Derek Johnson Muses

It is my daily goal to make everyone around me better people, thanks be to God.

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Not About Pleasing 70 Year-Old Fans: Nebraksa’s Alternate Uniforms and Helmets

The Future of Nebraska Uniforms?

Last week, Tom Osborne announced that the program of his life, the Nebraska Cornhusker would wear a “futuristic” alternate uniform for a home game next year, which made this fan very happy. While I like traditional uniforms, I do think that alternate uniforms (even throwbacks) are necessary to appeal to young people (i.e., recruits), and that uniforms are in need of regular updating. But since many Husker fans do cling to the traditional uniforms, this is a debate that has to happen with care and respect.

To the fans who with to maintain the glorious tradition of the classic, unchanging red uniforms…this is not about you. Nebraska could go all Oregon and have different uniform combinations every week, and you wouldn’t suddenly throw on Michigan Wolverine gear or an Iowa Hawkeye jersey. Every Nebraska fan over forty, Osborne and Bo Pelini already have you, and don’t need to impress you. They need to impress four-star and five-star recruits who can help a team win National Titles. I still assume that is your goal, Husker Nation, winning the Big 10 and the National Title? Because great players win the National Title, not having the same uniforms.

To politely disagree with another blog, I doubt this is like the Yankees dropping the pinstripes, i.e., a fundamental uniform change. To be clear, a good alternate uniform at least keeps a team’s primary color, even if it is emphasized less or changed to a different color. Oklahoma State’s combat uniforms from last year all used the traditional Cowboy Orange in some form, and even most Oregon uniforms still use some green (except, of course, those horrid carbon grays from 2010, which even I didn’t like). As long as the alternate uniforms use traditional scarlet in some way, they’ll be consist with what Nebraska has always worn.

Can we get over the all-white uniforms from 2002, and the Colorado game in 2007? While I wasn’t in love with those unis (at the time, I had a college roommate from Wisconsin who claimed Nebraska had stolen the Badgers’ design), stop holding to the foolhardy belief that Nebraska has lost all but once since wearing the whites-with-red-gullet attire? They lost those games because they didn’t have good players those year; find a better argument against alternate uniforms.

As someone who has consistently wanted to see Nebraska have alternate uniforms, I would be okay if Nebraska had one or two throwback games a year. I’m surprised that throwback didn’t become an annual staple after the 300th sellout, where the Huskers wore uniforms were acclaimed by most fans. Young people do love throwbacks, and both tradition-rich programs Michigan and Notre Dame have worn throwbacks. Wearing throwback uniforms once or twice a year for a couple of years would be a great way to satisfy the fans who like tradition and fans who want different uniforms, and could serve as a test case for the alternate uniforms.

Which of these uniforms do you want to see Nebraska wear?

But when Nebraska comes out with their alternate uniforms, I ask these fans: give it a chance, and I don’t just mean one game. Let’s use the alternates for a couple of years before we decide if we want to keep them. And let’s have throwback day too.

There is an element of this uniform debate that I have begun to feel strongly about, and it is one that I feel now should be discussed. On their permanent helmets, Nebraska should switch to a larger, stylized “N” with that is common on most of their fan apparel and at the center of Memorial Stadium. Dave Kolowski wrote in his book Diary of a Husker that Bill Byrne (who just came from Oregon) had proposed this change to Tom Osborne in the mid-90′s but Osborne refused.

To those who disagree, go into your closet and pull out all of your Husker gear. Just count how many shirt and sweatshirts have the large “N” on it; I’m betting the majority do. Repeat the same exercise at Nebraska Bookstore or some other Husker outfitter and you get my point: while the small “N” may be have always been on the helmet, you could argue that the large “N” is more traditional now.

I know how many of you may be up in arms about this, but this change is a lot less radical than an alternate uniforms. I’m just suggesting taking a symbol that is much more recognizable, uses the same colors, and using it where it deserves to be. And for all of you who think the all-white uniforms look week, hold the small “N” next to the large, bordered “N” and ask yourself which one looks more intimidating?

In closing, I’d like to share a point that Colin Cowherd said on ESPN Radio about Oregon football. Cowherd (who worked sports in Portland as Oregon’s program rose in the late 1990′s and the early part of the last decade) has said the thing that got the Ducks out of the Pac 10 abyss wasn’t clinging to tradition, but instead focusing on what made the program better in the future, uniforms included. Husker fans, tradition is a wonderful thing, and young people do like it. But if you loose sight of the future and put tradition ahead of where you’re going, you ignoring what your players want and making the program about you. Need I remind you when Steve Pedersen did that?

(Want More Nebraska Cornhuskers?)

(Update: The uniforms are unveiled…)

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