COLUMBUS — The People. The Tradition. The Excellence. That slogan adorns every piece of artwork sent to recruits throughout the Urban Meyer Era of Ohio State football.
At a school like Ohio State nothing is more honored than tradition. It fuels the football program at every turn. It’s honored by the numbers and names that hang around Ohio Stadium, and it’s reflected in game-day experiences that have been passed down from generation to generation throughout the last century.
It’s Carmen Ohio and the Victory Bell and the iconic scarlet and — Hey wait! Why the hell are the Buckeyes wearing black uniforms? Tradition goes down and profits expand, huh? Anything for a buck!
Yes, friends, the always-entertaining debate about uniforms has descended once again as Ohio State prepares to don black duds for the top-25 matchup with the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night. From all corners of Buckeye Nation come the reactions, strong and conflicting.
Love the alternate uniforms or hate them, they’re not going away. There’s no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to this debate, and the conversation around these tantalizing threads is so consistent that there’s no real reason to pack them away.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the black-on-black that the Buckeyes will wear on Saturday or any other iteration of gray, white and scarlet that they’ve stepped into over the last ten years: There’s no denying the interest in alternate uniforms.
For years one of the primary arguments for these secondary suits was recruiting based. The mighty Oregon Ducks became the darlings of college football changing their look every single week with the aid of Nike and benefactor Phil Knight. Detractors would suggest the Ducks were, ironically, attempting to create an identity by constantly changing what they looked like.
But those early years of Oregon’s uniform pandering coincided with their on-the-field renovation under Chip Kelly. Because of that, it could be argued that the two issues have been conflated. Oregon didn’t get better players because they had appealing uniforms, but sure, the uniforms made Oregon more appealing to recruits.
“It’s cool to be able to switch up every once in a while,” 5-star receiver and Ohio State commit Julian Fleming told Lettermen Row. “You know, it’s a fresh look and that helps keep players happy.”
But does it matter when making a college decision? Of course not.
“That really has nothing to do with it,” said Fleming, who had Oregon as one of his final schools before committing to the Buckeyes. “Interest starts with the coaches and other important stuff.”
It’s the atmosphere at a game. It’s the support from the home crowd win or lose. It’s comfort and relationships.
Beyond the coaches, it’s also important what happens when players actually put on the new uniforms. Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah paid attention to what schools looked like during his recruitment, but what mattered is how they played in them.
“I would definitely say uniforms matter to a recruit,” Okudah said Wednesday night. “With this day and age, social media and all that, having different uniforms is a lure for recruits. Me being in high school, I always saw the black ones [the Buckeyes] wore against Penn State [in 2015], as really cool, as something I wanted to wear.
“But you have to perform well in the uniforms or it’s just uniforms.”
For Ohio State, Saturday night is just another chance to show off all the different ways it can look good inside of Ohio Stadium.
The uniforms won’t make any difference in the outcome against the Spartans — but that doesn’t mean nobody will care what the Buckeyes wear.