Skip to content

College Uniform Arms Race


By John Ekdahl

Earlier this year, the University of Texas unveiled new Nike practice uniforms that worked in a lot of black along with slick modern design elements.

Texas is taking the trend one step further by spicing up its practice jerseys.

The Nike duds for Longhorns players have integrated black with is traditional burnt orange and white colors.

There are three separate jerseys with each color being prominent on one. All have “Eyes of Texas” written on the back of neck.

Naturally, even a change to Texas’s practice uniforms created a bit of a panic in fans that didn’t want to see the game day uniforms touched. At the time, Coach Mack Brown assured the Texas faithful that there was no need to worry, but blogger Randy Riggs at The Statesmen isn’t so sure anymore.

“When they get Oklahoma, USC and Penn State to start changing, then come talk to us,” Brown said at the time. “The Texas uniform is the Texas uniform, and it’s not changing.”

Uh, well, it might be time to talk to Mack again.

Would Oklahoma go new-age on the apparel front? In this item from The Oklahoman newspaper, coach Bob Stoops didn’t say the Sooners’ traditional game gear definitely is going to change, but he wouldn’t rule it out, either.

The article he references is this one over at

If Nebraska ”“ and Wisconsin, and Michigan ”“ are giving in to the trend of non-traditional uniforms, can the Sooners be far behind?

Maybe. Bob Stoops says it’s possible. He didn’t say it would happen, but he said OU is open to discussions about the possibility.

Stoops knows what a firestorm that would cause among older-generation fans. He also knows how attractive it would be to potential recruits.


It’s been interesting to watch in recent years how this obsession with creating new, hip, futuristic and stylish uniform elements and equipment has gone from a bit of a wink-wink/nod-nod (outside of a few schools) recruitment tool to a fairly overt and publicized one. The pressure felt by some programs that are so committed to their own traditional uniform history (Alabama, Penn State, etc) to embrace this trend must be immense. I’m beginning to wonder if we might see a couple of them peel off and give in to it soon. Of course, I hope not.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Some U.S. Senators are pushing for a common military combat uniform.

The powerful Senate Appropriations Committee has joined the campaign to get the services to share a common combat uniform, including a provision in a 2014 defense funding bill that would put an immediate end to the development and fielding of service-unique utility uniforms.

In a report accompanying the Senate funding bill, the appropriations committee says it “is concerned about the high cost and disparity in protection” of the different combat uniforms with varying camouflage patterns now used by the services.

I’m sure this has something to do with a report released last year criticizing the military’s development of camouflage uniforms.

A government watchdog issued a scathing report Friday blasting the U.S. military for the way it has developed camouflage uniforms over the past decade, putting troops at risk and wasting millions of dollars.

The Government Accountability Office picked out the Air Force and Army as extreme offenders among the services lambasting their development of the Airman Battle Uniform in 2002 and the Army Combat Uniform in 2003.

Each service has developed its own camouflage uniform over the past ten years. Military service leaders have introduced seven new patterns — two desert, two woodland and three universal — since 2002.

Certainly, controlling costs is always a concern, but the truly offensive part is the “putting troops at risk” portion. The prior “pixelated” camo design developed in 2004 has been widely criticized, and for good reason.

Whereas pixillation is usually very successful at obscuring images otherwise unfit to be seen, the US Army is $5billion in the hole, with its pixellated camo uniform (introduced in 2004) being dubbed a colossal mistake.

The Daily reports that soldiers have “roundly criticized the gray-green uniform for standing out almost everywhere it’s been worn.”

“Essentially, the Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment,” an Army specialist who served two tours in Iraq told The Daily.

The Week wasn’t nearly as charitable, saying the pixelated uniforms “turned soldiers into walking targets“.

Let’s hope they get it right this time.

Comments (22)

    It’s simply not true that the Army’s camo universally fails in all environments. In the dimly lit gray platforms of the Pentagon subway station, guys in Army camo practically disappear from view. If the enemy ever reaches Washington and the Army has to make a last stand in the tunnels of Metro, they’re set.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s the color, not the pixelated pattern, that’s the problem.

    A very inspiring uniform-related gesture was made by Barcelona last night in their game against Santos. Their jerseys had a font that was created by a young girl with Down syndrome. Read more and see photos below –

    I think we’re probably just a few years away from a backlash against the current state of NCAA uniforms. When a few teams wear 256 combinations, they stick out. When everyone does it, no one does. We’re going to reach a saturation point, and then things will swing back the other way.

    It’s happened before in other sports (think MLB during the 70’s), and it’ll happen here.

    As a Wisconsin alum who grew up in the 1980s, I get a it of a chuckle at UW being put up as a bastion of football uniform traditionalism.

    The uniforms in their current form only date back to 1991 (1997 or 1998 if you consider the NOB). The Motion W is barely more than 20 years old and would certainly have made waves as “hip” and “futuristic” in its day if anyone had paid attention to Wisconsin football coming out of the Don Morton era.

    I guess it speaks to the remarkable job Barry Alvarez did in completely transforming the program and the outside perception of it.

