Ohio State Buckeyes' Black Jerseys A Long Time Coming

Ohio State will wear black jerseys Saturday against Penn State, a decision that has been in the works for a long time.

Change is inevitable in the game of football.

Just 20 years ago, college football looked a lot different and the spread offense was just beginning to make its impact on the game.

The game is changing all over the country, and in many aspects including the attire of the Ohio State football team which is set to don all black jerseys for the first time in team history.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said that the Buckeyes are adapting to the landscape and direction college football is heading with its uniform modification.

“You have to recognize that our demographic is changing. Our world is changing. We have 30,000 students that come to our football games, and then recruiting has changed, our competitors have changed,” Smith said Monday. “So there is that balance of respect, our history and tradition, but also moving ourselves further into the 21st century, which kind of the landscape defines that for you, and the uniforms are part of that.”

The black get-ups for the Buckeyes have been rumored for years, but were actually pitched to Urban Meyer and Smith by Nike about two years ago Smith said.

At first, Meyer said he was not too excited about the idea of swapping the traditional scarlet tops and gray pants with the dark new look.

“My first reaction was no way, no chance. And I looked and said whoa, and it looked pretty sharp. Then Gene looked at it, and granted I think there are some channels that everybody has to run them through to make sure that they're on par with what's expected at Ohio State,” Meyer said. “Then you start thinking about the student body, the fans and the unique experience of recruiting players, and it's kind of a unique experience.”

The jerseys as fans will see them Saturday night were pitched by Nike slightly different however, and Smith said he and others within the program would not go forward with the new look without making their own additions.

“I can't remember what year we started with the red jerseys and uniforms. But they'll bring a design to us,” Smith said. “We'll look at the design, we'll kick it around, get some input and make some modifications based upon what we think or feel should be added.

“This particular weekend, that occurred as well. So we looked at the original design, and they have some very creative people, obviously, but we did not approve the original design, so we added some of the elements that you'll see this weekend. And that's happened every single year we've done that.”

One of the changes Smith and Ohio State made was making sure that the traditional scarlet color was featured on the jerseys. The change was heard and made by Nike, as the numbers on the black jerseys will be scarlet with a gray trim.

The black jerseys seem to have gotten mixed reviews, with fans and older alumni resisting the change.

Smith said he, and the athletic department did their part to make sure players both former and current had some input on whether the black jerseys would come to fruition or not.

“I actually met with Archie (Griffin) early in the process,” Smith said. “So Arch has seen it, some other former players, which I don't know who they are, but there are some other former players who looked at it as well.”

The current players seem to have mixed reviews, as junior safety Tyvis Powell said he is “indifferent” with the darker look.

“It is what it is. It’s great to finally do something different around here. At the end of the day, its not going to change the way we play the game,” Powell said. “Just being able to put the Ohio State jersey on for me is good enough.”

For star running back Ezekiel Elliott though, he said he is excited to put on the black uniform and play in front of a primetime crowd against Penn State on Saturday.

“I have seen them in person and they are pretty sweet. The matte helmet is beautiful with the white-metallic Buckeyes,” Elliott said after defeating Maryland. “Next Saturday is going to be a crazy night. Blacked out in the Shoe. Everyone has been waiting for the all-black uniforms and everyone is going to be ready to go for sure.”

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