By Phil Hecken
Ok — so it’s not the oldest rivalry in college football. It’s not the most famous, nor is it named for a battle, either real or imagined. It may not even be the biggest uni story of the day. But it is USC versus UCLA (ABC, 4:30 pm EST), and, unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you know that the game marks the return of both teams sporting their home jerseys in the same game for the first time in decades.
So, why are both teams wearing their home jerseys, and why is this such a big deal? For a number of years, the schools shared the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as their home stadium until UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl for the 1982 season. Each school alternated as the “home” team for the game and, until 1983, players on both teams wore their home football jerseys for the game. Since the 1984 season, however, the visiting team has been wearing their white jerseys.
Ever a student of history, USC coach Pete Carroll expressed interest in restarting the tradition of both teams wearing home jerseys. Unfortunately, ARTICLE 3. a. of the NCAA football rules states, “Players of opposing teams shall wear jerseys of contrasting colors, and the visiting team shall wear white jerseys.” However, Carroll indicated he would be willing to lose two timeouts during the game (one per half) so that the USC team could wear their dark jerseys for today’s game. But through
the grace of God some common sense by the NCAA Rules Committee, and the cooperation of new UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, the Trojans will only lose one timeout, and the color vs. color of yesteryear is renewed.
This rivalry is always big, but it used to be bigger. Oftentimes, a Rose Bowl birth was at stake for the winner. This year, unless the Bruins can somehow pull off a major upset, USC will be heading to the Rose Bowl. Back in the day when both teams wore their home jerseys, there were some terrific games (USC leads the all-time series 42-28, with 7 ties), including one game in 1967 called by some, “The Game of the Century,” featuring some guy who’s not likely to be in attendance today.
Of course, the game will feature the usual sideline attractions, and marching bands. No doubt a few famous alumni and some hollywood types will also be in attendance. But the big story for this day will be the return to the color on color uniforms so long missing from the game.
Let’s hope the NCAA (and maybe the pro game as well) will see success in this experiment and let teams wear something other than a white jersey (whether they be home or away). It’s been done before, with varying degrees of success in the college game this year. And even in the NFL, we’ve seen how good color vs. color can look.
So what about the Hemingway reference in the title? Well, that’s part of the tradition of the rivalry. The winner gets the Victory Bell, which is painted in either Bruin blue or Trojan red after the game and remains with the victor until the next year’s game.
So, Uni Watchers, color versus color: Good or bad? Can it work? College and/or pros? Let’s hear what you think.
“We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.” — John McKay, former USC Head Coach
Notes & Asides: • Happy 38th Birthday to JTH! •• Army vs. Navy (CBS, noon EST) has extreme potential to be the worst uni matchup of the week, possibly the season ••• If you’re a member of the UW Hockey Wing and want to help critique the new NHL third sweaters, drop me (phecken[at]yahoo.com) a line.
Uni-news & Pics: Seattle Sounders modelled their official unis…Mr. Fake Stirrups is hanging up his spikes for good…That is a tail, right?…The Wizards broke out their “Zephyrs” (more info here) unis last night against the Lake Show.