Uniformity not at all alike for OSU, Kansas State

11/02/2011 12:00 AM

11/03/2011 7:15 AM

MANHATTAN — For Joseph Randle, walking into the locker room on a Saturday is as exciting as running onto the football field in front of a packed stadium.

At Oklahoma State, entering the locker room is like Christmas morning. That's when the Cowboys learn which of 48 uniform combinations they will wear that day.

"I love it," said Randle, a Wichita Southeast grad. "It's something that keeps me excited all week. They don't tell us what we're wearing until we get to the locker room on gameday. When I get there, I'm always like, 'Oh, yeah. This is nice. Cool. I'm going to have fun wearing this today.' "

From the white, matte black and anthracite helmets to the orange, black and gray jerseys to the orange, black, gray and white pants — all designed by Nike — he feels like a model on the football field.

"It gives me excitement, seeing what jersey we're putting over our pads and what we're matching it with," Randle said. "Everybody likes to look good while they're playing, and we always look good."

Style has become a priority, as OSU stays with Oregon ahead of the trend of constant changes in uniform.

Quite a contrast to Saturday's opponent.

In Bill Snyder's 20 years as Kansas State coach, the Wildcats have made no significant alterations— silver pants with purple home jerseys or white road jerseys.

There is no chance of change from year to year, let alone week to week.

"It's kind of funny watching old film from 2000," K-State linebacker Jonathan Truman said. "We'll watch highlights from back then, and they're wearing the exact same uniforms we have now. It's something that we've stuck with.

"We're pretty blue collar, we're not a flashy team, and we know it. What we're wearing isn't really a big deal to us."

K-State has tried new looks in the past. Under Ron Prince, the Wildcats experimented with purple pants. But they were met with negative responses. Under former coach Stan Parrish in the pre-Snyder 1980s, K-State wore purple pants and purple helmets.

As a Nike-sponsored athletic department, K-State could decide to work with Nike and incorporate one of its popular "Pro Combat" uniforms into its football rotation the way the Wildcats men's basketball team switched uniforms mid-season a year ago.

Some K-State football players have indicated they would embrace similar changes to their uniforms, but Snyder says he has never discussed uniform changes with Nike.

Paul Lukas, who writes a weekly uniform column for ESPN.com and runs the national blog Uni-Watch, finds that hard to believe. He says uniform suppliers such as Nike and Under Armour are always pitching new ideas to the schools they outfit. Many cooperate. Others, such as Penn State, Auburn and K-State, do not.

"It all comes down to what the schools want to do," Lukas said. "Everyone talks about Nike coming up with all these new uniforms. Nike did this. Nike did that. Well, Nike outfits Penn State, and they haven't changed their look in a century. Nike would like nothing better than to jazz up Penn State's uniforms, but Penn State has said, 'No, we don't want to do that. That's not who we are, that's not what we're about.' "

Oklahoma State, however, was all-in when approached by Nike.

"We decided to go with the new ones," Gundy said. "They would provide us with enough different choices to wear a different uniform in each game. The players were excited about it. We feel like it can help us in recruiting. Young people like change, they like new things and they like the colors we were able to offer."

There are advantages to sticking with a proven winner, though. Lukas said the NFL only allows one helmet color per team, because changes can make it difficult for quarterbacks to identify receivers downfield. Some new uniforms, if not properly tested, can also make it hard for fans to identify numbers from the upper deck of stadiums.

But nothing compares to the negative publicity that comes with unveiling unpopular uniforms. For every positive e-mail Lukas says he receives from readers about Oregon and Oklahoma State, he receives many more about Maryland.

The Terrapins, who unveiled opening-day uniforms that featured the loud design of its state flag and have since worn red, white, yellow and black jerseys, are a good example of new uniforms gone wrong.

"Nobody likes what is going on with Maryland," Lukas said. "Their new set has been horrific. They're painful to look at."

The easiest way to avoid such criticism: sticking with a classic look.

Though potential recruits and current players such as Randle enjoy new uniforms, no one complains about what they're familiar with. Oklahoma State has embraced one philosophy. K-State sticks with the other.

There is value in each approach.

"I love what we're doing, but you've got to respect tradition," Randle said. "Every team has their own traditions. Right now, ours involves new uniforms."

2012 football — K-State is tentatively set to play North Texas, Missouri State and Miami at Snyder Family Stadium next season. But depending on when West Virginia joins the Big 12 and if Missouri finalizes its expected move to the SEC in time for next season, the Wildcats may also play a game at Central Florida.

"We have four nonconference games under contract, because we still have Central Florida under contract," Currie said. "If we have a 10-team league with nine conference games, then we'll be playing the three home games we have under contract. If we lose somebody, then we have Central Florida under contract and we'll go on the road and play them."

If K-State does not play Central Florida next season, Currie said the Wildcats would likely buy out the return game for $500,000. K-State defeated Central Florida in Manhattan 17-13 a year ago.

The North Texas and Miami games will serve as the conclusion of home-and-home series with K-State. The Missouri State game will be a guarantee game with no return.

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