniforms to make a splash. Perhaps not this much splash. But, according to Matt Mirchin, Under Armour's senior vice president of sports marketing, the design was meant to grab attention.

"It probably got a little bit more attention than we thought," said Mirchin. "It was a little bit polarizing. You either like it or you don't like it."

Mirchin said the "pride" uniform was only meant for the opening game. Meant, as he says, "to get the crowd pumped and create a certain kind of emotion."

Maryland had originally planned to debut the look for the Notre Dame game in November. That game is also to be nationally televised in prime time. But there was so much at stake during Monday night's game — a new coach, a season opener — that the team decided, why wait?

While the Terps' old uniforms highlighted the team's nickname ("Terrapins" or "Terps") the new ones are all about Maryland. Maryland and flashiness. As Edsall puts it, flashy is how the kids today like it.

"Our recruits that were here" at the game, the coach said, "they were in awe of the uniforms."

And they weren't the only ones.

The Charm City Roller Girls All-Stars team loves the look. In fact, they say those state-flag helmets are the spitting image of their own — right down to the colors and half-and-half style. The team has worn flag helmets for three years. Ray Baranowski, who's married to player Holly "GoHardley" Baranowski, designed them.

The roller-skating women weren't exactly cheering about the coincidence Tuesday.

Hillary "Rosie the Rioter" Rosensteel, the roller derby team's captain, didn't say "plagiarized" or "stolen" but she called outfits "shockingly similar."

Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Bog was among the few to applaud the new uniforms — though rather quietly. "They're unique," he wrote. "And the kids seem to approve, so I can't think of any reason to object."

Others, of course, had reasons to spare.

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporters Erik Maza, Matt Vensel and Andrea K. Walker contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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