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There’s not much that I don’t like about Ohio State football. Oh, I’ve grumbled about play selection (especially on first down) and coverage against fast, passing teams, but over the years, there’s been much more to like than not. Now, it may be just my unpopular opinion, but I hate Ohio State football’s all-black uniforms. And I worry that we’ll see a lot more of them.
The fad for “alternate jerseys” seems to have begun in this century. Probably, the bizarre-looking uniforms that Oregon sickens us with started it all. Maybe they needed something — like surprise outfits — to lure fans to the stadium. Now, lots of teams — including Ohio State — have gotten into the alternative swing.
I’ve got nothing against “throwback” uniforms, especially if they’re commemorating something special. In 2016, for instance, the Buckeyes sported jerseys with vertical gray stripes to honor the 1916 team on which the great Chic Harley played.
Wearing the old-timey stripes, they beat Nebraska 62-3. Good show all around. On Nov. 21, 2009, the Bucks beat TTUP 24-7 in Ann Arbor and, according to the Ohio State Uniform Database, wore throwbacks honoring the 1954 national championship team. Were they celebrating a 55th anniversary? Or did they just want to look cool? At least, on both of these occasions, Ohio State wore scarlet and gray.
Not so when the Buckeyes (or at least a team purporting to be the Buckeyes) wore all black for the first time on Oct. 17, 2015. Ohio State wore black pants, black jerseys, and black helmets; there was red trim, so I guess that counts for something.
What was the occasion for this travesty? A promotion, called “Dark Night at The Shoe.” Does Ohio State need a promotion to fill Ohio Stadium? Oh, they beat Penn State 38-10, and I suspect that the event was some reaction to the Nittany Lions’ “White Outs” often held for visiting OSU teams. But do we need to be followers? Do we need reactionary? No. Just beat them wearing the tried and true scarlet and gray.
The Bucks also wore the all-black unis against Nebraska on Nov. 11, 2018 and again on Oct. 5, 2019 for the Michigan State game. Ohio State won both games, 36-31 and 34-10, respectively. So, they’re 3-0 in all-black uniforms, but that’s not the point. Never mind that the numbers and names on the back of the black jerseys are hard to read. That’s apparently not the point either.
Black football uniforms have become a craze nationally in the last decade. It’s OK if black is one of the team colors (like Georgia, for example), but often (and in the Buckeyes’ case) it’s not.
In the B1G alone, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Indiana have abandoned team colors and worn all black in recent years. So have Miami, Mississippi State, and Iowa State — and probably many others. Why? My only guess is that somebody thinks these uniforms look menacing and they can use them to increase merchandise sales.
But Ohio State is like the New York Yankees. Traditional. Above fads, hype, gimmicks. They’re scarlet and gray. Classic. They have a brand that’s recognized everywhere. Honor it.
I worry, though, that we’ll see these black outfits in Ohio Stadium more and more frequently. You’ll notice that many of the recruits who have visited Columbus recently have posed for their photos in the black jerseys. A troubling sign, at least to me. And I hear that a good number of the Buckeye players like to wear black. So what?
They came to Ohio State. They should embrace tradition, pride, and class. They should know that if it’s not scarlet and gray, it’s not Ohio State. There aren’t any Silver Bullets wearing black helmets. My advice to players looking to be cool: put on the traditional —championship — scarlet and gray uniforms and go out and kick somebody’s ass. That’s cool.