The Pac-12 is a conference that needs a shot in the arm. They have dipped in quality and depth on the field as well as in the national rankings, so it’s time for a complete makeover. However, off the field they have been shot through the stratosphere, thanks mostly with the proximity of Oregon-based Nike and their president Phil Knight, who went to both the University of Oregon and Stanford. Nike has the design rights to most of the Pac-12 and has used this influence to change the course of football uniforms forever.
While some uniform combinations in this conference are completely inexplicable, including using colors that are not even in their school color palette, the unis have gotten better. A good development on this front is that some of the teams have gone back to their tradition and heritage. Here is how the uniforms of the Pac-12 stack up on the gridiron going into the 2018 season...
-- Rankings by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
12. Oregon State
Poor Oregon State, the Beavers just can’t seem to help themselves. The black and orange has potential, but it’s been squandered for years. The old orange was pretty awful, harkening back to when heavy-set head coach Dee Andros would wear an orange windbreaker during games and earned the nickname “The Great Pumpkin.” Nike has given OSU plenty of options, but they haven’t nailed it yet. Also, the latest Beaver logo is completely lame looking. Not that you can make a Beaver look fierce or anything to begin with.
11. Washington State
The boys on the Palouse haven’t had a good run of unis lately either. The traditional maroon and white pairing has been overtaken by matte grey and black touches. While the “WSU” Cougar-shaped logo is pretty good and their all-whites road uniforms are super sweet, the use of the flat grey helmets is really bad, as are the all-dark grey uniform combos they use once in a while. They just look like pajamas. Solution: Mike Leach is a wildly creative dude, right? ... Well give him carte blanche to change the uniforms. Whatever he wants. We’ll call them the “Pirate Line” unis.
Nothing bad here. Nothing really great either. The Utes don’t really have a heritage in the uniform department but the red, black and white combination is always a great starting point (look what the Georgia Bulldogs have done with it). Under Armour has kept things pretty basic, which isn’t such a bad thing. But nothing really stands out as exemplary, with the possible exception of the “U” with the feather on the helmet. That’s always been a good look. The pant stripes that wrap around the back of the knees are pretty bizarre.
Gone are the bright blue and vibrant gold uniforms of old, which is too bad. But the Bears have long gone to a tougher navy color in their uniforms which is more appropriate for football if you think about it. The navy matte helmets with the script “Cal” are pretty cool and though I’m not generally a huge fan of script words on a helmet, the Bears' “Cal” is pretty iconic. Especially when you’re walking along Venice Beach and you see t-shirts for sale that say “Cali” on them in the same script font.
The Desert Cats have become Oregon South in the uniform department with Nike going nuts with the combos and mix-and-match and of course, the obligatory chrome helmet alternative. (Arizona's are red and look like candy apples you get at the county fair). At least we can be thankful that the gradient numbers of recent years are long gone, although the new numbers are done in an attempted futuristic font that is rather flat. Also, those really broad stripes on the shoulder just confuse the hell out of me.
7. Arizona State
These guys are blessed with great base colors, deep maroon and bright gold. But things would’ve been completely different if the administration hadn’t changed the nickname from Bulldogs to Sun Devils way back when. But the Sun Devils name just fits so well, one of the best in the country. The new togs are mostly good, because it’s hard to screw up those colors. But the new-ish logo? Didn’t they steal that spear logo from Maserati? And though the throwbacks are a little bizarre at times, the helmets with the “ASU” inside the sun are really freaking good.
The Huskies just have a really regal look that is top-end stuff if you ask me. The purple is bold and the old gold is classy and one of the best, whether they at home or on the road, especially when UW uses the old gold helmets with the purple and white stripe down the middle. I’m even okay with the metallic grape helmets they put on once in a while. But I still liked the old gold helmets in the way-back machine with the grey face masks where the top of the face mask was painted over gold as well. Think back to the days when Warren Moon was leading the Huskies' offense.
Leland Stanford Jr. University is the smartest academic institution in the Pac-12 and their uniforms reflect that. Two colors. Two combinations. And of course simplify, simplify, simplify. (Yes, I know they have done the black-on-black combo before, but I digress). The Cardinal have a bad nickname problem, going from Indians, to Cardinals to Cardinal over the decades. And then there is that whole bizarre tree mascot. Whatevs. Still, the no-nonsense look for Stanford is spot on, especially since the Cardinal have become a traditional bully on the gridiron. You can’t argue it... they’d out-argue you with their superior brains anyway.
The Buffaloes have had a long tradition of having top-flight quality uniforms. Have you seen what they wore during their 1991 national championship season? Black, old gold and white. The pants were old gold and were glorious, whether playing at home (black jerseys) or on the road (white jerseys). They’ve infused a lot of grey into the uniforms now, wearing grey pants and sporting grey helmets at times. Not crazy about them, wish they’d emphasize the old gold look a bit more. And the black matte helmets with the barely-visible black buffalo sticker is just terrible. But no team has more potential for great uniforms than CU.
The Bruins have an intimidating nickname but a not-so-intimidating color pattern. However, in the last few years they have bolded the blue a little bit more, correctly straying from their historical powder blue look. This move to a darker blue is one of the rare breaks from tradition that I will put a stamp of approval on. The Bruins always had a good old gold accentuation and of course, the grey face mask will always score points, especially since they are one of the few programs that have the grey face mask as their primary grill.
Look, say what you want about Phil Knight’s money and his guinea pigs in Eugene. But the Ducks are trailblazers in the uniform department, starting this whole alternate uniform craze years ago. It became their trademark and everyone in college football knew them through it. Talk about building some instant street cred. So I will give UO the biggest pass when it comes to uniform ranking. They set the bar in this department. Okay, the “lightning yellow” togs (at bottom) they break out once in a while are nauseating, I admit. But everything else is just a high bar that everyone else is trying to shoot for.
There is so much good stuff going on with the Men of Troy. A great color combo that is traditional and familiar with every college football follower. There is no mistaking the Trojans when they hit the field or the TV. There was a brief time in the '80s when Ted Tollner changed the Trojan emblem on the helmet and promised to go to red cleats. Luckily the first didn’t last long and the second quickly faded into obscurity. Changing the shoulder stripe to their '60s look was a fine move a few years back. And as mentioned, grey face masks are just solid. Don’t ever change, boys.