Orange, gray and blue: Colorado State, CU football’s alternate uniforms are big business

When a football recruit arrives on an official visit at Colorado State, he’s given a choice of jersey to try on with four options to visualize joining the Rams. Green and white, of course, and two alternates worn for special occasions. Head coach Mike Bobo can tell you what roughly 90 percent of those 18-year-olds choose: Orange or gray.

“What does every kid want to be?” Bobo said. “They want to be different.”

CSU (2-2) plays at 10 p.m. Saturday at Hawaii (2-2), but the national buzz surrounding the program following its bye week has been fashion forward. The Rams unveiled an all-white Under Armour “State Pride” uniform combination, which will be worn Nov. 11 against Boise State, that feature blue-and-yellow Colorado state flag “C” logos, blue numbers outlined in red, plus “COLORADO STATE” across the chest.

Nowhere on the helmet, jersey or pants is a flicker of green or gold.

It all highlights a national trend that’s hit even the most tradition-rich programs such as Oklahoma, Penn State and Notre Dame: Bigger and bolder is better when it comes to trendsetting college football uniform combinations.

“There is something a little weird when you see Colorado State out there in colors that are not the school colors,” said ESPN columnist Paul Lukas, who maintains the blog that specializes in the analysis of sports uniforms. “That said, it’s an effective design and it draws upon a striking state-specific set of visual imagery.”

The development of the “State Pride” look began in spring of 2016, said Under Armour design director for team sports apparel Nick Billiris, and was developed through a series of communication between the company and CSU’s athletic department to coincide with the inaugural season of the on-campus football stadium.

It’s not the first time sports teams have paid homage to their respective state flags. Under Armour designed similar college football concepts previously worn by Texas Tech and Maryland. The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets have an Ohio state flag themed alternative jersey. The MLB’s Texas Rangers often wear a sleeve patch representing the Lone Star State.

If the Rams’ earn a victory in their new “State Pride” duds, or the look becomes a welcome brand synonymous with CSU, it might return for future seasons, too.

CSU signed a five-year contract with Under Armour in 2016 that states it can produce three “special uniforms” for three games through the 2020-21 season — with production costs split between the two parties — meaning fans can look forward to up to two more unique looks across the next three-plus seasons. According to the school, it will be provided with apparel and equipment valued at $2.2 million retail this year; however, CSU and Under Armour declined to release the full details of their agreement, redacting financial information from the contract, citing “confidential and proprietary” information.

In Boulder, an analysis of the University of Colorado’s agreement with Nike shows the school will receive $750,000 in base compensation in 2017-18 — meaning the company is paying the Buffs to wear the “Swoosh” logo — plus apparel and equipment valued at $2.1 million retail. Should the Buffaloes reach the College Football Playoff, they receive a $25,000 bonus. And if CU wins the national title, it takes in $100,000. CU’s contract with Nike was first signed in 2001, received a 10-year extension in 2006 and was again extended last year through 2025. The most recent extension garnered the Buffs’ $2 million signing bonus.

CSU receives undisclosed bonuses for athletic achievements by its football and men’s and women’s basketball teams.