Retailers hope to cash in on new WVU jerseys
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's not yet football season, but for some Mountain State retailers, Wednesday marked the kickoff of what they hope is a big season.
At WVU's spring football game, new Mountaineer uniforms were unveiled for the 2013 season. On Wednesday, stores like the Sport Mart received replica and limited Mountaineer jerseys to sell.
"We're putting them on hangers now," said the store's Buddy Clendenin.
West Virginia players will have three different jersey colors to choose from in the upcoming season: blue, gold and white. There will be a total of 27 different combinations.
According to WVU, a canary image will be stitched inside the front collar of the school uniforms, representing the bird that once served to protect coal miners from dangerous gases. Inside the back collar will be the state motto of "Montani Semper Liberi." Sharp points and edges on numbers were said to be inspired by a miner's pickaxe.
What Clendenin and other Nike authorized dealers are hoping for is the appeal of the new look.
"On a normal year, we'll sell anywhere from 150 to 200 jerseys," Clendenin said. "But when there are new jerseys, the sky's the limit. We could sell 300 or more. It's always more popular when there's change.
"Everybody has to have the new design, and this one looks pretty sharp."
"[WVU coach] Dana [Holgorsen] got together with Nike and its team," said Mountaineer equipment manager Dan Nehlen. "He told them what colors he wanted and [Nike] came up with the design and pictures. Dana and [director of football operations] Alex Hammond, I think, had the final call and approved the final version."
In recent years, WVU has banked on the "flying WV" helmet logo. But coaches' involvement in uniform selection is a longstanding tradition. Nehlen said his father and former Mountaineer coach, Don, helped pick the logo.
"He pretty much designed it," Dan Nehlen said. "That was back in 1980, replacing the state outline. Somebody else did some drawings and he just pointed to it. I told him he made one big mistake and didn't patent it. Had he done that, I wouldn't be working today."
The younger Nehlen said recruiting plays a big part in uniform design.
"It's amazing to me what a big deal it is in regard to recruiting," he said. "And not only the jerseys, but the gloves, the socks, the combinations. Dana wanted to do something different."
In that regard, WVU will wear white helmets for the first time since 1979 and gold helmets for the first time since 1978. The helmets of the Bobby Bowden and Frank Cignetti eras, however, featured a gold that was more a mustard or old gold finish, rather than the current bright gold. All helmets will have a matte, rather than a glossy, finish and feature the "flying WV." The traditional blue helmet remains in play. According to WVU football sports information director Mike Montoro, there will be no gray helmets.
Clendenin said replica jerseys at his store would fetch $90, while limited jerseys with sewn on (rather than screen-printed) numbers would go for the retail price of $120.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.