NORMAN — For Reggie Smith, Tuesday’s unveiling of Oklahoma’s alternate football uniforms came about seven years too late.
“We always talked about it, but nothing was gonna happen back then,” said Smith, who played safety at OU between 2005 and 2007.
“I think we brought it up one time, but it got shot down pretty quick. There was nothing we could do about it.”
Times have changed. As OU coach Bob Stoops has watched schools like Oregon, Oklahoma State and Baylor leverage uniform changes into success on the recruiting trail, his opinion on the subject has also undergone an evolution.
OU presented two alternate uniforms to its overjoyed football team Wednesday afternoon, changes that were, according to a news release, inspired “by the rich heritage of the state of Oklahoma and the Sooners’ storied football history.”
“It’s about time,” said Nic Harris, a former OU safety from 2005 through 2008. “I think it was about time for uniform changes when I was there. It’s definitely great for the new kids coming in.”
The new uniforms will “occassionally supplement,” the traditional OU home and road uniforms, according to the release. The alternate away uniforms feature a red helmet with a white stripe down the middle, white jerseys with “Oklahoma” written across the top, and red pants. The alternate home uniforms are exactly the opposite.
The Sooners wore white helmets with a red stripe down the middle during the Bud Wilkinson era in the 1950s, when OU won a record 47-straight games and three national championships.
In a nod to the winning streak record, Nike included “47 Straight” emblazoned on the inner neckline of both alternate jerseys.
The alternates were also designed to be interchangeable, meaning an all-red or all-white look would be possible as well.
“As long as we stay close to tradition, I’m good with it,” said Tinker Owens, an All-American OU wide receiver in the 1970s. “As long as we don’t steer away and become like Oregon and OSU with all those different combinations, that’s fine with me.”
The alternate uniforms unveiled Wednesday have been in the works for more than a year. Former OU team captains Gabe Ikard, Trey Millard and Aaron Colvin formed a three-person committee that began meeting with OU executives about a year ago to discuss potential uniform options, Millard said.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Millard said, “but still awesome to be part of.
“It’s good for the guys who will get to play in them. It’ll be fun watching the guys in different uniforms.”
During the Stoops era, Oklahoma has only worn alternate uniforms three times.
OU beat North Texas in the 2003 season opener while wearing throwback uniforms that paid homage to the Bud Wilkinson era. Then in November 2009, OU wore all-white Nike Pro Combat uniforms in a 41-13 loss at Texas Tech.
Last year, both OU and Texas wore special uniforms with gold trim and a gold Red River Rivalry patch on the jerseys. The gold was added as a nod to the Golden Hat Trophy, rewarded annually to the OU-Texas winner.
For many years, Stoops resisted any regular alternate uniform because of the Sooners’ proud tradition. He’s softened that stance the past couple seasons, though.
“One thing I know about Coach Stoops, and one of the reasons that everybody who plays for him loves him, is he doesn’t care what anybody thinks but the people inside that building,” said former OU tight end Trent Smith, who was on the Sooners’ 2000 national title team. “And now that I’m not in that building, that includes me.
“You’ve gotta respect a man that’s all about his business and the people he goes to work with every day. I’m gonna buy my tickets and come to the games and cheer, whether they’re wearing pink and purple polka dots or whatever uniform they wanna trot out there. At the end of the day, any OU traditionalist wants to win.”