The NCAA is more conscientious than other codes with regard to the rules covering the players’ uniforms. There is more emphasis on the appearance of players during a game because it wants to project a more professional image for its student-athletes. The college uniform rule can be categorized into three parts – official uniform, accessories, and inclement weather apparel. This article summarizes the key points of the uniform rule; see the Rule book for the details.
The Effect for violating any of the uniform rules is:
• Umpire issues a warning to any player not complying
• If possible, the player shall remove the item or correct the violation
• If this is impossible or the player refuses, she will be ejected
Note: shoes are considered required equipment for players and coaches; see the article Required Equipment in this same Rules Corner section.
The official uniform consists of a jersey, pants or shorts, and socks. All players shall wear uniforms which are identical in style, color, and trim, differing only in size and trim. The only exception to the above is – no penalty for changing a uniform part due to saturation of blood.
The term “jersey” is not defined in the rule book but the common definition of a jersey is a shirt that is worn by a member of a sports team as part of a team uniform. By rule:
• The jersey must have a distinct whole number between 0 and 99 (inclusive) on the back which must be at least six inches high; it is recommended that it also have 3- go 4-inch high numbers of contrasting color on the front of the jersey.
• No duplicate numbers are allowed, and numbers such as 0 and 00, 1 and 01, etc. are considered the same number.
• Names are permitted on the back of the jersey; slogans, nicknames or sayings are not permitted
• Uniform sleeves may not be rolled up or secured to simulate a sleeveless jersey
• The visiting team is responsible for ensuring its jersey is of a contrasting color to that of the home team. There are exceptions to this; check the rule book.
The uniform may consist of pants or shorts; all players on the same team must be attired the same way.
Accessories include headgear, undergarments, insignias/commemorative patches, logos, and signal arm bands.
• Visors, headbands, and caps may be mixed and must be of the same predominant color. The only exception is the catcher’s headgear, which may be of a different color than other defender’s headgear.
• If undergarments are worn by more than one player, they must be the same in color/pattern. Upper body undergarments may have shirt sleeves that vary in length: sliding pants are considered undergarments
• Visible undergarments must contrast with the color of the ball and be worn as intended by the manufacturer (not frayed, torn, slit, or rolled up).
Logos and commemorative or other special insignia/patches
These may be worn as long as all teammates’ uniforms are identical and embedded numbers are not larger than one inch.
• The uniform may have a single manufacturer’s or distributor’s normal label or trademark not to exceed 2 ¼ square inches.
• As authorized by an institution or conference, patches such as names, mascots, nicknames, logos, and marks intended to celebrate or memorialize persons, events, or other causes may be worn. The patch may not exceed 2 ¼ square inches and must be placed on the front or sleeve. Not all team members are required to wear the patch; the patch must be identical for those who choose to wear the patch.
• Other names/words intended to celebrate persons, events, or other causes may be placed on the back of the jersey/uniform where the player name is traditionally located; the names/words may vary by team member.
• Signal arm bands may be worn by the players while on offense or defense; it must be placed on the arm and as intended by the manufacturer
Similar to the official uniform requirement, all accessories must be worn properly and as designed. In addition:
• Defensive players are permitted to hang a towel from their pants as these may legitimately be used for keeping their hands dry
• Offensive players may not hang towels from their pants – no legitimate reason for this
• Sunglasses may be placed on the headgear of defensive players
• Batting gloves and similar accessories may be worn or in the hands of the baserunner
• Nothing may be hanging out of the pocket of offensive or defensive players on the field
Camouflage and Any Multi-Colored Sleeves
Compression sleeves have been used for years, but they are now being worn by more players, especially pitchers, at all levels and in new color combinations. A compression sleeve is advertised as having the “benefits of enhanced performance through increased blood flow, quicker recovery and decreased muscle soreness, and less fatigue.” Whether this is true or just marketing, take into consideration that these statements come from companies selling these devices. But also please consider a comment from a Time Magazine article from 2015:
“So far there is little evidence to suggest that wearing compression garments during an event can improve performance,” says Dr. Mike Hamlin, an associate professor of exercise and sports science at New Zealand’s Lincoln University.
Whether the “compression” part of this sleeve is legitimate or not, it seems that camouflage or multi-colored compression sleeves are somewhat of a fashion statement by players or teams. Some “fashion” may be allowed on a softball field unless it violates a uniform rule.
Here are the recent rule interpretations for compression sleeves
Email received from the NCAA Softball Rules Editor:
If the multi-colored camouflage is visible to the umpire(s), even if it is on the inside. they need to act on it as a violation of the rule.
Undershirts/undershorts (sliders). It is not required that players wear undershirts or undershorts, but if worn by more than one player, the apparel must be the same in color. Shirt style and sleeve length may vary. Visible undergarments must be in a single, solid color and worn as intended by the manufacturer (not frayed, torn, slit or rolled up).” If it is worn inside-out, this also violates the part of the rule that it must be worn as intended by the manufacturer.
This interpretation was posted on the NCAA Softball Umpiring Home Plate on March 3, 2016.
“Compression arm sleeves will follow the same criteria as undershirts. If worn by more than one player, the apparel must be the same color. Visible undergarments must be in solid colors and worn as intended by the manufacturer. Example: One player wants to wear black long sleeve undershirt shirt and the pitcher wants to wear a compression arm sleeve. This must also be black.” (Underlining added.)
But this interpretation does not appear to be getting to the level of some teams’ coaching staffs. Already this year there have been multiple occasions of players wearing camouflage-colored and other multi-colored sleeves (e.g. black with one-inch gray stripes). There are also more than a few instances of a player (usually the pitcher) wearing a compression sleeve which is a different color than the sleeves her teammates are wearing.
At two recent college tournaments, including the prestigious Mary Nutter Tournament, umpires had to ask the head coach to rectify this uniform violation based on the above interpretation. In all incidents, the coaches argued either that it is not the rule, or that they have been allowed to wear the sleeves during previous game.
We are not being consistent in handling this rule enforcement. You are doing a disservice to other umpire when you ignore it.
Inclement weather apparel
If worn by multiple players any and all inclement weather apparel must be of the same style, color and trim; it may not be distracting, interfere with the game or pose a safety risk to the players.