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Oregon always dressed for success

The latest weapon in the recruiting game can be found in the closet.

Detractors may dismiss the wide array of Oregon uniforms as marketing gimmicks designed to wring money out of loyal fans. But multiple jerseys, along with the gloves, helmets and cleats that go along with them, are mighty enticing to players.

"Being the University of Nike, essentially, we get a lot of cool stuff. A lot of new stuff all the time. It's definitely a recruiting tool," Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl said.

College football's resident fashionistas debuted another new look for last night's BCS title game against top-ranked Auburn in Glendale, Ariz.

"We've used Oregon as a test pilot for a lot of innovations and a lot of the mix-and-match [uniforms]," said Todd Van Horne, global creative director of Nike football.

Just as it has done with apparel in other sports, Nike has improved the functionality of its uniforms, making them more lightweight and breathable, reducing material used and adding padding to the fabric itself. It's improved the grip technology on its receiver gloves.

" 'Listen to the voice of the athlete' is our principle," Van Horne said. "They want innovations . . . They want it lighter, they want it more flexible, they want it more breathable, they want super tight-fitting jerseys but that are not restricting."

But the players want to look good, too, and having one primary color jersey for home games and a white one for the road is so 1990s - 1980s and '70s, too, for that matter.

"I feel like our tradition is the unexpected," Oregon linebacker Spencer Paysinger said. "It's our tradition to mix it up and shock the nation."

Oh, shock the nation the Ducks did when they unveiled their "Fighting Highlighter" uniforms in the 2003 season opener. Temporarily blinded a few fans, too, with Day-Glo yellow jerseys and pants so bright they could be seen clear to SEC country.

And that was just the start. Beginning in 2006, Nike rolled out four different uniforms for Oregon, giving the Ducks almost 400 possible combinations when you considered the various jerseys, pants, helmets, socks and shoes. As if that wasn't edgy enough, the numbers on the jerseys were futuristically funky - think "Rollerball" - and the diamond patterns on the shoulders and knees gave the uniforms a moth-eaten look.

The diamond pattern has given way to wings on the shoulders, but the Ducks still are setting the fashion trend. In the past two years they've sported green jerseys, black jerseys, yellow jerseys, white jerseys with silver numbers and trim, white jerseys with green trim, silver pants, black pants and green pants.

Got all that? Good, because for last night's BCS title game No. 2 Oregon had yet another twist, this one green pants and white jerseys with numbers that have neon-yellow piping around them, and matching neon-shaded cleats and socks that are designed to make the players' feet a blur as they dart downfield.

"I like them," Paysinger said. "They're going to make us look fast on the field. As it gets darker in the day, the color starts glowing."


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