    It’s quite simple: the NCAA needs to step in and institute some NFL-style rules for uniforms.

    1. No non-school color uniforms. You can have multiple helmets/jerseys/pants but they must be in school colors.
    2. Any exception must be approved by the school’s respective conference and the opponent it will be worn against in the preseason and/or before any bowl game.

    This still allows for plenty of leeway for the teams who are obsessed with all those different looks without going so far as to adopt the exact same rules as the NFL, which just wouldn’t work in the college environment.

    If anyone says that a team needs more than 27 combinations (the average amount for a team with two school colors plus white, if you consider three helmets, jerseys and pants) they’re lying. It’s time that the NCAA stops coddling stupid teenagers with short attention spans who are easily distracted by shiny things. Who the hell decided that it was a good idea to let them dictate the aesthetic direction of college football? Football looks like shit thanks to them! I’m tired of the “swag.” I want someone to put their foot down and say this needs to stop.

    No non-school color uniforms – ok, but who decides what the school colors are? Of course it is the school itself. When ASU did their re-branding a couple of years ago, they officially added black and copper to their athletics color palette. Now whenever the Devils where all black or copper helmets, they are wearing their school colors.

    The adoption of your new rule would soon lead to a press release the Oregon AD and/or Nike defining black, silver, chrome and 20 different shades green and yellow as the official colors of the Ducks.

    The simple solution is to limit how many colors can be made “school colors.” If they don’t have some kind of long-standing history with the school, they’re out.

    ASU would only be allowed to use maroon and black. Oregon would only be allowed to use green and yellow. Maryland would be allowed to use black, red and yellow. Etc. etc.

    “It’s time that the NCAA stops coddling stupid teenagers with short attention spans who are easily distracted by shiny things. Who the hell decided that it was a good idea to let them dictate the aesthetic direction of college football? ”

    No truer words have ever been spoken.

    I like to equate these teenaged recruits to politicians.

    It is much like the politicians who are elected for their 2 or 4 year term, come in and make a bunch of changes, cause a lot of turmoil, causing a lot of grief for a lot of people and their constituants while in office.

    Then, when their term is over, they are gone and the mess is still there with no reprocussions.

    You have seen this happen. Yes you have…

    Wait, so you live in a country where politicians, elected once, generally serve their one term and then leave? That sounds awesome. Could you please tell us what country you live in, and how residents of the United States might emigrate there?

    Seems like the most obvious thing to do is to pay de facto professional athletes competitive, market rate wages for services provided and we can forget about appeasing them with the opiate of garish alternate unis.

    I spoke with a high school baseball player who was playing in a summer league. The teams are made up of high school teams that are coached by high school coaches.

    He was wearing:
    A. A flat brimmed hat with white Oakley sunglasses turned upside down on the cap.
    B. Eye black that bordered on Bryce Harper war paint.
    C. Long pants, not baggy pajama pants, more like a cricket or jai-alai players pants.
    D. Ankle length socks.

    I am friends with this kid so don’t think I just ripped into a random kid.

    I asked him why he wore his pants like that. He said that his coach would not let them. It was either all up or all down. He said that they do wear them up but some parents complained because they had to buy colored socks when they could wear their pants down and wear white athletic socks.

    I then asked him a simple question. “What would Mickey Mantle do? Or what would Tom Seaver do?”

    He paused and said they would wear them up. He then said “I guess we need to respect the game, eh?”

    True dat…..

    A. A flat brimmed hat with white Oakley sunglasses turned upside down on the cap.

    I don’t wear flat brimmed caps, but I do turn my sunglasses upside down on top of my hat when I take them off. It’s not a style thing (at least to me). Oakleys won’t fall off your head this way and fall off pretty easily if they’re right-side up.

    One of the things that people here in Oklahoma are talking about is a cream-colored option much like the basketball team. Mainly for those times when OU plays an Alabama or even Indiana when they look normal, but also for an old-school look like the ‘vintage white’ in the NHL right now. Even the newspaper was talking about a cream helmet option the other day.

    Schools like Texas need to beware of these uniform fads. They work great for Oregon and Texas Tech because they help to build those schools’ brand. But Texas already has a well known and well liked ‘brand’. Multiple combinations will dilute that. Old money programs like Texas and Oklahoma need to take advantage of that status.

    I’m no Yankee fan, but they are example 1A of how stability can be a huge benefit.

    Obviously a small sample size, but everyone I’ve spoken to who wears military camouflage uniforms supports the idea of one battle uniform across the services (environment-dependent, of course). I’m in the Navy on active duty at a joint command (all the services working together), so I see nearly all of the camouflage uniforms at work every day, and it really drives home how silly it is that we have ten different uniforms for the same two or three purposes.

    The one minor push-back I’ve heard on the issue of returning to a common battle uniform is from people who invoke losing service identity and losing esprit de corps with a common uniform. I don’t understand that argument, seeing as there was a common battle uniform just 20 years ago or so.

    Hopefully our civilian and military leadership see the light on this issue and not only simplify things for servicemen and servicewomen, but also save taxpayers a few bucks in the process.

Comments are closed.