Senior Jason Penn leads the UM-Dearborn men's basketball team with 15.2 points per game this season. (Photo courtesy of UM-Dearborn Athletics)

By Mazen Hammoud, Staff Writer

In August of 2016, the University of Michigan athletic department officially switched over to Nike branded uniforms following a $127.12 million contract signed in April. For a school with high visibility like Michigan, this was especially exciting as Michigan football and basketball were the first college athletic programs to wear the new Jumpman brand. This was a highly anticipated move by fans of Michigan Athletics, and was met warmly by alumni and fans alike. However, heading east about 40 miles to the University of Michigan-Dearborn tells a different story.

At UM-Dearborn, there are a variety of varsity sports with different brands represented on their uniforms. It is up to each team as they purchase uniforms to decide what brand uniforms they would like to purchase. Except for women’s volleyball, all the teams that purchased uniforms in the last calendar year have gone with Nike. That includes women’s soccer, cross country, baseball, softball, lacrosse, and women’s basketball. Men’s basketball chose to wear the Jordan brand “Jumpman” uniforms. Men’s soccer did not purchase uniforms for this season and continue to wear Adidas apparel.

Possibly the most profound instance of a lack of consistency in uniform branding is the men’s ice hockey team. The hockey team continues to wear the Reebok uniforms from past seasons, but have ordered Nike gear for travel games. Though the team isn’t sporting the latest gear at home, the No. 8 Wolverines have pulled some of the largest crowds at athletic events this year.

The newly formed women’s soccer team opted for Nike uniforms for its first appearance as a varsity sport this year. (Photo courtesy of UM-Dearborn Athletics)

Nick McCutcheon, the sports information director at UM-Dearborn, said the goal for the athletic department is to have teams with consistent uniforms.

“The idea is to have a uniform look,” McCutcheon said. “We are proud to wear the Block ‘M’ of Michigan, but we want to be distinctly UM-Dearborn.”

Looking at the new uniforms that teams are sporting, it’s clear that there is an emphasis on the “Dearborn” in “University of Michigan – Dearborn”.

A great example are the basketball teams at both schools. The University of Michigan NCAA Division I basketball team uniforms and the NAIA Division II University of Michigan – Dearborn team have unique, but equally appealing uniforms.

With the variety of sports and divisions on campus, the question arises if certain sports have any type of priority with desired brands and new uniforms.

As it turns out, each team independently makes their own decisions when it comes to new uniforms, however they are required to adhere to both the athletic department branding guidelines, as well as receive approval from External Relations at the university for new designs.

There is a clear increase in popularity of athletic events on campus by students, as well as a focus on advertisement and branding by the department to really make the UM-Dearborn athletes stand out.

For the first time in recent years, advertisements have been placed along the boards at the UM-Dearborn Ice Arena.

Perhaps being accustomed to multi-million dollar athletic environments like NCAA athletic programs, and even professional sports where brands dominate teams, could make someone cast a wary light on the UM-Dearborn athletics eclectic choice of brands and apparel. However, with a much smaller budget and a variety of up and coming teams, there is definitely a challenge to maintaining consistency in the athletic department. The current solution, allowing teams to remain independent with oversight, has been working according to plan, as indicated by the increased attendance and awareness of athletics on campus.

UM-Dearborn might not have an hundred million dollar contract for apparel, but the result of what has been given remains a phenomenal use of resources by the athletic department.