The Arizona Wildcats announced earlier this week that they were promoting their Desert Swarm-era throwback uniforms to full-time status.
Naturally, that got us thinking which college football uniforms we would like to see return on a permanent basis.
After several days of deliberation, we’ve narrowed it down to five of our favorite throwback uniforms, which are listed in alphabetical order below.
Ten years ago, the Sun Devils unveiled new uniforms that no longer featured Sparky, the school’s beloved mascot, on their helmets. He was replaced with a lifeless pitchfork (or trident, depending on who you ask), which left us longing for the days of the 1997 Rose Bowl.
Arizona State actually wore a throwback uniform from that game in 2015 as a nod to former linebacker and Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who was killed in the line of duty. Seeing as his widow had a role in the design of the throwback uniforms, what better way to honor his memory than to adopt them permanently?
Fresh off winning the national championship, Florida State unveiled new uniforms in 2014 that featured tribal symbols on the collar and sleeves. However, the colors weren’t the correct shade, the gold numbers on the road jersey were illegible and the gold numbers on the home set seemed more appropriate for Boston College.
Fast forward to today and the uniforms unfortunately still remain. They’ve corrected the issues with the colors and numbers, but the Seminoles are one of just a few big-time programs left in Nike’s 8-year-old Mach Speed template, which completely butchered the collar design. All the more reason for Florida State to return to its previous set, in which the Seminoles won their last two national titles.
Although the current set – which features an argyle pattern on the helmet stripe, collar and pants – aligns perfectly with North Carolina’s basketball programs, the 1990s throwbacks the Tar Heels wore last season are arguably the best uniforms in school history.
There’s nothing uniquely North Carolina about them, but the wordmark on the sleeve stripes, the navy blue collar and the drop-shadow numbers pop right off the Carolina blue jerseys. Not to mention, the uniforms are a nod to head coach Mack Brown’s first stint with the Tar Heels and were worn by cornerbacks coach Dre Bly.
While we certainly appreciate the consistency of the stripes on their standard scarlet home, white road and black alternate uniforms, there’s something to be said about the Buckeyes breaking out throwback uniforms for all four of their College Football Playoff appearances thus far.
If the uniforms – which feature gray, black and white or scarlet pro-style sleeve stripes – are chosen for the biggest games of the season, why doesn’t Ohio State just wear them every weekend? The stripes were only changed in 2006 to fit Nike’s template at the time anyway, and newer templates have shown there’s more than enough room for larger stripes.
On one hand, the Cowboys have one of the most unique uniform sets in the country thanks to a paisley pattern on their collar, cuffs and alternate helmet that was inspired by a bandana. On the other hand, you can’t think of Oklahoma State without visions of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas running through your head.
That’s why a return to the 1987-88 uniforms – which featured the old-school “bubble” logo on both sides of the helmet, Northwestern stripes on the sleeves and a traditional block font – makes sense for Oklahoma State, which donned those very throwbacks in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
In keeping the list to five, we’re sure we omitted some uniforms that deserve consideration. Make sure to share your thoughts (and photos) in the comments below!
Photos courtesy of the Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina Tar Heels, Ohio State Buckeyes and Oklahoma State Cowboys.