MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State and Oregon both wear Nike’s signature swoosh, but that’s where the comparisons between their football uniforms end.
They are on opposite ends of the fashion spectrum.
Under Bill Snyder, the Wildcats have worn the same uniforms — silver pants, silver helmet featuring purple and white stripes, and solid white or purple jerseys — without any major modifications since he redesigned them in 1989. He wanted a look that resembled the Dallas Cowboys, and still does.
“We thought we got it right the first time,” Snyder said. “We saw no reason to change them.”
The Ducks take a different approach. They change their uniforms — loud, flashy and trendsetting — every week. Sometimes they wear neon yellow numbers. Sometimes their shoulders feature designs such as wings or spikes. They occasionally wear yellow and green. Other times they wear all black, white or throw in some gray. They have more than 500 combinations to choose from, and pride themselves on never wearing the same thing twice.
Oregon hasn’t unveiled the full uniform it will wear against K-State at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, but bowl representatives have released photos that indicate the numbers will change colors as you look at them from different angles. When the full outfit is released it is sure to be a popular topic among fans on social media.
It always is. Ever since Nike founder and Oregon grad Phil Knight began supplying the athletic department with state-of-the-art apparel, it’s what the Ducks have been best known for. Coincidentally or not, they started winning at the same time they began wearing glitzy uniforms. They gave a recruiting boost, and Oregon is now a regular Pac-12 championship contender on its way to a fourth straight BCS bowl.
Oregon’s rise coincided with its fashion so well that other programs have copied it.
Oklahoma State now changes its uniforms so often that some have called the Cowboys “the Oregon of the Big 12.” Baylor and Maryland mix up their uniforms all the time. Most schools that wear Nike, such as Michigan, Boise State and Missouri, have at least one alternate — or “Pro Combat” — uniform they wear for special games. Adidas-wearing schools such as Nebraska, Wisconsin and Notre Dame do, also. Even teams wearing Under Armour are getting in on the act.
K-State receiver Chris Harper, who transferred from Oregon, has been on both ends of the spectrum. He has worn flashy uniforms and K-State’s classic look. He sees advantages to both but doesn’t understand why so many schools are copying the Ducks.
“That’s kind of lame to me,” Harper said. “Oregon started that thing. Let them have their thing. Let them be who they are. Every school (is) trying to jump on the bandwagon with different jerseys, too. The thing is nobody can do what Oregon is doing because they have Phil Knight. You don’t have Phil Knight.
“Just be who you are. That’s one thing I like about being out here. We know who we are. You don’t see us jumping out with any ‘Pro Combats’ or new gloves or stuff all the time. We do what we do. We play in games. It’s not about the jerseys, it’s about who plays on the field.”
There is certainly something to be said for a consistent look. Not all new uniforms are good. Maryland and Michigan both received negative reactions for wearing obnoxiously loud jerseys. That’s something Texas, Oklahoma and Penn State don’t have to worry about. They are well known for wearing the same uniforms every time they take the field. Their helmets and jerseys are iconic.
Still, some K-State players would prefer something new.
“I do like the old-school look that coach Snyder brings, but it is becoming a new game,” sophomore center B.J. Finney said. “Some guys would like to see some new uniforms.”
Nike has shown it is willing to provide the Wildcats with new looks. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have modified their uniforms in past years. The men’s team currently has four color combinations to choose from, and their jerseys are made of light, state-of-the-art fabric.
Nike could create a new look for the football team with ease, but new football uniforms seem like a pipedream as long as Snyder is in charge.
“He doesn’t change his shoes,” Harper said of his coach. “I doubt he is going to change our uniforms.”
The Wildcats occasionally wore an alternate uniform that featured purple pants under Ron Prince, but the look didn’t go over well. K-State returned to its classic look full time when Snyder came out of retirement.
Oregon has changed its uniforms countless times since. K-State never considered doing the same.
“We know that is never going to happen here,” Finney said. “I’m not too disappointed about it. I like the look that we have.”