Alternate uniforms in college football can be an incredibly fun change of scenery for both players and fans. They are used to honor causes and give the team a different look for a few games. Some looks are a phenomenal hit, while others miss the mark completely. Here are some of the best and worst college football alternate uniforms of all time:
THE BEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL ALTERNATE UNIFORMS OF ALL TIME
1. University of Central Florida (Space Game)
Last year, the UCF Knights unveiled one of the coolest college football alternate uniforms of all time. Their space and constellation theme honored the school’s history and looked incredible on the field. UCF was once known as Florida Technological University and partnered with the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Their old mascot was the citronaut in the late ’60s; this mascot was incorporated on the jersey. The blue in the uniform represented the water at Cape Canaveral and the constellations represented the roads and buildings on campus. One of the most remarkable features was the flight coordinates on the helmet. The coordinates indicated how the 50-yard line of Spectrum Stadium lines upon the exact latitude as NASA’s most historic launch pad. There was also the quote “Reach for the Stars” on the back of the helmet, which feels very school appropriate. I have never seen a school’s past represented so perfectly on a uniform before. These were sincerely impressive.
2. Arizona State (Desert Chrome Series)
Back in 2016, the Arizona State Sun Devils debuted their ‘Desert Chromes’ alternate uniforms. The Desert Chromes alternate uniforms used unique colors that starkly compared to their traditional maroon and gold uniforms. Both the jerseys and the pants were a clean white, accented by metallic copper coloring throughout, all topped off with a copper chrome helmet. The muted white really let the copper helmet shine (literally) as it captured the reflection of the sun with each movement. These uniforms were the perfect balance between flashy and subtle. The creative choice to use such a unique chromatic look made this alternate uniform stand out.
3. ARMY (82nd Airborne)
These alternates, inspired by 82nd Airborne paratroopers, were particularly interesting because of their storytelling elements. The black and grey color scheme of the alternate uniforms was designed "to express the fact that some of the most treacherous combat jumps happened at night, under the cover of darkness". It’s patches on the front of the uniform identified individual regiments and battalions within the division. The helmet design featured a lattice overlay to symbolize the netting worn by soldiers of the era, along with helmet symbols that also identified the 82nd's individual units. This look helped the Black Knights intimidate their opponents during the 2012 season and led them to a win over Navy- something they had not done in 14 years.
4. Colorado State (State Pride)
The Rams’ Colorado State Pride uniforms were perfection. In a 2017 game against Boise State, Colorado State debuted these alternate uniforms, perfectly capturing the essence of the school’s state flag. The Rams typically rep green, gold and white, so these uniforms were a serious shake-up from the norm. The jerseys and pants were predominantly white with small red, yellow, and blue accent, while the helmets boldly sported the iconic red and yellow Colorado “C.” These uniforms were originally supposed to be a one-time thing but became so popular that Colorado State announced they would wear them again this year in a game against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Other college football teams should look into incorporating their state flag into alternate football uniforms because Colorado did an incredible job!
5. Notre Dame (Yankees Pinstripes)
Last year, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played a game against Syracuse at the iconic Yankee Stadium. The New York Yankees are known for wearing pinstripe uniforms, which were replicated on the alternate uniforms sleeves, gloves, and pants for Notre Dame. ‘Notre Dame’ was written across the chest of the jersey in the recognizable Yankees font. This little twist in their uniform was a nice homage to the Yankees, whose field they were playing on.
This was one of the first times Notre Dame did not wear their classic gold helmets, which was a bold move on their end. However, being bold brings big results! Seeing NCAA and MLB uniforms brought together was an incredible moment in sports history, for it paid tribute to two of the most well-known teams in the game.
THE WORST COLLEGE FOOTBALL ALTERNATE UNIFORMS OF ALL TIME
1. University of Florida (Alligator Uniforms)
In a game against Texas A&M in 2017, the Florida Gators wore alternate uniforms that were meant to make them look like actual alligators. The uniforms were designed to be ‘swamp green’, but just looked like a dull grey that did not blend well with the bright orange numbers. The Gator’s clearly wanted to celebrate their mascot, but missed the mark when doing so. Trying to look like actual alligators was a bit much for a game of football.
2. Michigan State (Lime Green)
The Michigan State Spartans unveiled their horrendous new alternate uniforms for 2019 at the end of Summer. If you love the color of slime, chances are that you would love these uniforms too. Michigan State already uses a shade of green in their primary uniforms, but decided to add neon lime green pants to their alternates. Michigan’s color scheme was already unique on its own, they didn’t need to add the extra flair of neon. There was little innovation in these alternates. The chest said ‘State’ in huge letters and the only place you saw the Spartan logo is on the corner of the pants.
3. Northwestern (Stars and Stripes)
The Northwestern Wildcats wore alternate uniforms in honor of the Wounded Warriors Project in 2013. They may have been worn for a great cause, but even veterans expressed their dislike of the uniform design. The designers really missed the mark when they decided to distress the stripes of the flag, which many complained made the uniforms look like they had smeared blood on them. which to some felt more disrespectful than anything. Northwestern also replaced the player's names with words like “honor” and “integrity”. These alternates were designed with good intent but unfortunately were executed very poorly.
4. University of Arizona (Red Outs)
Red is a great color to have as part of your palette, but this doesn’t mean you need to make your entire uniform red. The Arizona Wildcats currently have an alternate uniform that is completely red from head to toe called their ‘Red Outs’. To put it simply, they were not easy on the eyes. The uniforms were almost one dimensional, as all the players were in head-to-toe red. The red helmet didn’t help this cause. Perhaps a blue or white helmet would have made this alternate a little easier to look at. Laundry day for the Wildcats had to have been a tough one with having to separate and wash all that red.
5. Arizona State (Flame Helmets)
The Sun Devils make it to both ends of the spectrum, because here they are again. Their alternate flame helmets from back in 2013 and 2014 were definitely a miss. They are the Sun Devils, so a flame design makes sense, but these uniforms looked more like a marble countertop than “fired up.” The University claimed that the helmets were unique because no two were printed exactly the same, but in the end the differences were not obvious enough for fans to notice. The Sun Devil’s all black alternate uniforms are one of the top looks in college football, but the flame helmet throws off the entire look. A maroon or gold helmet would absolutely complete this look.
A Huge Hit or a Miss
New and exciting uniforms can rally fans and inspire players. These alternates (for the most part) can be a fun way to spice up a player’s look on the field, but sometimes schools would be better off sticking to their regular uniforms. For players, the college football season can be grueling and repetitive, so these alternates allow for some change in that day-to-day grind. Alternate jerseys are also a fun way for fans to engage with their team by matching with their favorite players on game day. Although, all of this depends on whether or not the school’s design is well thought out. Some alternate uniforms are inventive and exciting, and some miss the mark by a mile.
Does your alma mater have an alternate uniform that you enjoy seeing your team in? Share it with us!