STILLWATER — Through the years, Oklahoma State football has never been linked to one look, one classic uniform that unmistakably exclaimed: “Cowboys.”
Now, perhaps, the Pokes could become known for lots of looks.
Enhancing its relationship with Nike, OSU leaps into a bold new era with the unveiling of its new uniforms, Nike Pro Combat, featuring an edgier look and color schemes of orange, black, white and gray that create 48 possible combinations.
Why such ambitious change? OSU athletic director Mike Holder said it's all about the kids.
“Ultimately, it just came down to the players,” Holder said. “If you're in education, it's got to be about the students. If you're a coach or in athletics, it's got to be about the student-athletes. And you can never lose sight of that.
“It's a game and it should be fun. And anything to make it more fun and exciting for the players, I view that as a positive.”
The kids are more than alright with the new Nike threads.
Brandon Weeden and Brodrick Brown both raved about the uniforms and said their teammates are excitedly on board, too.
“It'll be hard to please everybody; not everyone will like them,” Weeden said. “But the guys in the locker room are going to wear them every Saturday. We like them and we're proud of them.”
Unchained to any historic style, OSU and Nike started engaging Cowboys players as much as two years ago, seeking input on styles and colors.
“In this whole process of exploring the possibility of doing something different with our uniforms,” Holder said, “once Nike started talking to the players, it was something they were excited about and wanted to be a part of.
“That's what took it from the discussion stage to trying to implement a plan and come up with new designs.”
The Nike way has worked masterfully for Oregon, which is known as much for its varied and wild uniform combinations as its surge among the nation's elite football programs.
The kids have noticed, too. And not just current players, but potential players.
“It helps them with recruiting,” Weeden said. “Kids like that stuff and they want to go to Oregon because of all the varieties they have.
“We're a program on the rise and we're trying to get to the next step. To take that next step, sometimes you have to take risks and branch out. I think we did.”
That's the plan; has been the plan, ever since OSU started getting serious about football a decade ago.
“Everything we've done recently, from Boone Pickens' donation to all the facility upgrades for football, stability in our coaching staff – all those things have been geared toward recruiting and getting better players,” Holder said. “Ultimately, that's going to decide whether you win games or not.
“So if this is just one more thing that helps a young man decide he'd like to come to Oklahoma State, because things are changing here, perhaps we're on the cutting edge, we're not afraid of change, and obviously the world around us is changing at a rapid pace… this is just a part of that.”
At USC or Ohio State or Michigan or Notre Dame (outside of the occasional green jerseys) you could never pull this off. History and tradition rule.
But at OSU, a sketchy football history has been marked by change, uniforms included. Even the shades of orange have shifted over the years.
Terry Miller and Derrel Gofourth and John Corker and Phillip Dokes and others at OSU from 1973 to 1983 wore burnt orange.
These Cowboys will wear gray. And black. And white. And, of course, orange.
And they'll mix and match and try to have some fun with it.
The new uniforms have practical value, too, with the Pro Combat gear designed to offer lightweight protection and feature strategically placed seams, pads and cooling zones.
“We value our partnership with Nike,” Holder said. “We think it's an advantage to be with them. They're on the cutting edge of uniforms, uniform design, equipment design. And they've got a brand that's appealing to young people.
“It's just a benefit to being a Nike school. And it's a very, very positive thing to our university and our athletic department.”
BY THE NUMBERS 48: Different uniform combinations the Cowboys can use. 28: Number of boxes it took to deliver just the pants for the Cowboys uniforms. 12: Number of part-time OSU employees now charged with keeping up with all the uniforms. 4: Different colors of pants, jerseys in OSU's wardrobe 3: Different colors of helmets in OSU's wardrobe 1: Person who normally decides what uniform the Cowboys wear — OSU coach Mike Gundy