Nike and the Oklahoma Sooners unveiled alternate uniforms via the OU Football Twitter account on Tuesday afternoon.
These additional jersey-pants-helmet combinations were inspired by the rich heritage of the state of Oklahoma and the Sooners' storied football history. These new uniforms will occasionally supplement the traditional OU home and road uniforms the team has sported for decades and will continue to utilize on a regular basis.
"The players are excited about them," said head coach Bob Stoops, who joins predecessors Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer to form the only coaching quartet of 100-game winners at a single college football program. "It's always positive to relate back to Bud Wilkinson's era with the longest winning streak in college football history and three national championships. These uniforms give us a chance to do that."
Nike's white helmet design pays tribute to Wilkinson's squads that captured national championships in 1950, 1955 and 1956. Those Oklahoma teams wore white headgear with a signature crimson stripe from crown to base. The latest version of this helmet concept includes a similar crimson stripe (embedded with a wood-grained pattern), as well as the addition of an officially-sized OU logo on each side.
"I think recruits are always excited about uniforms, helmets and any of the looks that you might put on the field," added Stoops, noting that current Oklahoma student-athletes were involved in the design process. "(The additional uniforms) won't be something we do constantly, but it will be a nice changeup and will be positive in recruiting, with our players and with our fans."
The latest addition to Oklahoma's game day look is an ensemble that has been unofficially dubbed "The Rough Rider" uniform. These complementary concepts seamlessly meld Nike's cutting-edge innovation with a look that is deeply rooted in Oklahoma's rough-and-tumble settlement legacy, as well as the Sooners' championship culture. For a football program whose history even predates Oklahoma's statehood, incorporating modern style with OU tradition and Oklahoma toughness was a must.
"Our team and our fans love the iconic look of our classic OU uniforms that the Sooners have worn dating back to the 1960s, and we'll continue to utilize those jerseys, pants and helmets as our primary game day attire," said Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Director of Athletics, Joe Castiglione. "We know who we are. We're Oklahoma.
"We are also excited to add an additional member to our uniform family, a concept that pays homage to the proud history of the state of Oklahoma, as well as several great eras of Sooner football," Castiglione continued. "Oklahoma was Nike's first partner school to unveil a true throwback uniform more than a decade ago. Today, we add a uniform design that combines state-of-the-art Nike technology and stylistic flair while staying true to our historic OU roots."
The University of Oklahoma has one of the most esteemed athletics programs in college sports," said Todd Van Horne, VP and Creative Director for Nike Football. "Our mission is to provide innovation and inspiration to athletes, and this new design, combined with Nike's uniform technology, truly represents the program's rich history."
The modified version of Oklahoma's iconic crimson helmet also features an enlarged interlocking OU above each earhole with the distinctive wood-grained design embedded into the protective outer shell. Never previously utilized on a football helmet, this touch of timber provides a very tangible link to the weathered texture of the Sooner Schooner, a Conestoga reminiscent of the pioneer mode of travel employed by the hearty souls who settled Oklahoma Territory around the time of the 1889 Land Run. To this day, OU's famed RUF/NEKs not only drive the Sooner Schooner onto the field after every OU score, they also fire celebratory shots authenticated with wooden stocks.
In typical Nike fashion, even the smallest details on these latest uniforms are fully loaded with Sooner symbolism. Anthracite was chosen for facemasks, gloves and socks to match the traditional feel of black Nike Vapor Talon Elite cleats. These accoutrements evoke images of a nickname bestowed upon the Oklahoma squad in its 1890s infancy – "The Rough Riders." While the exact origins of that moniker are unknown, Teddy Roosevelt's 1st U.S. Cavalry – composed primarily of college students, cowboys and ranchers from Oklahoma and other nearby areas – also adopted "The Rough Riders" name as they fought in the Spanish-American War. Just like Roosevelt's volunteers, the Sooners also proved to be strong, rugged and resilient.
Form, function and elevated design are seen in the crimson and cream alternative jersey choices, as well. For the first time, the word OKLAHOMA replaces SOONERS across the front chest plate of the Nike Pro Combat jersey. These jerseys feature high-impact durability, stretch-woven fabrics and meshed ventilation to provide optimal thermoregulation and moisture management, as well as a shrink-wrap fit.
Both jerseys also feature subtle touches such as "47 Straight" emblazoned on the inner Nike Flywire neckline, serving as a tangible reminder of the college football's incomparable victory streak amassed during Wilkinson's tenure. In addition, the wood-grained element is carried over to shoulder plates, outer necklines, numerals and lettering, as well as the vertical crimson stripes on the Nike Pro Combat pants which include an OU logo.
The uniform chassis serves as a complete system-of-dress where base layer, padding, jersey and pant work in concert in order to provide the ultimate in lightweight speed and protection for the athletes. Lightweight padding is integrated directly into the crucial "hit zones" in the base layer. Innovations include Nike Chain Maille Mesh technology, which is incorporated into the back and under the arms for exceptional ventilation and durability. Nike Flywire technology is integrated into the neckline for reduced weight and better lockdown fit over pads; increased sleeve articulation provides better range of motion; and all-over four-way stretch fabrication provides a streamlined shrink-wrap fit.
Nike Pro Combat DeFlex padding eliminates bulk and allows for low-profile, lightweight impact protection specifically throughout the crucial "hit zone" between the knees and shoulders. It is also integrated in the hip and knee areas of the pant for crucial impact protection that stays in place.
Even the moisture-wicking Nike Pro Combat Hypercool top hearkens back to the Wilkinson era, taking its cue from the "University of Oklahoma Athletic Dept." T-shirts favored by the famed College Football Hall of Fame coach. While the present-day Sooners' base layer features the same 1950s-style text, the shirts worn by Stoops' squad will come in both cream and the same anthracite shade utilized elsewhere in the uniform. Once again, Nike technology provides an optimal fit and design with added mesh in high-heat zones for ventilation and comfort that will permit the Sooners to stay cool and comfortable on even the hottest Oklahoma days.
While this collaborative effort between OU Athletics and Nike will make its debut in 2014, discussions and designs on this project have evolved for more than two years. From the inception of this endeavor and throughout multiple conceptual stages, Nike has worked tirelessly with key members of the Oklahoma administration, Coach Stoops, the OU Athletics Equipment staff and OU student-athletes to ensure these uniforms properly capture the Sooner spirit.
No determinations have been made on when the OU squad will wear these new Nike uniforms this season. Fans will recall that the current generation of Sooners sported a Wilkinson-era throwback uniform for the 2003 North Texas game and again in 2009 against Texas Tech, wearing white helmets with a crimson stripe and a classic crimson jersey with white arm stripes reminiscent of OU's look from the 1950s. Last season, Oklahoma wore Nike jerseys with gold trim, a special commemorative patch and gold cleats for the annual Red River Showdown vs. Texas.