When UCLA (an adidas school) released a new uniform yesterday, I got a hunch that we could see something different from Nebraska for their September 14 game against the Bruins.
Today, Nebraska and adidas revealed the alternate uniforms the Huskers will wear. The set has some minor tweaks to the iconic helmet (a large black stripe instead of the thinner red stripe, a matte finish, and a facemask that transitions from red to black) although the classic sans-serif “N” remains untouched. The biggest change is a black jersey instead of the usual red. (A full slide show can be seen here.)
So what do I think?
I don’t like them.
Yes, I am an unabashed old-school fuddy-duddy who thinks Nebraska’s uniforms are fine as they are, thank you very much. But there is more to my dislike of these jerseys than me being averse to change. My biggest objection is the black jersey, for two primary reasons:
- Only the defense – Nebraska’s storied “Blackshirts” – should wear black jerseys. Period. Considering that Nebraska, under Bo Pelini, has not handed out the Blackshirts until the middle of the season, does it really make sense that some third string wide receiver gets to wear a black jersey before Ciante Evans and the rest of the defense? What in the name of Charlie McBride is going on here?
- After the defense’s disastrous performance against UCLA in 2012 (36 points allowed, 653 yards of total offense, with over 300 rushing and passing) black is the last color Nebraska should be wearing against the Bruins.
But I understand why this is happening, and why it will continue to happen. Recruiting top talent is very important, and today’s kids like wearing cool uniforms like Oregon and dozens of other schools are wearing.* Black will always be a cool color for young males, as it denotes toughness and strength. Additionally, Nebraska makes nice money from their contract with adidas as well as the sales of replica jerseys and shirts. From an operational standpoint, doing an alternative uniform is as close to a no-brainer as you can get.
*A side question: At what point does the novelty of teams wearing alternate uniforms go away for kids? I would guess that a quarter (if not more) of all D-1 schools have a mix-and-match “uniform system” with thousands of potential combinations. Beyond that, many more schools (including staunch traditionalists like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Nebraska) have dabbled in alternative jerseys or helmets. When does the “wow” factor switch to “ho-hum”?
My secondary complaint about these uniforms is a repeat of a complaint from last year: instead of Nebraska receiving a unique, special, and symbolically relevant design they get a cut and paste mockup from this year’s adidas template. I continue to find it offensive that Nebraska’s athletic apparel partner (who just signed a new contract with the university this year) thinks so little of one of their flagship schools that they cannot create something unique for them; something that no other school wears.
Adidas – if you want to use a high profile Nebraska game to market your super fancy, inter-galactic space polymer uniforms, go all out. Show the nation that you have talented designers who can create multiple looks, instead of some guy who makes subtle tweaks to a generic template.
A few other thoughts on these uniforms:
- I don’t care for the vertical split in the numerals. It makes me think of the uniforms a prison team would wear. Despite the mostly clean records of Bo Pelini’s players, Nebraska is still living down the off-field crimes of a few former players.
- What is the pattern on the shoulders? A first glance, it reminded me of a Bear Bryant houndstooth. What adidas should have done was used the outline of the state as their pattern, but that would have required doing something unique and outside of the approved template, so I can see why they didn’t.
- Just to show you that I’m not entirely negative on these: I love that I’ll be able to read the numbers from row 47. That was a major short coming of last year’s set.
- Nebraska’s new athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, really owes Tom Osborne. Instead of being the guy who trots out the first alternative football uniforms (and likely earned Steve Pedersen-esque ire from the fans) he is simply following a precedent that T.O. set last year.
- As if you needed further proof that I’m old – I watched the introductory video and my main thought was “Just hold still so I can see the damn things”.
Overall, my feelings are about the same as they were last year: They could have been a lot better, but they definitely could have been much worse. In the end, my feelings about them will likely be swayed by how Nebraska plays in the UCLA game. Win and I’ll probably like them a little more. Lose and my dislike will only grow.