Illustration courtesy of Nike
In turns out that Ohio State and Michigan can agree on something. Both teams have decided to wear ugly uniforms during Saturday’s game. For the Wolverines, that is nothing new — they have been wearing repulsive colors since the team’s inception.
But now the Buckeyes, for the second year in a row, will wear uniforms that do not truly represent, nor reflect, the tradition of the school. The intentions might be just the opposite — that the uniforms are supposed to commemorate the 1942 national championship team.
But when I look at these jerseys, the last thing I think of is the past. Instead of going 68 years back in time, it looks like Nike and OSU traveled 68 years into the future.
My real issue, though, is not with the look, but rather with the spirit of changing something that is great. The Buckeyes undoubtedly have some of the most distinct and recognizable uniforms in the sport.
That won’t be the case Saturday, when OSU effectively tampers with one of college football’s most storied traditions. I am thrilled with the thought of going 4-0 against the Wolverines during my college career, but it is a bit disheartening that during half of those years, the Buckeyes decided to look like another team.
It seems like a move more suited for the Wolverines, who have been struggling for a few years, particularly against their most bitter rival. It might make sense that a team under those circumstances would undergo a makeover and perhaps channel the energy from a time when the program enjoyed greater success.
It is strange that the team electing to alter its look is the one that has triumphed in eight of the past nine meetings against the opponent circled in red on the calendar.
That is not to say that the 1942 national champion Buckeyes do not deserve to be honored. They do, both for their efforts on the field and their time served in the U.S. military. In fact, I like the idea of celebrating a national title in front of the Malaise and Blue.
I just think that, over time, changing the uniform could diminish the importance of the game. It was great seeing a cloud of gray, glistening helmets carry Earle Bruce off the field, in Michigan Stadium no less, in his final game as head coach of the Buckeyes.
It was great seeing Will Allen intercept a pass at the goal line in 2002 en route to the team’s last national title and hearing Brent Musburger jump for joy even though everyone knows he was fervently rooting against OSU the entire game.
Those moments are special and should make Buckeye fans swell with pride. To me, the uniforms — the bright scarlet, the Buckeye leaves on the helmet, the white block numerals — all add to the experience.
When OSU trounces Michigan on Saturday, I would prefer that the Wolverine players not look across the field and think they lost to the University of Alabama or the Power Rangers. I want them to know they lost to the Buckeyes.