In college football, uniforms don’t just differentiate the two teams on the field. They represent their entire university. A school’s colors and uniform are recognized across the entire country, especially when a team has had a successful history while wearing the same uniform. Fans live by these colors and graphics. Uniforms are a way of life for college football fans.
That being said, many teams try new looks every year, even if it is just for one game. I have skimmed over most of the games played this season and I have picked pictures of uniforms that these teams have worn in actual games in the 2012 season. Tradition does matter to me, but my rankings will be a mix of that, the aesthetic appeal, the school’s colors throughout the entire uniform, and references to the team itself in the uniform. I also added links inside the text that will take you to some of the older uniforms I will reference for some teams. I will rank 10 teams every Wednesday.
Disclaimer: I give all credit of these uniforms and pictures to their respectful owners and I am in no way endorsed by any university. All rankings are done solely by opinion.
Team name: Terrapins (Algonquin word for “turtles”)
Official colors: red, black, white, and gold
Maryland has been changing their uniform on a regular basis lately. Some of them have been pretty bad (remember this abomination?) and 2012 brought another horrible uniform. This monstrosity was worn in their game at West Virginia. If the fans in Morgantown didn’t have it bad enough, West Virginia kicked them while they were down by wearing a special ugly uniform of their own for that game.
The uniform is bad for a few reasons. Firstly, the uniform is all white. Not only is this uniform boring, but it doesn’t highlight three of the four school colors. The helmet appears to be checkered white and light gray, which on first glance, looks like it is all white anyways. Uniforms should promote the school’s colors and this one simply doesn’t in any way, not to mention, it is also an eyesore.
Team name: Golden Bears
Official colors: California gold and Yale blue
If the team was trying to grab “California gold” from the fabric store, I’m afraid they may have accidentally grabbed “Banana yellow” instead. Regardless, this just isn’t a good look. Yellow is too loud of a color to have as the background of the jersey. I realize the team was trying to grab attention with this uniform, and they certainly did that, but that doesn’t mean the uniform is visually appealing. I like the Cal uniform with the blue pants and white shirt, accented with that yellow. If they had reversed the colors, making the pants yellow and the jersey blue like they did in the Arizona State game, it would have looked much better.
Team name: Commodores (high ranking officer in the Navy)
Official colors: black and gold
Before seeing this uniform, I would have argued that it would be nearly impossible to ruin “black and gold,” but here we are. Shame on you, Vanderbilt. The first thing of note here is the addition of these black shoulder pad graphics. They look they were just slapped on there. There is no outline or stripes, nor does it interact with the rest of the jersey. The tiny black numbers next to them don’t help, either. The other issue for me is the gold jersey. It doesn’t have any stripes or lines, making it appear they just took a gold shirt and put a number and tacky black shoulder pads on it. Vanderbilt actually has had cool jerseys in the past, like this one from 2011, so this is saddening.
67. Iowa State
Team name: Cyclones (tornadoes)
Official colors: cardinal and gold
Unfortunately, Iowa State is another team that has gold as a school color and somehow ended up with yellow uniforms. This uniform just looks tacky to me. Some black or white outlines or accents would have done wonders for it. The pants and jersey don’t seem to go together, either, and the jersey could use some lines to detract from the plain red shirt. Another note is that this uniform is very similar to USC’s, but USC has done much more in the history of college football, leaving Iowa State without a real identity, in terms of their uniform.
Team name: Cardinal (shade of red) (a tree is part of the team’s identity, however)
Official colors: cardinal and white
All-white uniforms really do kill me. I understand that teams have all-white uniforms to wear during home or away games, but that doesn’t mean you can’t accent the uniform with other school colors or add some lines. For Stanford, who is one of only two teams named after a color (to my knowledge), I would like to see more than white pants and a white jersey with a red number on it. It looks cheap and it didn’t require thought.
Team name: Cavaliers
Official colors: orange and navy blue
I like some of the elements here. I think the orange and blue go well together in the uniform and the blue stripe on each side of the pants looks good. The white numbers also look good. My problem is the lack of lines and graphics on the uniform. At its core, it is just orange pants and a blue shirt. Also, the orange “V” oval logo on the also orange helmet doesn’t really work because there is no outline distinguishing them from each other.
Team name: Jayhawks (short for Jayhawkers)
Official colors: blue and crimson
I like the use of blue through the entire uniform and I give extra points for the word “Jayhawks” written on the sleeve. Unfortunately, I don’t like the lack of red in the jersey and the plain white jersey is a bit boring. The lack of red between the pants and mouth guard makes the color difference very apparent. Some red on the cleats could have helped too. I really like the shiny blue helmets, so that’s a plus.
Team name: Wildcats
Official colors: purple and white
I have always liked Northwestern’s uniforms until this version. The school had always done a good job mixing their school’s purple and white with black like here. I’m not liking the boring white jersey and although, I have applauded stripes for other teams, I do not like the 70s retro stripe they have across their chests. The worst part about the stripe is that it stops at the players’ pecs, then begins again on their backs, so when they move their arms, you can see the empty white on the sides of the jerseys. I still absolutely love the purple helmets, though.
Team name: Fighting Illini
Official colors: orange and navy blue
Illinois is wearing a mostly white uniform here, which I am obviously not a big fan of, but there are things I like. The orange stripe segments on the hips are a nice touch but the overall uniform is still a bit tacky. The curved lines going from the collar down the sides of the jersey are also appreciated.
61. Notre Dame
Team name: Fighting Irish
Official colors: blue and gold
Risks either bring failure or reward. Notre Dame took a huge risk veering away from their traditional blue jerseys, gold pants and metallic gold helmets. The uniforms brought both positive and negative attention. My Applied Journalism professor, Paula Horvath-Neimeyer, loved them. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, she didn’t write these rankings, and I thought these were hideous. Perhaps I would be more lenient on them if they didn’t have one of the most famous histories and uniforms in college football.
I really don’t like the new helmets here. The simple decision to make the helmet two-thirds one color and one-third another color irks me. Another problem is the metallic gold they chose had strange ripples in it that were glitzy and so different from their usual gold helmets. The blue arm sleeves also don’t seem to be the same shade of blue as the rest of the uniform. The leprechaun graphic on the blue side of the helmet is also very strange and non-traditional, which although admittedly cool, is very different from their traditional look.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!
-Marty F. Nemec