General

“Backyard Brawl” Uniforms A Team Effort in Production and Secrecy

“Backyard Brawl” Uniforms A Team Effort in Production and Secrecy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The most impressive thing about the special Country Roads Nike uniforms the West Virginia University football team will be wearing for the renewal of the “Backyard Brawl” is not its attractive and wildly popular design.
 
No, to me, the most impressive aspect of this uniform unveiling was the fact that it was actually an unveiling without any leaks!
 
When was the last time you can say that about any unveiling today?
 
Matt Wells, executive senior associate athletics director for external affairs, was part of a small circle of people in the department that included Keli Zinn, chief operating officer and deputy director of athletics, Michael Fragale, senior associate athletics director for communications, Nathaniel Zinn, assistant athletics director for marketing, Joe Swan, director of athletics publications and Kristin Coldsnow, athletics’ lead in-house graphic designer, who came up with the initial concept.
 
Once the concept was finalized internally, Patrick Johnston, football’s assistant athletics director for operations, and others on Neal Brown‘s staff were involved and from there the idea was pitched to Nike.
 
The group worked through Nike on a production timeline to develop a uniform and then unveil it before playing Pitt on Thursday, Sept. 1. Coldsnow, a Fairmont native, took the lead on the design concept, with input from the others.
 
“We already had the concept in mind – we weren’t looking for (Nike) to create it – so that just made it a simpler process for us to do this design and provide them with the final files,” Wells indicated Tuesday morning.
 
Wells credits Coldsnow and Nathaniel Zinn with coming up with the design concept focusing on a West Virginia theme. He said one of the group’s most difficult decisions was determining how wide to make the stripes down the side of the pants and on top of the helmet.
 
“It was a play off of West Virginia and also the short distance between the two campuses being connected by Interstate 79,” Wells explained.
 
“Cue Country Roads” was a phrase originated by former WVU radio play-by-play man Jeff Culhane, who made some big news himself yesterday when he was announced as Gene Deckerhoff’s replacement at Florida State, and that phrase was also incorporated in the all-white uniform design.
 
Wells, as the department’s Nike liaison, worked directly with the company going through all of the fine details to clear a path toward creating a finished product. This was accomplished by late last fall. Then, it took the group about three or four months after that to come up with a workable uniform design that Nike could replicate.
 
The news release posted yesterday has the particulars of the design, but what sticks out to me is that it’s actually “uniform” from head to toe. I’m only a uniform generalist, and my sense of fashion is limited to knowing the importance of wearing matching belts and shoes, but this look accomplishes a lot in a very appealing way.
 
Wells explains, “There was a little bit of old with the state outline in the helmet, a little bit of new with the stripe and the patterns, and obviously, we wanted to feature the Flying WV because that’s the most identifiable part of our brand.
 
“We tried to mix all of that in,” he added.
 
The decision to unveil it on West Virginia Day was the sole property of Nathaniel Zinn.
 
“We wanted to be able to drop this as a surprise, and I give Nate Zinn a lot of credit on that part of the idea,” Wells said. “We wanted to unveil it during maybe a slower time of year to give people some content from our football (social media) accounts. We didn’t want this to be something that was leaked out, but rather dropped as a surprise to see how people reacted to it.”
 
The early reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Some of the snap social media polls I’ve seen indicate more than 90% of the fans approve of the design, which is pretty astonishing to see these days.
 
Wells also credits the social media team led by Clay Bollinger, along with Logan Adams, Devin Kane, Sean Merinar and Andrew Grieve, for concealing its video shoot at Coopers Rock over the weekend prior to the uniform unveiling on Monday morning.
 
The design, unlike the Pro Combat uniforms developed by Nike for the 2010 game played at Heinz Field, was not done in conjunction with Pitt. Whether or not the Panthers choose to wear special uniforms for the game is solely up to them.
 
“This was something we did to hopefully generate some more excitement from our fan base for the renewal of the rivalry,” Wells admitted.
 
Wells said there will be an opportunity for fans to purchase game-worn jerseys afterward, but the white helmets are part of West Virginia’s regular equipment inventory and the decals will be removed once the game is finished.
 
Replica t-shirts and potentially replica helmets are also in the works for fans to purchase to commemorate the renewal of the rivalry. Wells mentioned there are plans to design a special home version of the uniform for the 2023 game to be played at Milan Puskar Stadium.
 
“It will be on a timeline that will allow us to have replica jerseys available in plenty of time before the game,” he noted.
 
The last time these two teams met was in 2011 in Morgantown, a 21-20 West Virginia victory.