Eastern Michigan Introduces Gray Turf; Who Should Follow Suit?

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Eastern Michigan is the latest college football program to adopt field turf in one of the university’s colors. The Eastern Michigan athletic department confirmed the rumored installation of a gray field on Thursday.

Enough programs have embraced this gimmick to call it trend. Of course, Boise State is the originator.

Its all-blue “Smurf Turf” helped distinguish the program during its rise in the early-to-mid-2000s, and others took notice.

Nearby FCS program Eastern Washington installed “The Inferno” in 2010, an all-red field that very much lives up to its name.

Shortly after Eastern Washington announced its plan, I asked former Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad if his program might consider something similar. Montana is a Big Sky Conference rival of Eastern Washington.

He said he would consider a silver-and-maroon combination that “will look like a Diet Coke can.”

Interestingly enough, Central Arkansas introduced a field similar to Pflugrad’s facetious vision the next year. The Bears play on purple-and-silver turf, laid out in a barber pole fashion.

Then there’s Lindenwood, which has field turf that, in fact, looks just like a barber pole. Yahoo! Sports’ Graham Watson called it the most hideous field in America, but also most original.

Is it coincidence that both Eastern Washington and Central Arkansas have been successful since adding colored turf? Both programs have conference championships and FCS Playoffs appearances; Eastern Washington won the 2010 season’s national championship and is a favorite to dethrone three-time champion North Dakota State this season.

Short answer? Well, yeah. Obviously the color of a team’s field turf has no direct impact on its success. Still, the turf gives these programs a unique quality that stands out and becomes part of their identity.

Eastern Michigan is a program in desperate need of a jump-start. The Eagles haven’t bowled since 1987. Their closest flirtation was a .500 finish in 2011. Ypsilanti can be an exceedingly difficult place to lure recruits. If the gray turf can help establish some kind of identity and put Eastern Michigan on some prospects’ radars, it’s worth it.

Don’t be surprised if a few more programs looking to gain attention follow suit. Easily the best suggestion I’ve seen is LostLettermen.com’s mock-up for a rainbow field at Hawaii:

Last year, Hawaii embraced its roots by wearing Rainbow Warriors throwbacks against San Diego State. Why not take it one step further?