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PJ Fleck and Western Michigan uniforms

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Reading the tea leaves (well, Row The Boat uniforms) for clues on what might be changing.

NCAA Football: MAC Championship-Western Michigan at Ohio Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

What did Western Michigan uniforms look like under Coach Fleck?

If you’re going to talk about what might change for Minnesota, this is a pretty reasonable place to start. It’s true that every school is different. What the Western Michigan Broncos are ok with won’t be the same as the things the Minnesota Golden Gophers would consider. But it can give you an idea of what to expect.

Let’s start with a simple visual (drag the slider to the right to see a 2012 uniform and to the left to view a WMU uniform under Fleck):

Pretty big difference. But that wasn’t the only uni that the Broncos broke out under Fleck. Here are other examples:

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Western Michigan Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
NOTE: I know this isn’t an exhaustive summary, just wanted to give a feel.

What we can learn from WMU’s uniforms

As I already noted, WMU and Minnesota are different places with different traditions and expectations. That said, I think it’s still possible to infer a few things from the changes WMU saw after Fleck’s arrival.

  • He’s completely willing to go with “modern” unis. Define that term however you want, I think we can all agree that some of the uniform choices above are not...traditional.
  • He’s willing to embrace multiple helmet styles, including chrome lids. Changing a helmet is one of the easiest ways to bring variety into your uniform game and chrome is definitely a popular choice right now.
  • Non-core colors are ok by Fleck. Gray and black are both used and neither are anywhere on the WMU color wheel.
  • Row The Boat makes an appearance here too. Sometimes it was blatant (that last uniform with the oars as the shoulder pattern. Other times more subtle (the matte brown helmet with the simple oar stickers). This simply reinforces that RTB has a been a core concept for him (in case that was’t abundantly clear already).
  • All of the above points strongly suggest he views uniforms as part of recruiting. “Kids today” love uniform options. Fleck had plenty of uniform options. Plus, he used the uniforms to stress a key part of his program’s culture.

What will this mean for Minnesota?

Here are some quick thoughts and predictions:

  • Uniforms will be part of recruiting at Minnesota. If you’re a traditionalist, this means you will not like at least some of what the Gophers do. It’s possible you might not like a lot of what they do. Best prepare yourself now.
  • Row The Boat will be a part of a uniform or the uniforms, but I think Fleck won’t go overboard. Let’s face it, those boat oar uniforms were ugly. I don’t think you have to worry about that at Minnesota. There is a reason Fleck says “SKI-U-MAH and Row The Boat” in that order. He gets that Minnesota has its own traditions. He has embraced that already. He is finding ways to make RTB part of Minnesota now that he’s here but I don’t see him looking to be too overt with it in the uniforms. My guess is the oar helmet stickers come to MN (which I’m good with b/c they look nice IMO).
  • We’ll get at least one “Oregon” helmet choice. Don’t know if it’ll be a one off or it if sticks, but something like we’ve never seen will make an appearance.
  • We’re at risk of seeing all black uniforms. I don’t like this, but I understand it’s a choice they might make. With luck they’ll stick to gray.
  • We might see FULL BANANA. The flip side to the idea of recruiting with uniform choices and the love recruits seem to have for non-traditional design and “color rush” uniforms is that we might finally get to see the Gophers rock FULL BANANA.

Your thoughts?

If you hadn’t already, you now know what Fleck transitioned WMU to in his time there. What does that have you thinking about options/things to avoid at Minnesota? Have you recovered from your stroke yet? Or are you still giddy with excitement at the possibility of a chrome helmet?

Share your thoughts in the comments!