Alabama and Florida play each other this year. Alabama, however, will sport their Combat uniforms against Mississippi State on September 13, while Florida will wait for its annual rivalry game with Georgia, to display theirs. Oregon State and TCU were two of the other schools chosen for this special uniform. Oregon State will wear theirs--a throwback uniform of sorts to their 1967 uniform, against rival Oregon, while TCU will wear theirs this weekend against Oregon State‘s regular uniforms.
Pitt's Nike Pro Combat uniform, to the easy eye, is an all blue uniform. The blue is referred to--in the Nike description--as a smoky College Navy and Black, while the numbers appear in metallic Team Gold to simulate a blast furnace. The helmet's blue color is supposed to resemble that of a steel worker's hard hat. From the Panther side of it, a Panther head appears on the shell on the sleeves, that are exposed underneath the jersey. The gold stripe on the helmet epitomizes a steel beam.
That's at least the Nike marketing side of it. To go with it, Pederson and company were looking for the football side--how would this look on the football field.
"I think it looks like a team that plays defense, a team that runs the football, it looks like a Pitt team," Pederson said. "It looks like us out there."
When it came for Pitt to decide which game to don this special apparel, look no further than the announcement itself. Even though Alabama and Florida are in the national spotlight, and Boise State and Virginia Tech are facing off against each other in a few days, those who saw the unveiling got a glimpse of what the Backyard Brawl means.
"A uniform like this deserves a special game," former Pitt offensive lineman Ruben Brown said, as he presented his description of the uniform. "That is the Backyard Brawl. That's when you will see this uniform unveiled on November 26, when the Pitt Panthers beat the West Virginia Mountaineers."
Bob Huggins, who was there to present and describe West Virginia's uniforms--a tribute to the coal mining industry, with the number 29 on the back of each helmet--a tribute to the 29 miners who died in the Upper Big Branch Mine this past spring.
"Go West Virginia, beat the hell out of Pitt," Huggins said.
While Alabama and Florida had a chance to exchange jabs with each other, and Miami and Virginia Tech--who have battled for ACC and Big East supremacy in their day--were all there, it was Pitt and West Virginia, out of all the schools, who took the chance to express how big the rivalry is. Fans of both schools know the importance. Nike invited both schools to be a part of the Pro Combat Uniform, and both have a chance to make the rest of the nation aware that this rivalry is a big one. It's also big for the Big East--a conference considered the weakest of all the BCS conferences.
"We all know how big it is, but I think the country has a good feeling about it," Pederson said. "(The uniforms) just escalates it. It escalates the profile of the conference. You didn't feel it from the other schools. (Alabama and Florida) they're both going to be national contenders, but it's not the same thing.
"It was important for us to do it for a big game. It was important to do it against a team that was doing the same thing. They asked West Virginia if they were interested as well, and it just made sense. If you're wearing it for one game, and the other team is not wearing them, I don't know. This is just different. Obviously, it's a huge game filled with tradition. This is one of those neat add-ons."
Pederson didn't know much about the concept at first, but after Nike initiated contact with him--a big sign that Pitt has a national name--they came to Pittsburgh to make a presentation to him and his staff.
"They came at me, and made a presentation to us, and I liked it," Pederson said. "I thought it was neat. I had a group of people in the room that thought it was a neat thing to do."
Though Nike presented some initial sketches of what they thought the jerseys should look like, Pederson conferred with a few other athletic department staff members for some minor changes. They were all able to get on the same page easily, as to what Pitt's uniform should look like.
"They had some initial drawings," Pederson said. "We had the initial drawings tweaked a little bit with some things. They had the basic idea for the design, and had a great start to it. We wanted to make sure it looked like us."
Of course, all else would have been a failure if the players--the ones who have to wear them, wouldn't feel comfortable in them. Despite all the positives in the early goings, there was no bigger endorsement of wearing the Nike Pro Combat uniforms, than the players themselves.
"My feeling was that if Dave (Wannstedt) didn't like them, and if the players didn't like them, then we weren't going to do them," Pederson added. "The most important thing was how they felt about it. They loved it immediately. We told them we'd do it."
Aside from the Pitt players liking the uniforms, which they will only wear for one game, the sign that Pitt was even chosen for such a promotion is one that speaks volumes of Pitt's reputation. In addition to that, the benefits, the marketing and the appearance of all this help all the more enhancing Pitt's reputation.
"It's a tremendous compliment to the institution, and it's tremendous for recruiting," Pederson said. "To put yourself in an elite group of schools, and people like that, that realm of college football programs, is significant to what we're doing."