New football uniforms are headed the Sooners’ way at some point in the 2014 season, but let’s be clear about one thing. Clothes do not make the men.
Let’s also be clear about something else. Time is undefeated.
Notre Dame changed its helmets. Ohio State went all-white against Michigan. Stately Georgia donned black jerseys. Penn State, the only school that dug its cleats in the ground and vowed to stay traditional until death, dang near found death.
So now we have the Oklahoma Compromise. The Sooners will introduce alternate uniforms for a game in ’14, what athletic director Joe Castiglione calls the “roughrider look.”
I’m no fashion expert. I only know what I like, and what I would like is for Nike to remove its big fat nose from the business of college football, but may the good Lord take a liking to me on that one.
But I also understand that things change. The forward pass, two-platoon football, the demise of 30,000 fedoras watching the game on Owen Field. Nothing stays the same. So if the culture demands that OU get a little hip with its uniforms, I know the best possible result is retention of the traditional look, with an occasional splashy alternate.
And there’s no doubt, the culture does demand.
“We’ve heard that from current players, we’ve heard that for several years now,” Castiglione said. “We thought, ‘Well, if we’re going to do this, we have to have a link to our history.’”
The campaign tries to tie the 2014 uniform change into OU football from more than 100 years before that, when the Sooners were called the Roughriders. I don’t necessarily see the connection and I don’t think most fans will, either, but the militant crowd should stand down. It’s no more realistic to ask the Sooners to go down with the uniform ship than it is to demand that all games at Owen Field kick off at 1:30 p.m.
If OU holds to the claim that it will wear its classic uniforms most of the time, that’s a moral victory for the traditionalists.
“We love our iconic look,” Joe C said. “It’s classy. It’s timeless. We know who we are. We’re not trying to change that. In no way, shape or form are we abandoning our classic look. Just something we can wear occasionally.”
Schools like Oklahoma State and Oregon and Baylor have made great strides with snazzy uniforms. But again, their uniform changes are popular and trendy because OSU and Oregon and Baylor have reversed their football fortunes and won big. In case you haven’t noticed, Kansas does all kinds of things with its football uniforms and nobody notices or cares.
And OSU and Oregon, particularly, admit they had established no uniform tradition. The uniform craze they’ve embraced is their tradition. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But that is not OU’s tradition.
“There’s just certain things you don’t have to change,” Castiglione said. “Programs like Oklahoma, Alabama or Notre Dame, Michigan, they have uniforms that stand the test of time. You turn on that TV, you know exactly who’s playing. Those are great looks, there’s no reason to deviate from them. By the same token, you’d like something a little bit different.”
If Castiglione and Co. ever decide to scrap the classics, then we’ll talk. Until then, be grateful for the compromise. It could be much worse.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.