Deep into a preseason monologue about the rules enacted since his arrival, new Maryland football coach Randy Edsall succinctly crystallized a basic tenet of his philosophy.
“Everything to me is about Maryland,” Edsall said earlier this month.
And for Maryland’s entire athletic department as well.
Plenty has changed in the year since athletic director Kevin Anderson arrived. Anderson made hires in football (Edsall) and men’s basketball (Mark Turgeon) and has instituted a rebranding of the department to emphasize the school’s connection with the state rather than prioritize logos and nicknames.
A noticeable early change is Maryland’s “terrafont” - a typeface made specifically for the school - popping up on apparel, billboards, letterhead and signs around the athletic department. Front and center is the word “Maryland,” with a ribbon featuring parts of the state flag below it.
“You’re going to see a lot more ‘Maryland,’ and that’s an initiative that we’re pushing across the board in all of our sports,” said Nathan Pine, the department’s chief of staff. “To use that rather than maybe the logo or maybe the M flag, we want to brand ourselves and be the University of Maryland.”
The most striking change - though not directly associated with the rebranding effort - is Maryland’s new football uniforms designed by Baltimore-based Under Armour. The school was to unveil the program’s latest look during an event on campus Monday night.
Pine said uniform changes are done on a rotational basis. It also isn’t uncommon for the arrival of coaches to be met with a fashion overhaul; Edsall is the fourth straight Maryland football coach to introduce a new helmet in his first season.
Still, the Maryland emphasis will be evident throughout Byrd Stadium when the Terrapins open the season Sept. 5 against Miami. The script “Terps” - a staple over the past decade and, before that, the 1980s - is being scrapped.
“To do it well, there has to be somewhat of a cooling-off period,” Pine said. “You need to set your pace with what you’re going to do with your branding and your logo use and you need to stick with those for a certain amount of time. Then you can phase in some retro brands. There’s obviously some popular marks over the years that we’ll bring back, but we have to move forward before we look back to those to do it effectively.”
In some ways, the massive turnover in College Park lends itself well to this project. Pine said Edsall, Turgeon and their respective staffs have quickly adapted to the changes.
“You’ll see a lot of that kind of thing when there’s a new regime and there’s a new dawn,” said sports branding expert Jason Lee, an associate professor and sports management program leader at the University of North Florida. “When you have new powers-that-be, that might be a good time to implement some changes. It gives you a chance to put your stamp on things if you really feel it’s needed.”
Pine said Maryland and Under Armour have shared costs associated with the push, though many of the initial changes haven’t required a special overhaul. Things as obvious as apparel and mundane as business cards are routinely ordered all the time.
Other items - such as old logos on scoreboards - will take more time to remove.
“When you start talking bricks and mortar, that’s when it’s an incremental investment, and we’re just not in a position to be doing a lot of that right now,” Pine said.
Lee said he was intrigued at Maryland’s decision to promote its geography. He said that many schools that branded themselves in that fashion have done so to differentiate themselves from notable in-state rivals. That’s not an issue at Maryland, which has played the only other major-college program within its borders (Navy) just twice in the past 45 years.
While Maryland hopes its changes have a long-term impact, the short-term benefits seem clear.
“The merchandising opportunity can be big,” Lee said. “I think there’s a strong level of pride and a concept of civic pride or community pride or school pride or whatever you call it for different areas. Celebrating the state offers an interesting notion there.”