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UNC football: The Jumpman is more than just a logo

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UNC football’s partnership with Jordan could mark a turning point for the program.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The ceiling officially became the roof on August 5. With the big unveiling of a boatload of cool new gear, UNC football was ushered into a new era on Saturday. Now partnered with the Jordan brand, UNC will be offered equipment that no other school will have access to. We’re talking one of a kind stuff here, including unique Carolina footwear and even NC logo thigh pads.

Things get even more exciting when taking into account Jordan himself being a Tar Heel. UNC football is in a special position to massively profit off Carolina’s connection to His Airness. UNC could potentially have a new uniform combination or uniform tweak every week under the Jordan brand—the same happened with Oregon and Nike.

Don’t expect anything too crazy, but we’re just scratching the surface with revamped navy alternates and NC logo thigh pads. The possibilities are endless. It would be easy to imagine a decal like this showing up on the side of a helmet at some point.

Aside from the uniforms, UNC’s partnership with Jordan is a big step in the right direction for a program that is seeking to develop its own identity. UNC football has seemingly always been on the doorstep of greatness—producing more NFL first round picks than Virginia Tech, Oregon, and Stanford (and NC State and Duke combined), the Heels have always had the talent, but things just never materialized.

But now, with a silhouette of one of the most decorated champions ever on the front of their uniforms, they’ll be playing for greatness; after all, nothing in sports screams greatness more than Michael Jordan. Potential recruits will know this. Now that the GOAT has returned home, these aren’t just uniforms, helmets, gloves, and cleats—this is a new identity for a reloading program that can do big, big things in the future.

While Michigan was the first to sign with Jordan, UNC may very well now be the flagship program for the brand. This is great news. As previously touched on, getting sweet merchandise like Oregon gets from Nike will be fun to ogle at, but it will also be a boon for recruiting. Jordan is the crème de la crème for sneakerheads, so bringing that same prestige on the gridiron will prove wildly attractive for potential recruits.

Don’t just take my word for it. According to SportingNews, uniforms play a role in 33% of recruits’ enrollment decisions. That is a significant number. Oregon has the best uniforms, according to the supermajority of top 100 recruits. With the Ducks bringing in top 25 recruiting classes year in and year out, it’s easy to imagine there being good players whose decisions may be swayed by being able to wear those beautiful Navy blue uniforms with the Jumpman on the chest.

UNC’s signing with the Jordan brand also marks as large a shift for MJ as it does the University. For decades, Jordan was something of an enigma in Chapel Hill. Even though he has long been one of the faces with UNC basketball, he rarely made appearances in Chapel Hill. He made cameos in those “I Am A Tar Heel” videos that would play ad nauseam at every home game, but he skipped on the 2005 and 2009 NCAA championships, and was never particularly vocal about UNC.

However, Jordan attended the 2016 championship game, and since then has inserted himself as a prominent figure in the University. It’s an opportunity for Jordan to build his legacy even further at his alma mater while cashing out in the process. UNC needs that—a man with as much clout as Michael Jordan, with the uniforms to boot, is indeed quite the recruiting asset. Now, the Jordan brand will be as synonymous with UNC athletics as Jordan himself is with UNC basketball.

UNC caught some heat on social media for their decision to partner with Jordan. The practice helmets, in particular, which sport a white Jumpman logo over a Carolina blue background, were not received particularly well by some crowds.

Keep in mind that the only time you’ll ever be seeing these practice helmets are in tweets from practice or stock photos. Regardless, these helmets are not something to despise or arbitrarily label as evidence of UNC selling out.

Instead, I find these helmets are encouraging. UNC signing with Jordan—strengthening the Carolina family by embodying greatness—is a big deal. It means that UNC is serious about football and bringing big name recruits back to Chapel Hill. Future recruits won’t just be playing for UNC. They’ll be playing for greatness.

Plus, the uniforms look cool. After the argyle trim was added in 2015, UNC instantly had some of the best uniforms in the country, but now? They’re unmatched. It’ll be a pleasure to see them in action in UNC’s opener on September 2nd against Cal.