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Friday, July 25, 2014 | Last updated: 10:37am

Column: Generic jerseys help collegiate fans



It’s July, which means jersey burning season is about to begin and Arizona football fans are getting unexpected value in 2014.

July marks the beginning of NBA free agent season and in the last few years a trend has emerged to burn the jersey of a player who changes teams. In 2010, Cleveland Cavaliers fans burned LeBron James jerseys after he left to join the Miami Heat and this year, photos of Heat fans threatening to burn James jerseys have appeared on social media.

Very quickly a player fans love can become one fans hate and the jersey a fan spent almost $100 on is something they don’t want to see again.

The day after former Phoenix Suns player Steve Nash defected to the much-despised Los Angeles Lakers, I saw a homeless man wearing a Nash Suns jersey.

When the 2014 Arizona football jerseys go on sale soon, it doesn’t look like Wildcat fans will have to dispose of their expensive jerseys.

Jerseys have consistently rising costs — last year Arizona football jerseys rose to $90 and UA basketball uniform tops are $120 at the bookstore — which makes buying one a gamble. Do you support your team and risk wasting $90 if that player switches teams or gets arrested?

Like in the case of Joe Paterno, we’ve learned not to build statues of people who are still alive. To quote Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight,” “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Handing over $90 for a shirt is pretty crazy already, but doing so when you might have to get rid of it?

Since Nike raised the price of NFL jerseys to at least $100, I haven’t seen many new ones and it seems like less UA fans got the new $90 tops that Arizona debuted last year.

However, it looks like the UA is adding more value to its football jerseys.

In an ESPN story last month, Arizona athletic director and vice president for athletics Greg Byrne revealed that the UA chose No. 14 for the number to be sold on this year’s jerseys, rather than the number of a star player like most teams.

Byrne barely commented on it, but it is implied that Arizona did so because debate over compensation for student athletes is a hot issue. While retail college jerseys don’t have player names on the back, everyone knew who No. 13 was on the men’s basketball team. Most consider the numbers as odes to players.

By choosing No. 14, a number not currently worn by any Wildcat football player, the UA added value to fans’ investments. With no player wearing No. 14, there’s no chance he could transfer to ASU or USC, get arrested or anything else.

Last season, Arizona selected No. 33, worn by linebacker Jake Fischer, over Ka’Deem Carey’s No. 25. While Fischer was the star of the defense and a Daily Wildcat senior award winner, Carey was a legend, making the pick a bit controversial.

It was safe though, since Carey was involved in a couple of field incidents. Carey behaved, but if he was arrested again, a No. 25 jersey would’ve been a problem for UA fans.

According to the report, only two other schools are selling generic jerseys: Texas A&M and Northwestern.

By selling a jersey without the number of a star player, the UA is protecting its fans from getting burned.

—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520


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