Last week adidas made waves when it unveiled its “Made in March” line of NCAA men’s basketball postseason uniforms. Continuing the trend seen throughout the NBA this season, it announced that a handful of team’s postseason jerseys are sleeved. Arguably, though, the biggest wave made by adidas’ announcement was the revealing of Baylor’s jersey, which featured the phrase “Sic ‘Em Bears,” which is the school’s yell. While basketball players have voiced their distaste for sleeved jersey this season, the NCAA similarly voiced its distaste of adidas’ decision to put “Sic ‘Em Bears” on a basketball jersey when it ruled that Baylor cannot wear the uniforms.
The basis for the NCAA’s decision is crouched away in its Men’s Basketball Rule Book. Amongst other things, that document provides guidelines as to what can and cannot be displayed on a team’s jerseys. For instance, the rules state that the “neutral zone” of a men’s basketball player’s jersey may only contain a player’s name or an institutional name mascot. More importantly, though, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rule Book states that no more than two identifying names or abbreviations may be placed on the front or back of a game jersey. The identifying names must identify the school, the school’s nickname or mascot, or the player’s name.
The limitations placed on the identifying names that may be put on a basketball player’s jersey are the reason why Baylor’s men’s basketball team cannot wear jerseys featuring the phrase “Sic ‘Em Bears.” That is because although the phrase is deep rooted in Baylor history, it arguably does not directly identify Baylor nor contain the school’s nickname. While adidas could have argued that the jerseys identify Baylor’s mascot since the phrase contains the word “Bears,” the NCAA’s decision today demonstrates that such an argument does not meet its standards.
When it comes to developing jerseys featuring “Sick ‘Em Bears,” adidas may not be out of luck. That is because when it comes to football uniforms, the NCAA’s rules are different. The 2013 and 2014 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations manual provides that along with a player’s number, a football jersey may only contain the player’s name; school name; NCAA Football logo; sleeve stripes; insignia for the school, conference, mascot, postseason game, memorial or the military; or an American or state flag. Given the presence of the broad category of “insignia” in the rule, it is likely that a Baylor football uniform could feature the phrase. The question, though, is whether adidas is willing to take another design risk and place the phrase on a football uniform? Regardless of what adidas decides to do moving forward with Baylor’s uniforms, one thing is certain: The company generated significant conversation over a basketball uniform design that wasn’t worn for a single quarter of basketball.