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The Story Behind the Black

If you like athletic uniforms — and it’s getting harder and harder to be conversant in college football if you don’t — then you probably already know about Uni-Watch.com. It’s a site devoted entirely to the discussion of “athletic aesthetics” and the site’s full-time author and ESPN contributor Paul Lukas is reliably one of the best voices in sports.

If you didn’t know about it you should go there now. Tim Newcomb, a contributor to Time and Sports Illustrated, published a story Wednesday titled “Messing With Tradition: Behind the Scenes of the Nebraska Alternate.” In it he speaks with Michael Stephens, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director in charge of apparel, about the development of Nebraska’s alternate jersey for the Sept. 29 game against Wisconsin. If the black helmet was a bridge too far, consider the idea of a black jersey:

So, was Nebraska moving the black from defensive lore to a game jersey? “There was some discussion on that,” Stephens says. “It didn’t get a lot of traction. Black is an accent color and has never been one of our primary colors, so we didn’t go down that road very far.” That left scarlet as king. But black still had a reason to join the party. “I wouldn’t say black as a theme was a given,” Stephens says. “It was something (Adidas) thought looked good on a jersey and as we moved along, we agreed with them. It was never a given that way, but we felt that black added quite a bit to the uniform and thought (fans) would enjoy it.”

Hand-wringing aside, the black helmets seem to be doing pretty well on the merchandising side. While there were stacks upon stacks of the standard white version, Husker Hounds on 84th Street in Omaha was nearly sold out of the black mini-helmets on Tuesday. More are surely on the way.