When the Nebraska Cornhuskers run out of the tunnel this weekend before facing Illinois, they’ll be doing so wearing their 2018 alternate uniforms. These duds have caused an amazing amount of uproar. A level of discontent not heard since Nebraska’s 2012 alternates which were mostly red, featured a large “N” on the front of the jersey and were a hot mess. However, there’s some major irony that could be lost on you when it comes to this year’s gear.
A great number of Husker fans are traditionalists. One of the main talking points about how great it was to have Scott Frost back as the head coach of the program among Big Red backers was his connection to “the good old days.” Whether that is the heyday of Nebraska’s 1990s dynasty or the constant success seen under both Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne is up for debate. However, what’s not an argument is that there is a perceived “Nebraska Way” of doing things and that’s deeply rooted in the past.
While it’s understandable that the 2018 alternates may not sit right with everyone aesthetically, it’s very surprising that they don’t conceptually. According to Adidas, the jerseys feature a look similar to the 1923 season’s with an old-timey two-toned panel look. The font is not unlike the first clock in Memorial Stadium while the pants are made to look like the first facade the structure. One of the most famous sayings from the side of Nebraska’s home turf is on the nameplate.
Where a large portion of the controversy centers is the helmets. Teams on both the college and professional levels have attempted a throwback “leather helmet” look, but Nebraska went even further this year. The Huskers used to not only wear the faux protection on their domes but ones that were cream-colored as in the secondary school color. Using black or some manner of tertiary color seems to be a sticking point with several fans, but despite sticking with history, several think the helmets resemble a jock strap.
If Nebraska fans can’t appreciate what they see, they should consider taking into account what the uniforms represent. Not only are they a callback to Memorial Stadium in its infancy — one of the building blocks of the program to this very day — but they also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. What you have is a throwback uniform with meaning. It’s not a generic tribal or kanji tattoo equivalent of equipment, but rather something with thought behind it.
No, the helmets aren’t actual leather or anything like that, but if Nebraska fans are true traditionalists as many say they are, it’s curious why they can’t suspend their disbelief and enjoy the uniforms for what they are. It’s quite possible that several fans don’t see anything prior to Devaney’s success as worth mentioning outside of a trivia contest. However, if Husker fans are going to embrace the past, how can they not fully do so?
It seems disingenuous to pick bits and pieces of 128 years of football to associate themselves with. Sure, you might hear the random fan talk about Nebraska beating the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame twice during the 1920s or how Fielding H. Yost once coached the team. Langdon Frothingham, the program’s first-ever head coach, even has a very familiar name among Husker circles. Beyond that, unless you’re talking to the most die-hard of Nebraska football historian, nothing much else happened until Devaney showed up.
To accept and even laud your program’s tradition is to do so in its on-the-field entirety. This isn’t to say Penn State should tout the disgraces of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno or that Baylor should cheer about the unforgivable travesty of mishandling sexual assault under Art Briles. However, no program is without flaws and, yes, Nebraska fans by and large have made their peace with — and have picked their sides on — the Lawrence Phillips issue.
If you’re going to be proud of your team’s past as a fan, be proud of all of it (the football part, at least) not just the chunks here and there that make you feel the best about it. It’s the sum of the parts, both the good and bad, which makes a program what it is today. That’s why fans of Nebraska football should enjoy a trip back in time this weekend and suspend disbelief if only for a day.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).
(Top photo courtesy of Adidas via Nebraska Athletics)