Trends: Adding Local Flair to Playing Surfaces

Last Updated on March 28, 2023

This is the first in a series of articles called “Trends.” These articles will examine current and emerging trends and their impact on college athletics business. This series will not be posted with the same regularity as my “Athletics Construction Roundup” but as trends develop.

Florida International’s new basketball court design is getting a lot of media attention. The goal of the design is to reflect the locale of the Miami school. In a previous article, I compared the new court with Oregon’s basketball court and Boise State’s football field. While those are fair comparisons, they are a bit obvious. Let’s take a look at some other playing surfaces that pay homage to the school’s location and traditions.

Perhaps the most obvious example is the endzone art of Maryland’s Capital One Field at Bryd Stadium. The design calls upon elements from Maryland’s state flag and matches the Terps’ much talked about jerseys. While many question the execution of the concept, the idea of using the state flag in its athletic branding makes perfect sense for Maryland.

South Carolina, also a flagship university in a state with a recognizable flag, has incorporated the crescent moon and palmetto tree into its football field design. The subtle design pays tribute to the state’s iconic flag without being too noticeable. At first glance, a causal viewer might even overlook the symbols at the 25 yard lines on either end of the field.

Texas A&M has subtly paid respect the state of Texas on its basketball court. The design is a scaled back version of three point line-to-three point line state outline used during the school’s Big 12 days. The smaller logo and use of stain create a classy look. Ohio State uses a similar concept with the outline of the state of Ohio in stain.

Arizona announced this field design will be installed this summer as part of a renovation of Arizona Stadium. Note the so-called ghost lettering in the middle of the field. The university has not announced whether this will be affected by the NCAA ban on hashtags* on the field. If the school is allowed to go ahead with the design, it could be a creative way for other athletic departments to circumvent the hashtag ban.

This unique field design was recently release by Wyoming. Many observers will first notice the mountains in the endzone. However, the subtle “7220 Feet” text on the sidelines is what really sets this design off for observant and knowledgeable fans. 7220 feet represents War Memorial Stadium’s elevation, the highest in college football. Despite the genius of this sideline text, schools are much more likely to imitate Wyoming’s endzone art.

In the  modern world of Division I sports, flashy jerseys and unique field designs can bring attention to a program and attract recruits. In the past decade, the distinctive jersey trend has exploded. It started with a handful programs and within a few years nearly every football team, and many basketball teams, in the country had experimented with at least one special jersey. The best received designs do not isolate longtime fans but instead pay respect to the history and traditions of the program in subtle ways. As the trend of increasingly outlandish playing surfaces grows, the best designs will follow suit by honoring university traditions.

 

*If held to the letter of the law, this rule would eliminate virtually every trend mentioned in this article. State symbols such as those used by Maryland and South Carolina are not considered team logos. To use an extreme example- if enforced as written, this rule could force two of the most iconic endzones in football, Tennessee and Notre Dame, to be changed because they feature designs that are not team names or logos. It is highly unlikely than this rule will be enforced in that manner.

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