Under Armour defends its basketballs that became focus of Big Ten debate

Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter handles the Under Armour basketball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13, in College Park, Md.
Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter handles the Under Armour basketball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13, in College Park, Md.(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Under Armour entered the discussion Wednesday night  about its basketballs -- a social media-fueled conversation that began with complaints by some Big Ten players that grew loud enough that the topic was eventually addressed by the University of Maryland's men's coach.

The Baltimore-based fitness apparel, footwear and equipment company defended its brand of ball, which it said is used by ten NCAA Division I teams.


Under Armour spokeswoman Diane Pelkey said the company's 695 ball meets all mandatory National Federation of State High School Associations specifications, "which are the guidelines the NCAA uses to ensure the standardization of game balls across the NCAA."

In addition to being used by ten Division I schools, she said it is the official tournament ball for the Western Athletic Conference.

The feel of Maryland’s Under Armour basketballs became a postgame sidelight in January.  Like an effective, full-court press, the issue simply hasn’t gone away.

It seems to be a partisan squabble. Maryland is an Under Armour school, so it wears Under Armour uniforms and tests Under Armour technologies and plays with Under Armour basketballs.

The same is true in football. Reporters covering the Terps beat noticed in 2011 that Maryland was using an Under Armour-made ball when its offense took the field.

Iowa is a Nike school, and Hawkeyes guard Peter Jok told the Des Moines Register after a late-January loss against Maryland: "It feels different. It's heavy like a street ball, like an outside ball. No excuses. It does feel weird."

A few weeks later, a couple of Wisconsin players told Madison.com they didn't much like the Under Armour ball either. However, they seemed to handle it just fine in defeating Maryland 70-57 in College Park on Saturday.

The NCAA maintains standards for its basketballs. According to the rule book for the 2015-16 season, the game ball "shall have a deeply pebbled leather or composite cover," "shall be within a maximum [circumference] of 30 inches and a minimum of 29 1/2 inches" and "shall not be less than 20 ounces or more than 22 ounces" in weight, among other requirements.

Asked about the basketballs, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon sought to put the matter in context last week.


"I don't think it's a story," the coach told reporters. "We played at Michigan and Nebraska with Adidas balls. It took us a while to get used to it. It's the way college basketball is set up. You go here, it's Adidas balls, you go there it's Nike balls, you go there it's Sterling balls. It's the way the game's set up. Until everyone's playing the same balls, I just think people are making more of it than they should."

But Turgeon, a former Kansas point guard, knows how finicky players can be.

Shooting is a delicate art.

So Turgeon conceded that using your own basketballs could be construed as yet another advantage of playing on your home floor.

"I think it's an edge for us here. We love the ball," the coach said.




Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this report.