In 1977, Marquette University took home not only the national basketball championship, but the satisfaction of changing the aesthetic of the game forever.
The win was not earned by a team of simply “good” basketball players but a team that came together, believed in each other and encouraged a creative, comfortable atmosphere.
It all began when Coach Al McGuire, commonly spoken about in the sports world for his eccentricity, allowed one of his own players, Bo Ellis, to attend a different school, to do something seemingly out of the box for a male, basketball player. Fashion design.
Bo was the first of many things, including the first male to ever attend Mount Mary University. He knew how to play ball, he knew how to block a shot and he knew that when his shirt was tucked in, it got in the way. What he didn't know was that by playing games without his jersey tucked in, he would cause a scene in the world of basketball.
The 70’s were a time of broken barriers, traditions being challenged, frivolous and exciting new ideas. The MU jerseys were a representation of the times. they were brave, contradictory, new… White shirts with blue piping around the shoulders, neckline and additionally, the bottom: they questioned civility, some might say they even question authority. But as no shock, the responses to these jerseys were not as enthusiastic as the players wearing them.
Players on other teams reported that the uniforms distracted them, opposing coaches complained that the “coolness” of the uniforms gave them an unfair recruitment advantage. By 1984, the NCAA had re-written the uniform section of it’s rule book to ban jerseys such as this, specifically forcing athletes to tuck in their shirts.
No one expected a university in Milwaukee to create such a stir. The beauty in this story isn’t the fabric, the style or the athletic skills (though, those are certainly things to gawk at) but rather the way a trusting, free-spirited coach allowed his athletes to grow. Bo Ellis started at Marquette as a forward in 1973 and by the end of his college career, had been the first male to attend an all female college, broken down multiple barriers in the world of basketball, and won an NCAA championship. McGuire trusted his players in a way that the rest of the world didn't, and that trust is what pushed them to greater and greater things.
Were left thinking, what would have happened if the NCAA trusted new ideas the way McGuire trusted Bo’s fashion sense? What would happen if all coaches made their players re-think normalcy like Marquette’s team did in the 70's? How would the world of collegiate basketball look today?