Uniform Debate: In A Gray Area

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

A short Twitter exchange this evening led me to consider a topic I thought dead and buried once West Virginia University unveiled its new football uniforms last year.

The pithy and hilarious Pod Katt of the excellent Louisiana State University blog "And The Valley Shook" lamented his Tigers taking the floor in tonight's Southeastern Conference basketball tournament game against Kentucky sporting "anthracite" uniforms.

"Yep," he replied.

I took a moment to defend alternate gray unis before trundling off to my desktop to look up a few things.

A quick Google search turned up some surprising answers.

Actually, gray is an official LSU color — 50 percent black — as is 100 percent black.

This got me to thinking, and I checked on WVU's official colors.

No surprise. The primary palette consists of gold (Pantone Matching System 124) and blue (PMS 295).

Oh-ho, but there exists a secondary palette, which includes not only black, but two shades of gray, one of which, ok, is more like slate.

Now I'm not posting this as an "I told you so" to Mr. Katt or any WVU fan who criticized the old gray uniforms as "not a school color."

I'm posting this as a guy who works in design (and also as a homeowner right now eyeballing paint swatches) to say gray is a neutral color.

Gray sits in the background. You put paintings on it. You contrast your furnishings against it. And, yeah, you can put your sports team's vibrant logo and colors on it.

What's the big deal? No one was changing anyone's identifying insignia. The uniform designers, and presumably the schools, were just shaking things up a bit, putting the familiar in a different setting. As a visual person, I like seeing things in new and interesting ways.

And, if memory serves, before WVU ever signed a deal with Nike, I can recall the Mountaineers wearing gray basketball uniforms with blue and gold lettering and I recall no hue and cry — if you'll pardon the pun. (And if I'm remembering right, everyone loved the black unis they unveiled at the 2010 Big East tournament.)

So if it ever returns, please be kind to the gray; it just wants to hang back and let the primary colors do all the work, just as the equally unassuming white does. And white's not even an official school color.

Clarification: While white may not be an official WVU color, NCAA rules regarding uniforms state:

Players of opposing teams shall wear jerseys of contrasting colors. ... The visiting team shall wear white jerseys; however, the home team may wear white jerseys if the teams have agreed in writing before the season.

From Article 5, Rule 1 on "The Game, Field, Players and Equipment" from the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations (H/T OG&B)

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