Utes join Pac-12 trend by debuting new look
Tempe, Ariz. • In the American Southwest, a few things are forever true: the cacti stand up better to the heat than out-of-towners, margaritas are colder and more abundant, and the bad guys wear black hats.
It was a role the Utes were happy to take on Saturday.
Yes, the team whose fight song says it will "fight for dear old crimson," did it in black at Sun Devil Stadium. Doing their part to keep up the trend of college football teams wearing bold, unusual, imaginative uniform combinations, the Utes uncloaked white-on-black helmets worn with white jerseys and black pants.
"I think the players and the college students really love having it jazzed up and stuff," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said. "And that's fine with me."
The Utes began their annual blackout game in 2009 against TCU, a decision that Hill said he wasn't prepared for when the idea of black uniforms was first floated.
"I met with the leadership team and they wanted to have different uniforms, and I was like, 'Come on, no black,' " he said. "I went to our staff meeting and I said, 'You know what the guys want to do, they want to wear black jerseys.' "
What Hill discounted, he said, was that he had a young staff, which had been influenced by Oregon and its annual redesign of its revolving wardrobe of costumes.
These days, Utah, which more or less relies on home reds and road whites, is among the more conservatively dressed teams in the country, falling nearer to Alabama on the spectrum than to Oregon. But as the rest of the Pac-12 has evolved, Utah must, too, Hill said.
Arizona State, for example, unveiled myriad uniform combinations as part of a campus-wide rebranding this year, and Arizona will unveil new copper helmets at some point this season as an homage to the state's mining history.
"We want to be traditional because college football has tremendous traditions and we like it," Hill said.
But he also acknowledged the role things such as uniforms play in recruiting players in the high-def era.
Hill said he does not anticipate Utah beginning a frequent rotation of uniform combinations, but that "it's probably going to get more and more the way it's going."
The Utes announced in the summer that they would wear black helmets for their annual blackout game on Oct. 27 against California. In previous years, the team has worn red helmets with black uniforms.
Word leaked of the white-on-black helmets this week when players wore the helmets (minus the stenciling) at practice on Tuesday before photos began to circulate on Twitter.