During a recent stop on the Fighting Illini Tailgate Tour, a seven-city trip around the state, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema told reporters the team will be getting new uniforms in 2023.
“I literally had a phone call with Nike the day I took the job,” said Bielema, who was hired on Dec. 19, 2020. “I found out the parameters and the ground rules of what I could do. Because of COVID, it hamstrung it a little bit … Even if I was here (before that), they couldn’t have adjusted the uniforms for 2022. They weren’t allowing it. You can’t just come in and change. It takes production.”
The Fighting Illini last updated their uniforms ahead of the 2018 season, opting for a simplified look that draws inspiration from the Dick Butkus era (1962-64). There’s also a two-column pattern on the jerseys and numbers as a nod to the historic columns at Memorial Stadium, which represent the alumni who gave their lives for their country during World War I.
Bielema didn’t give any hints regarding the design of the new uniforms, though he suggested Illinois could have a unique alternate (or two) alongside a more traditional home and road set.
“They’re not going to be a shocker,” Bielema said. “A lot of people will recognize some of the look. In today’s world, kids like uniforms and they like change. We’ll be a little bit more the norm than the (abnormal), but we’ll have new uniforms in 2023.”
That said, Bielema was able to make several small tweaks to the Fighting Illini’s uniforms last season. That includes the introduction of a white facemask on the orange helmet, as well as a white stroke on the helmet stripe and Block “I” on the helmet and pants.
Photos courtesy of @IlliniFootball on Twitter.