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2015 USC Football: New Trojan Jerseys?

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Alternate uniforms and third jerseys have become the standard practice for many teams, but what happens when this latest fad clashes with decades of tradition?

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Over the years there's been a lot of needless handwringing about the possibility of an alternate uniform at USC, or even a new uniform design altogether. After all, the USC football program hasn't seen a major uniform change since 2002. However, recently there's been increased debate over the subject - ever since rumors started circulating that the Trojans might adopt yet another helmet design in addition to the alternate chrome helmet added to the lineup last season.

Whether this or any future updates to the now classic uniform are installed remains to be seen, as USC contended with fan backlash at the idea of any possible changes or updates to the treasured cardinal and gold as recently as last season. Coach Sarkisian along with other team officials pushed for a whole new alternate uniform in order to compete with the newly updated jerseys of their Pac-12 rivals UCLA and Oregon. However, after vocal protest from fans, a compromise was reached and the new metallic helmets were introduced instead.

One of the main concerns, I can only assume, is that this small change leaves the door open to even larger ones. First the helmets, then the entire uniform, and then what's next?! The colors? The mascot? To this concern, I say you really don't need to worry. After all, the last time a major college franchise changed their mascot they were ordered by the NCAA to do so.

That's not to say I don't get it! As a sports fan, and more specifically as a USC fan, that cardinal and gold are just as representative of the fearsome football juggernaut as the Trojan emblem itself.

But this is where I may differ from the majority - I actually like the possibility of more uniform designs and versions. I like when teams add more jerseys and uniforms and subsequently more merchandise to their arsenal. I like the way it looks in the team shop, online, and in my closet. Because a lot of times that's what it translates to - more t-shirts and jerseys for us.

This push for change also shouldn't come as a huge surprise. At the end of the day, this is partially a marketing decision. After all, what do you do when all your fans have already bought your classic, traditional, expensive jersey? You make another one! Merchandising sales make up huge amounts of college athletic revenue streams, with USC pulling in $34.5 million during the 2010-11 season alone. Adding another jersey and the merchandise to go with it would be a great way to increase that profit further, not that the Trojans of all programs really need it.

This latest trend in college football is not without precedent. In the NHL, where special event series designed to promote new merchandise are commonplace, new jersey designs are constantly purchased by diehard fans. With events like the Winter Classic, the Stadium Series, and the All Star Game, true zealots have the opportunity to buy newly designed team gear ever year.

The NHL isn't the only major sport updating its collective wardrobe either. Recently, the practice of updating and adding a third jersey to the fray has become more commonplace, both at the college and pro level of basketball. In addition to merchandise sales brought in by the annual All Star Weekend, many NBA teams have instituted an alternate uniform. Last season the Clippers added a light blue third jersey to their home game rotation. And whether you appreciate the new addition or not, even a quick perusal of the LA Team Store on a game night can easily tell you what new merchandise the organization is pushing.

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has recently capitalized on this merchandizing angle as well, using big-event occasions to push more merch and more product. This past year, the March Madness tournament continued its new tradition of partnering with popular athletic brands, who then provide special tournament uniforms for top ranked teams. Both Nike and Adidas have contributed in the past.

There also seems to be some concern with USC "becoming Oregon". Although, call me crazy, this doesn't automatically seem like a bad thing to me. After all, Oregon's constant parade of alternate jerseys didn't seem to hamper their championship season, or their consistent performance for the past three seasons. It also seems to be popular with new recruits. After all, the Duck's constant fashion show was good enough for star quarterback Marcus Mariota, and didn't stop new five-star recruit Canton Kaumatule from committing to the school this past year.

I'm definitely not saying USC should follow any part of Oregon's example. But the fact remains that USC will either bow to the pressure of lucrative brand endorsements, or follow in the same direction of many of their Pac-12 contemporaries. At this point, I don't think it's an if but more of a when.

One thing is for sure, regardless of any future decisions management might make, they better make sure that those classic colors - that cardinal and gold - continue to endure.


Follow the author on twitter: @MarissaDeutsch

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