Going Gray
December 2, 2009 | Kevin Zdancewicz

Seattle U

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having trouble getting fully immersed in college basketball so far. I guess it just still feels like football season to me. The college game still has six (6!) undefeated teams and the BCS picture is cloudier than usual this late in the year. There are two conference championship games with major national championship implications and a de facto Big East title game that could also affect the BCS spots that are up for grabs. In the NFL, there are two undefeated teams and a one-loss squad at the top, about a fourth of the league is truly dismal, and the rest are lurking somewhere in between. It’s about as paritous (is that word?) as usual with five weeks to go.

My inability to switch gears is definitely not for lack of college hoops games, and good games at that. The early season invitational tournaments during ESPN’s “Feast Week” featured a number of major conference matchups as well as good mid-major teams showing what they can do given the chance to actually play bigger programs. While mid-major upsets over teams from the BCS conferences get the most press, a number of surprising results go unnoticed as they take place well beyond the collective periphery of many college basketball fans. Case in point: the owner of this week’s featured jersey, the Seattle University Redhawks. SU is in its first season at the Division I level since 1980 and currently plays as an independent school, so no conference and no chance at getting into the Big Dance. That hasn’t stopped the Redhawks from starting the year 5-3 with upset victories over Fresno State and Utah. In theory, all of their wins could be considered upsets, but when you’re beating teams from the WAC and the Mountain West as a first-year independent that’s especially noteworthy.

There are a couple of reasons the Redhawks’ jerseys caught my eye. The first was that they were gray (more on that later), but let’s start with the “SEATTLEU” word mark. Frankly, I’m not a fan. I’m not sure if everyone there calls it Seattle U or what, but the Seattle women’s basketball team doesn’t do it. And if they really feel the need to include the U, it why not go with SEATTLE U? That little space can go a long way. The school at least set Seattle and U apart by using two different colors. That’s more than can be said for Albany, er UAlbany, whose similar word mark issues I became familiar with from their 2007 clash with UVA in the NCAA Tournament first round. The UAlbany nickname seems to have been around for a while and is plastered all over the school’s website, apparel, and (most importantly) Wikipedia page, but it still makes it seem like the school name is pronounced “y’all-ba-knee” or “oool-ba-knee.” The SeattleU designation seems to be a more recent phenomenon (last year’s jerseys didn’t have the U) that the university is trying to get going, though it is used for the school’s website domain. A solid rebuttal to my dislike of the U with no space is mentioning any of the University of California schools who don’t include a space between the UC on their jerseys, but I’d argue that since the UC abbreviates two words and there’s a space between that and the school’s city name, it at least looks aesthetically better.

In addition to the word mark issue, the uniforms bear a striking resemblance to Syracuse’s uniforms using similar shorts striping accentuated by the fact both schools are SU’s. With Nike’s System of Dress taking over college basketball there are bound to be teams that share uniform templates, but when two teams already have similar logos (like Syracuse and Seattle) it might make sense to pick different designs. 

Having said all that, you’ve got to give SeattleU props for going with gray uniforms at home. You don’t see teams rocking the gray all that often in college basketball, and often it’s only as an alternate. Georgetown is probably the most well-known example and a personal favorite, especially when players wear the mismatched gray t-shirt underneath reminiscent of prior players. Other recent examples include UCONN, Ohio State, UNLV (very subtle gray), Colorado (technically silver), and probably a few others that I am forgetting (there are, after all, over 340 teams in Division I). I’ve said before that I love when teams use underutilized colors, and gray on the hardwood definitely fits the bill. Gray tends to work with most color schemes and I especially like the way it can make white numerals pop off the jersey (check out the Seattle player in the background of the featured photo above as well). It tends to work best when it’s already a part of a school’s color scheme (cough Colorado cough), but it seems to have been recently added to Seattle’s look and it works so maybe the jury is still out on that one.

Regardless of your opinion of the jersey overall, you know it felt good for the Redhawks to do this with it after beating Fresno State and Utah. And maybe that’s all that really matters.

(Update: The list of teams that have worn gray jerseys this season is growing by the day. Add the following schools to Seattle and the other schools listed in this column: Georgia, New Mexico, Providence, Seton Hall, South Carolina, South Carolina Upstate, Stanford, and Xavier. The following teams also wore silver uniforms for the Jordan Brand 25th Anniversary: UNC, Georgetown and Cal. There's also another example of a team rendering the "U" in their name with no space and in a different color: D2 Academy of Art University.)

(Update 2:
The gray uniform phenomenon in college basketball has continued into the 2010-2011 season. Add the following schools to those listed above (repeat gray jersey schools not included): Lipscomb, San Jose State, St. Joseph's, Valparaiso, and Virginia Tech.)

Photo Courtesy of GoSeattleU.com

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