Cajuns set to sport new Adidas apparel _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Wide reciever for the Ragin' Cajuns, Elijah McGuire walks the sideline while taking a break during practice on Thursday morning.

Get ready for a new-look Ragin’ Cajuns athletic program this year — literally.

This fall marks the beginning of a new apparel contract with Adidas, which replaced Russell Athletics as the Cajuns’ uniform provider this season. The changes go across the board, as each of the school’s sports teams will be outfitted in new Adidas gear. The decision to switch from Russell was comprehensive, but one of the main reasons was that it signaled increased legitimacy for Cajuns athletics.

“It’s one of the top brands, worldwide, in all of sports,” Athletic Director Scott Farmer said. “It’s immediate name recognition, and it immediately puts our program at a higher stature.”

The football team won’t be the first to unveil the new athletic apparel brand at home. The soccer team will play its home-opener against McNeese State on Friday.

The deal is especially big for the soccer team. Cajuns coach Scott Wieland said switching to a brand that is globally recognized for its affiliation with soccer was “a huge upgrade.”

“To come out in our first couple games in full Adidas gear, not having mismatched things and not wearing a brand that’s not recognized by soccer at all, it’s a big difference,” Wieland said. “It’s a class outfit … and that makes you feel good. Everyone says, ‘You look good, you play good.’”

But it’ll be the football team that will be drawing the most attention.

Adidas has drawn some ire in the past few seasons for some of the creative liberty it has taken with uniform redesigns, specifically with teams that have an iconic look like Michigan and Notre Dame. Ragin’ Cajuns football coach Mark Hudspeth called himself a traditionalist and said the uniforms won’t stray too far from a traditional look, but admitted that there might be some surprises in store this season.

Those surprises won’t be limited to the fan base.

“We’ve also got some surprises up our sleeves for our players that they’re not even going to find out about until game day,” Hudspeth said. “I like holding a little bit back for those guys because everyone likes opening up Christmas presents.”

Junior left tackle Mykhael Quave isn’t ready to say he’s excited for what the coach has in store yet.

“We’re trying to keep our expectations low, because I don’t know what his taste in style is, so it won’t be that much of a let down if it’s bad,” Quave said.

When could that uniform surprise be in store? Perhaps he doesn’t want to ruin the surprise, but Hudspeth wouldn’t give an exact date, saying many of the uniforms are still in production. But he did give one clue as to when fans and players could expect to see a completely new-look team.

“They’ve got some neat things planned for us especially for our TV game on Tuesday night this year,” Hudspeth said.

One of the biggest benefits for Hudspeth is being able to equip his players head to toe in uniform gear. He doesn’t have to get gloves from one company, cleats from another and jerseys from yet another. For the players, it’s a sign that all those hours spent sweating on the practice field were worth it.

“We’re seeing all our hard work manifested. We’re seeing progress. It’s a really great feeling seeing that,” Quave said. “It’s like working hard all week and getting your paycheck at the end of the day. We worked hard for it, and now we can make our withdrawal from the bank and do something with it.”

People in the athletic program are excited about the new look, but nothing in life is free. Part of the school’s record-setting fund-raising efforts were focused on making the switch to Adidas. With the Cajuns contract with Russell set to expire last year, Hudspeth said the plan has been in the works for some time to have a more recognizable brand outfit the athletes.

“We had to look at it and see what the companies that submitted bids offered us financially, what prices we would pay for their product. We evaluated everything,” Farmer said.

Everything, including being able to show Adidas’ iconic three-stripe pattern on school gear to a high-school senior looking to pick out a school.

“When the evaluation came down to the intangible of recruits being excited about it, it tipped it in favor of Adidas,” Farmer said.