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Marquette’s Bumblebee Unis Created Buzz In ‘70s

We’ve already highlighted one set of Marquette uniforms that made an impression on college basketball. With the Golden Eagles now in the Sweet Sixteen, we look back at an even crazier Marquette uniform: the bumblebee unis.

College basketball’s most infamous uniforms were born out of a relationship between Marquette coach Al McGuire and a small uniform company in Milwaukee named Medalist Industries. Medalist was interested in getting name recognition while McGuire was interested in attracting recruits, specifically from New York City.

So the company designed the bumblebee uniform with yellow horizontal stripes packed in tightly together knowing that it would catch people’s eye and draw attention to the school and the uniform maker. The ploy worked brilliantly. In Marquette’s first season with the uniforms they won the 1970 NIT championship and in the process created a high demand for the uniforms.

Then-assistant Hank Raymonds told the Journal Sentinel in 2009, “Oh, wow, that was the craze. Everybody wanted them.”

The uniforms became so popular that McGuire and the school used them for two more seasons, even getting matching warm-ups. The unis combined with Marquette’s New York City swagger (players would ruthlessly dunk during warm-ups which, at the time, was illegal) helped put the program on the map. Opponents even cracked that the bumblebee uniforms might as well have been prison stripes.

Said player Joe Thomas several years ago: “We were called thugs and everything else, and we loved it. People knew when they got through with us, they were going to be soaking in the hot tub for a few days.”

The uniforms, however, proved to be too popular. Following the 1971-72 season, the NCAA decided to ban the uniforms from use. The league claimed the stripes were too distracting to opposing players, especially when Marquette players jumped up and down. Officially the NCAA banned the uniforms for their “psychedelic effect.”

But according to Raymonds, that wasn’t the real reason: “Evidently the manufacturers from different companies got together and they said it created a psychedelic effect on the opponent, and they outlawed the uniforms. There were some politics, because it was a small company.”

It was the end of an era for the uniforms but Marquette basketball continued to rise, culminating in its 1977 national championship. After the bumblebee uniforms were banned, Marquette continued to be at the forefront of offbeat uniform style. Over time, various schools - even the classics - played with their basketball uniforms in some weird way.

Marquette’s history of outlandish uniforms is so legendary there’s even an entire wiki page dedicated to them.

But nothing has ever been, or likely ever will be, as crazy as the bumblebee uniforms.

 
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