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IU Basketball: Love or Hate Alternate Jerseys, but One of the Biggest Apparel Lines Still Matters

Adidas to introduce exclusive black jerseys for Indiana basketball, sparking debate. The move suggests IU's cultural agency and relevance remain strong.

The IU basketball season has reached a familiar milestone once again. This time, it's the return of The Uniform Discourse, this time in the form of Adidas introducing black jerseys with red numerals from its Fear of God brand line for Indiana's upcoming games. This announcement has sparked debate about the choice of color, especially since the opponent, Iowa, has black in its regular color wheel, and the women's program had planned a white-out of Assembly Hall.

Arguments for the defense of these uniforms are familiar. Players love them, and the younger generation digs them. They help justify multimillion-dollar relationships between apparel companies and athletic departments. However, Indiana fans are deeply rooted in tradition, and these changes can be unsettling.

Uniforms don't win games, but they do help cement perceptions. When IU put five stars on the back of its shorts, it spoke a message into existence. Conversely, athletes themselves tend to favor alternate jerseys, and younger fans like fresher looks.

The financial impact of apparel deals is beginning to wane, but these are still seven-figure line items on annual budgets. There has to be more mutual benefit in these relationships than simply "give us what we want, period." In the late-week confirmation of these designs, Adidas announced the Fear of God threads would go to IU and Miami. Fear of God is a high-end, exclusive arm of Adidas' apparel arm, driven by cultural and aesthetic motivations.

In the buildup to IU's games against Purdue this season, there was discussion of the Hoosiers' current relevance in modern college basketball. When IU's trip to Purdue made Fox's main channel in primetime, it suggested that relevance remains strong, even if results aren't consistent. When Adidas announces exclusive NIL deals for four men's basketball players, and two of them are Hoosiers, it says the company still sees real cultural agency in IU basketball.

Like the jerseys. Love the jerseys. Hate the jerseys. Be jersey agnostic. Just remember what it says loudest when IU takes the floor in these jerseys: To one of the world's biggest apparel lines, Indiana basketball still matters. Fear the day such companies decide that's no longer the case.

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