Hot Reads: New Uniform Theory As We Await Nebraska's New Alternate
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Hot Reads: New Uniform Theory As We Await Nebraska’s New Alternate

August 17, 2018

We're halfway through August now, and we have yet to have the moment that has become something of a summer tradition since 2012 –– freaking out about Nebraska's new alternate uniform. Most years that has been a late-July/early-August event, though the 2016 uniform wasn't unveiled until Aug. 23 so I guess there's still time.

Last I knew, the Huskers were scheduled to have an alternate this year. Work on these uniforms begins at least a year in advance, so that decision was made a while ago but we've had no official announcement yet. Fan Day is tomorrow, which offers a possible debut setting, but I'd say we're officially on alternate uniform watch from here on out.

And while we wait for Nebraska other teams have had their moment on the virtual catwalk this week, notably Notre Dame and Oregon. I mention those schools specifically because they occupy opposite poles on the uniform spectrum.

Oregon, of course, is given credit (blame?) for creating this entire alternate uniform craze. The Ducks started to push the limits of tradition and taste (in some cases) in 1999 and it's been a cavalcade of color ever since. That coincided with Oregon's most sustained rise to national prominence under Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly and over that stretch almost every school decided it needed to have an alternate.

One of the last schools you would've expected to get in on the trend was Notre Dame. The Irish held out longer than most, but when the school debuted the Shamrock Series in 2009 –– a road show of sorts that took Notre Dame to major metropolitan areas –– it offered the perfect excuse to enter the alternate game. The Irish started pretty conservatively in 2010 but by 2012 it was ready to do the previously unthinkable: eschew the gold helmet. What has followed has been a series of strikeouts for Notre Dame culminating in yesterday's reveal, a football uniform meant to look like a baseball uniform because the football game will be played in a baseball stadium.

And we're not talking just any baseball uniform here, but the New York Yankees uniform.

While I would love to break down every single detail of both new uniforms here, I suspect most don't care. But I do think the new uniforms are interesting in tandem. Notre Dame can wrap this latest one in all of the tradition and "two iconic teams" jersey jabber it wants, it's still a pretty big departure, a uniform that, other than the interlocking ND on the helmet, is really short on Irish trademarks. (They have pinstriped pants!) It feels very much like the alternate you arrive at when every school has been doing alternates for a decade-plus now and the only way to stand out is to keep pushing the envelope.

Yet Oregon, the school we've come to expect this from, released a set of new uniforms that are relatively traditional. Yes, the numbers are huge, which I assume is meant to be a way to say, "see, we still set trends," because the rest of it minus the bright colors (by now an Oregon tradition) is relatively subdued. The wings are gone from the shoulders, though still on the helmet. The rest of the uniform features no striping whatsoever. (Notre Dame took all the stripes.) For me, a one-color number with no outline is the ultimate marker of classic college football design –– see also: Nebraska, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma, et al. –– and Oregon has that now in a new-school way. 

While it might be strange to look at an all-black uniform with giant neon green numbers and say the Ducks dialed it back, that's how I see it. Meanwhile Notre Dame continues to dial it up. At some point these two schools passed each other on the uniform spectrum, and I have a pretty good idea as to which one is headed in the more forward-leaning direction. It isn't the Irish Yankees.

We should see where Nebraska falls on the spectrum this year soon enough.

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