The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


July 13, 2014

Alternate uniforms sign of times

I looked on the News & Eagle website last week and cringed.

There were pictures of the University of Oklahoma’s alternate uniforms and I didn’t like it.

Call this a generation gap.

Seeing red pants and red sleeves on the road uniforms with a red helmet with a white stripe is a little too much for me.

The Sooners in the early days of the Bud Wilkinson era did wear red pants, but it didn’t look good.

I can recall OU wearing red pants only once during the 54 years (my first game being against a Mike Ditka-led Pittsburgh team in 1960) I have followed the team either as a fan, student or journalist.

In the Wilkinson-Gomer Jones era, the Sooners wore a white helmet with a red stripe.

When Arkansas assistant Jim MacKenzie took the OU job in 1966, he changed the helmet to all-red with the OU logo. The helmets were quite similar to Arkansas’ except they didn’t have the hog logo.

That was OK, especially since MacKenzie led the Sooners to their first win over Texas since 1957 and a 10-9 upset of unbeaten Nebraska on Thanksgiving Day before his untimely death the next spring from a heart attack.

They haven’t changed much since then, except in 1995 when Howard Schnellenberger changed the jersey with white stripes down the sleeve. The change didn’t help the Sooners much in a 5-5-1 season, and Schnellenberger was out before Christmas — the best present OU faithful could get.

The good thing when you watch OU, you know it’s the Sooners.

There’s a certain comfort when you see OU or Alabama or USC or Michigan, whose uniforms haven’t changed much over the years.

The road helmets in the alternate setting looks too much like Alabama.

Hate seeing the Nike logo on the jerseys, but that’s the price of business.

Of course, alternate uniforms don’t mean success. OU wore all-white Nike Pro combat uniforms with the all-white helmet with the red stripe in a 41-13 loss at Texas Tech in 2009, one of OU’s worst games in the Bob Stoops era.

The Sooners wore jerseys with numbers outlined in gold in a 36-20 loss to Texas in 2013. Another of Stoops’ worst. OU did wear throwback uniforms from the Wilkinson era in a 37-3 rout of North Texas in 2003. Throwbacks once in a while are good.

Oklahoma State with their multiple uniforms is fine. OSU has changed uniform looks numerous times in my lifetime, even wearing different shades of orange. They often look like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is going away from the traditional orange and black. OSU and Oregon are poster childs for Nike’s ever-switching uniforms.

Are there any uglier uniforms than Oregon’s? Maybe Maryland, which is the poster child for another company. But the reality is while I don’t like them, kids do.

OSU’s recruiting has been helped by having a wide variety of uniforms. The kids think they’re cool. Same for Oregon. Don’t know why, but it’s a different generation. OU captains Aaron Colvin, Trey Millard and Gabe Ikard were a three-man committee a year ago that met with the school administration about potential uniform options.

Some recent former players expressed excitement about the new uniforms. Ikard, as fine a citizen OU’s ever had, said the new jerseys will bring some added energy and will help recruiting.

OU has to be more concerned with some 18-year-old who will help them win games in the future than some old alumnus, who might be outdated.

If the Sooners are winning, the fans will like the uniforms.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.

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