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Tracing the origin of Ohio State’s black jerseys to be worn against Penn State

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Credit: Courtesy of Nike

Credit: Courtesy of Nike

On Saturday against Penn State, Ohio State will take the field at Ohio Stadium sporting a look different than its familiar scarlet and gray uniforms: black jerseys.

Rumors about the possibility of the Buckeyes donning the alternate kits have been swirling for years, but on Oct. 3, Nike officially released an image of the exact style.

The black jersey features big scarlet digits outlined in gray. On the sleeves, there is a scarlet stripe of medium thickness sandwiched between two smaller white stripes, which are then outlined by thinner gray stripes.

For the pants, a similar looking stripe runs vertically down the side. The helmets — which junior running back Ezekiel Elliott called “beautiful” after OSU’s win over Maryland — are matte black, with black facemasks. Down the center of the dome piece runs the same style stripe from the pants and sleeves.

“They’re gonna look sick,” junior defensive end Joey Bosa said.

The idea for OSU to deviate from its usual scarlet tops and gray bottoms to the all-blacks came not from the athletic department or anyone in Columbus, but rather from Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

About two years ago, according to OSU athletic director Gene Smith, Nike pitched the possibility of veering away from the traditional threads for a game.

The idea, however, was not as well received at first — at least for OSU coach Urban Meyer.

“No way, no chance,” he said of when he initially heard of the concept.

But then he saw them.

“I looked and said ‘whoa,’ and it looked pretty sharp,” he said.  

Meyer said after his approval Smith and others affiliated with the team — such as two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin — poured over the design. But what they reviewed is not what fans will see on Saturday.

Smith said they did not approve the exact prototype Nike proposed. He, along with other program confidants, made revisions to be more in line with OSU’s history and tradition.

Stripes on the side of the pants, along with adding more of scarlet hue to the numbers, were two of the main updates that they orchestrated, Smith said.

This process — Nike proposing an idea, then OSU offering its modifications after consulting with select players, former players and certain administrators before settling on a final product — happens every time the Swoosh suggests alternates, Smith said.

Nike and OSU have been collaborating on alternate uniforms since 2009, when the Buckeyes debuted their version of the Pro Combat uniform series against Michigan.

Since then, the Buckeyes have worn a handful of other Nike-designed alternates, including Pro Combat installments in 2010 and 2011, as well similar variations of the chrome uniforms worn in the 2013 Orange Bowl and against Penn State last season.

When they go about formulating different jersey concepts, Smith said there is always a balance between respecting the tradition of OSU’s football team, but also trying to recognize a shift in demographic and move the program forward.

“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,” he said. “And the uniforms are part of that.”

Despite the desire to move further into the 21st century, OSU does not intend to ever turn into a school like Oregon, which seemingly has different uniforms each week, Smith said. Rather, each year the school will try to pick one game to suit up in nontraditional garb.

The athletic director added that next year’s jerseys are already being designed. As for what those will those look like, Smith said, “Give me a break. I’m just trying to get through the day. Obviously, I can’t share that.”

OSU is set to take on Penn State — wearing the black jerseys — on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.


  1. Ugly!!!!!! Woody would lose it again.

  2. “poured over”? Oh, please…

  3. Abomination. The University obviously doesn’t need my support or money since they can make all the extra dough selling black shirts to the lemmings. If you don’t wear Scarlet to the game you’re just another sucker. Gee I hope next year Gene Smith puts some nice maize wings on the helmets to change it up.

  4. yuck! ugly! lemmings is right. we’re not the ducks

  5. I’ve been a Buckeye fan for 67 years and believe in the Scarlet and Gray. Black has nothing to do with OSU. Please ditch those ugly uniforms.

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