Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Black Pants Curse? (I hope not, they look sharp)

Will the Wildcats have new football uniform which looks something like this?
If you’re a member of Northwestern fandom you’ve likely visited Hail to Purple, Spread Far the Fame, or the Wildcat Report message boards recently enough to know insiders say Northwestern has new football uniforms in the works. Those of you who read this blog regularly know I devoted a ton of space over the past summer to NU uniforms of all sports because, to be honest, I’m a fan of uniform history and, specifically, NU’s classic black uniform top. Now, the new rumored jersey does not feature a black top, but supposedly, at least as an option, has black pants. Therefore the basic outline of the jersey would look like the picture above, but the top would be more traditional. It would have block numbers and the Northwestern Stripes would return for the first time since 1996. That’s a good omen, I think.

What might be less of a good omen, what scares the superstitious fan in me, is the decision to potentially go to black pants. Now, I do think the purple jersey black pants look is actually pretty sharp. TCU uses it and I’m a fan of their play and their look. However, Northwestern’s recent history with black pants isn’t good. The black pants went out of the regular rotation at the end of the 2002 season. The same year NU’s black jerseys went out of the regular rotation. After the disaster that was 2002 it made sense for Randy Walker and the ‘Cats to want to try something different. What Coach Walk and the ‘Cats settled on was a purple jersey with purple pants combo for home games and a white jersey with white pants combo for road games. NU has worn the white jersey white pants combo on the road for every road game since the start of 2003 except for one game in 2004 at Minnesota. In that game the Wildcats wore black pants. The result involved Minnesota putting a whooping on the ‘Cats 43-17. The greatest indignity was Gopher Head Coach Glen Mason calling a halfback pass for a TD late in the 4th quarter. It makes me want throw rocks at my TV every time I see him smiling smugly on the Big Ten Network. The Wildcats haven’t worn black pants on the road since.

After the 2006 season NU ditched the all purple look to go with purple jerseys and white pants at home. I do like this look, but I don’t mind the visual of a purple jersey with black pants either. What I mind, however, is the results to the two times NU has tried this. In 2006 Northwestern hosted Ohio State. With NU out of bowl contention it was the Wildcats bowl game. Early in the week at a get together with fans at the Blue Stone Coach Fitz hinted the team would have a “new look”, Fitz didn’t say what the look would be, but it sounded like NU would wear new uniforms. In fact, NU wore old uniform pants. The Wildcats wore the 2000-2002 black pants with their regular purple tops. The uniforms looked good, but the players in them did not. Ohio State pounded NU 54-10.

The greatest disaster of the black pants era is perhaps the blackest day of all in the history of NU football, and that’s saying something. In 2007 the Wildcats hosted Duke at night in Evanston. Going for a different look for the season’s only night contest the Wildcats walked out of the tunnel with the same combo as the pervious year’s Ohio State game. Duke had lost 22 straight games at the time, but they didn’t lose that night. When CJ Bacher’s last pass fell in complete on 4th and goal, the Wildcats fell to 0-3 since 2002 in black pants.

Now, does this recent history of failure in black pants mean anything? No. NU actually beat Wisconsin and Minnesota in two outstanding games while wearing black pants in 2000. Also, while those black pants were the same design as what NU wore in the games mentioned above, next year’s well be different, perhaps with a purple stripe. Regardless of uniforms, I’m sure NU will be successful next year as I like where Coach Fitz has the program. If he asked my thoughts on the uniforms, I’d say if the players like the purple top with black pants idea, then I can get behind it. Personally, though, if NU is going back to black, I’d say lets go back to the black tops we wore when winning 3 Big Ten Titles in just 6 years.*

* For the record one rumor has NU getting black tops for a special occasion game. Perhaps a game at Wrigley Field in 2011 vs Michigan.

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