Nebraska’s new uniforms
Keeping up with the Oregon's of the world
By now you've heard the biggest news to come out of the spring thus far: Nebraska is yielding to the overall trend for chameleonism on the gridiron and will wear a special, one-off jersey at some point next seasion.
I like to think of myself as a sort of authority on this matter, so of course I think I have something to add but before I do, let me tell you about how much I like Kenny Bell.
Kenny Bell is probably the most engaging person on the Nebraska football team. When I talk to him as a reporter I always come away wishing I could simply talk to him as a person. That's a very rare feeling to be born out of a conversation between two people who are essentially "working." Most conversations any of us have amount to little more than verbal tennis. Interviews with Kenny Bell are almost never that way. I'm interested in his perspective on the world because he seems to always be considering his perspective on the world. He talks about ideas, not events, and that's about the highest praise I can heap on him.
I mention this because Bell had an interesting take on the idea of Nebraska's of-the-moment move to an alternate jersey. You'll see and read snippets of this elsewhere but, as an unrepentent uniform geek, I wanted to include it all:
Q: What's your attitude about changing uniforms
KB: (Feigns looking over his shoulder for nearby traditionalists.) I want tradition all the way. (Smiles.)
Q: Are your saying that because you think it's the right answer?
KB: I want tradition all the way.
Q: No, it's actually happening. Osborne announced it today.
KB: Alright, yeah, I would love a jersey change. Not because I don't think we look great or that the teams in the past haven't looked phenomenal. Our scarlet and cream is known around the nation. But it's 2012 now. As far as recruiting goes I think it would really help us. When I was in high school I looked at Oregon and I was like "Man, that's so cool." In the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal. We're the same team whether we're wearing the scarlet and cream or come out in all-black. A little change would be nice. I don't know how our fans would feel about it though.
Q: What would you like to see different?
KB: I like our red jerseys but I think we should wear solid white pants, white socks, and we need white cleats with red Adidas stripes. Then you could rock the white spats. The black? I don't understand the black socks and the black cleats.
Q: You could be a consultant for Coach Osborne.
KB: I wish. (Ed. I also wish this. Either for me or for Kenny Bell.)
Q: Do you ever want to go all-black?
KB: Yes. I'd love it. I think the defense would love it. Anything that would make my teammates happy, I'm all-in.
Q: Do you think most guys on the team would like some change?
KB: That's tough. The guys I talk to, you get some who say "yeah, we need to change it up," but we've got a lot of Nebraskans on the team that are a bit quieter group that I'm sure would say "no, we've been watching that red and white run out of the tunnel forever now." I think the change, if we were to go with it, would be subtle.
Q: Not like Oregon?
A: I hope not. Sometimes Oregon's a little bit much but something simplistic like coming out in all-white or all-red one game would be cool.
So there you go. Kenny Bell is a man of the people. He's in favor of a slight switch, which is what Osborne wants and is what Nebraska's likely to get. Personally, if you're going to cross the traditionalists' line in the sand -- and it was much more unique to be on that side in this day and age -- you might as well go all the way.
Break out the Blackshirts for real. Black helmets too. Osborne originally told the AP that he mandated that the helmets stay the same, then backtracked from that. So, might as well come up with some sort of Blackshirts-themed design -- but not the actual logo because that wouldn't look good on a helmet -- and just let it fly. I think the Blackshirts stencil font could look really cool for the uniform numbers on a helmet.
There are some exciting possibilities. And also some potentially horrific ones as well. Remember, Adidas hasn't really done the Nike Pro Combat thing in football. They did some good throwback mash-ups for Michigan and Notre Dame last year, but those were a far cry from the superhero outfits Nike has made famouse of late. Adidas did do that for basketball this year, creating uniforms nobody really liked, except for the kids of course, for Baylor (glowstick), Louisville (electric orange parading as red) and Cincinnati (neon black?). All featured a Zubaz-like striping on the shorts. So, yeah, my faith in Adidas to really push the envelope is somewhat shaken.
As someone who has perhaps spent more time than anyone else on earth considering what an alternative uniform for Nebraska would look like, I'm surprisingly indifferent towards the announcement. I'm not a staunch traditionalist. I celebrate individualism and Nebraska was increasingly different from everyone else by choosing not to engage in the college couture arms race. And now they're falling in line. Changing with the times.
That's always a tricky proposition. There's something romantic about the person who sticks to their guns as the world around them changes. There's also something foolish. Two episodes in and it already looks like this entire season of Mad Men will be built around this dichotomy. So if you want some insight into what Nebraska's decision to change might mean while you're waiting for the uniforms to be unveiled, I recommend you watch Mad Men. Particularly the new guy, Michael Ginsberg. He's the Adidas uniform designer to Nebraska's Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
All I know for now is that those uniforms better be good. Without spending a dime, Nebraska has already spent a lot on them.