Penn State considers changes to football uniforms

Posted: July 28, 2012

CHICAGO - Penn State's traditionally loyal football fans realize that a new head coach means a number of changes, many not seen since the elevation of Joe Paterno to the top job in 1966.

But are they prepared for a change in the famously plain blue and white jerseys?

In the weeks after Bill O'Brien took over as coach in January, he repeatedly spoke about his commitment to keeping the jerseys the way they were. The jerseys generally were the most-asked question of O'Brien during his 18-stop caravan in April and May.

But nothing stays the same.

Since April and May, the Freeh report has shown that Paterno was more involved in helping shield Jerry Sandusky's abuses against children than previously reported, and this month the NCAA has come out with severe sanctions against Penn State, including a four-year bowl ban and reductions in scholarships.

On Tuesday night, in a one-hour conference call with players' parents, O'Brien mentioned that he had talked to Nike with the intention of changing the uniform style, even putting names on the backs of jerseys, a practice Paterno disagreed with. Details of the discussion were first reported by the Reading Eagle.

O'Brien also said the alterations in style might have been requested too late to apply to this season.

However, on Friday, O'Brien indicated that several changes, which he did not specify, will be in store when the Nittany Lions take the field at Beaver Stadium for their Sept. 1 season opener against Ohio.

Asked if any change in the iconic uniforms - which with its black shoes, no decals on helmets, no names on jerseys have become as much of Penn State's persona as players handing the ball to referees after scoring a touchdown - would upset traditionalists, O'Brien replied: "Turn the page."

"It's a new era, a new era," he said at the Big Ten football media interview session. "Changes were made in 1966 probably. Changes are going to be made in 2012 as well. Jump on board. Support this team and support these players."

Paterno took over as head coach in 1966, but the uniform continued to evolve. The basic blue and white design began in 1975 and continued right up until last year, although in 1980 striping on the sleeves and the collar were introduced. The striping was discontinued only last year.

O'Brien said changes always have been in the works.

"I'm not the most articulate guy all the time," he said, "but I can tell you those types of things have been discussed before the NCAA came down with their penalties. Some of those things you will see on Sept. 1."

Penn State players were asked in several ways to comment on whether new uniforms are in their future.

"Things about the uniforms, that's between us and Coach O'Brien," guard John Urschel said. "Things are still in the process. We're not sure what the outcome is going to be, but I suggest you watch on Sept. 1."

Defensive tackle Jordan Hill said he had "no idea" whether there would be a change in uniforms.

"That's what everybody seems to be saying," he said. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm not going to really care."

The changes are part of O'Brien's strategy to have the program looking forward following the Sandusky scandal and the related fallout. Friday marked his fourth consecutive day of interviews since the sanctions, and he again called on fans, alumni, and former football players for their support.

"You're either in or you're out," O'Brien said. "No one cares anymore in the football building what you think about the Freeh report. The Freeh report is there for everybody to read. No one cares what you think about NCAA sanctions. They are what they are. So move on. Turn the page.

"The board of trustees came out with a statement related to NCAA sanctions. Turn the page and get going and support us and continue to be the great fans and alums that you guys have been."

The board Wednesday backed university president Rodney Erickson's decision to accept the penalties, noting they had few other choices. One alternative was the assessment of the "death penalty," meaning a suspension of the football program, for four years.


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, "Lion Eyes," at www.philly.com/sports/lioneyes.

 

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