Should Penn State Redesign Its Football Uniforms?

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Uni Watch Blog readers were recently asked whether Penn State’s response to the sex abuse scandal should include a redesign of the school’s iconic football uniforms. The responses were split fairly evenly. Comments from readers in favor of changing the uniforms are shown in blue; those are in favor of keeping the current design are shown in black. — Paul Lukas

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“I really hate to say this, because I’ve been wanting Penn State to change uniforms for years. But in light of this whole situation, I think they shouldn’t be allowed to change. Giving the team a uniform makeover makes it that much easier to sweep this whole thing under the proverbial rug. Their current boring uniforms will be forever linked to this scandal, and I’m not so sure that they should be able to get away from it so quickly. It really should be a dark cloud hanging over them for at least a few seasons. I can understand the idea of ‘new era, new uniforms, fresh start,’ but that only works if every single person involved ends up in jail first.” — Jeff Provo

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“The uniforms at Penn State are a significant part of the brand and are recognized everywhere for their simple yet classic look. Unfortunately, they are extension of Joe Paterno and will be a constant reminder of him if they remain in place. It is time for a change: a stripe on the pants, a logo on a blue helmet, and piping on the jerseys. The logo cannot be one that is associated with the program today.” — Jason Schubert

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“The basic design of the PSU uniform has persisted since the late ’30s to early ’40s. A dramatic shift away from that aesthetic, regardless of the impetus, would break the link the program has with its entire past — good and bad. Nobody is going to suddenly forget about this ordeal overnight, and we shouldn’t try to sanitize what’s happened. Over time, the strong negative connotation we have associated with PSU’s football team will diminish, but we shouldn’t try to drown it out completely because this should be a potent lesson learned moving forward for everyone. So PSU should remain cosmetically the same, even if it means carrying a powerful, dreadful connotation in the near term.” — John D. Russell

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“The plain jersey, adorned only with numbers, was supposed to represent the program — one for all, hard work, a no-frills commitment to winning the right way. Well, that imagery has been exposed as a myth. So given that, I’m all for exploring alternatives. I’m not saying go all Nike Pro Combat, but let’s consider starting some new traditions. The old ones aren’t worth celebrating anymore anyway.” — Mike Wissman

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“They should not change them. What good would it do? It would only be a change for the sake of change. It is not helping anyone. The victims won’t feel comforted because the team looks different, and it would just be running/hiding from what happened.” — Mike Viola

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“The Penn State uni should be changed, since the traditional white and navy have been so long tied to the school and Joe Paterno’s legacy. The branding that was Penn State has now been ruined and the school should jump on the bandwagon with more progressive unis. Phil Knight’s close ties to Paterno should allow for some top-notch design work. PSU may not be able to go fully Oregon with their design, but they should begin a new branding campaign that seeks to identify their institution with the future and not the past.” — Mike Weston

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“Penn State needs to rethink everything in its look and feel. The plain uniforms are a Paterno trademark, just like the houndstooth hat was Bear Bryant’s. So a new look — maybe even a full-on Nike treatment — might be in order, to signal a change.” Mike McGann

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“I think the classy thing to do here is to not make any huge change to the uniform. The university should add just the blue ribbon patch that reads, “Prevent Child Abuse” to the uniform.” — Kevin Dorsey

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“This is a clear opportunity for Penn State football to make a symbolic break from the past while still tapping into their rich history and traditions. The oval Nittany Lion logo should be added to the helmets, and perhaps to the upper part of the jersey sleeves. Nothing jarringly different, but a clear statement that the page is being turned.” — Michael Harris

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“One change only: Reverse the blue and the white on the helmet, so it’s a blue helmet with a white stripe. Very subtle, but it says it all. Still extremely conservative as PSU has always been, but a complete reversal, going in a new direction.” — Pete Clark

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“Changing the PSU football uniform is a proper response. The uniforms represent a history, a tradition, a bygone age. … Now that the Freeh Report has exposed the full depths of the Sandusky situation, I think it’s best for Penn State to modernize the way they handle football, and part of that means putting a logo on the helmet and revamping the uniforms.” — Joseph Curran

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“They definitely should do something different, yet relatively conservative. Definitely a logo on the helmet, probably some more stripes on the jersey. Something that still looks like Penn State.” — Mike Engle

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“Changing the uniforms would be pointless. Sandusky did not wear the uniform, he did not dress his victims in the uniform (as far as I know), and the uniform was unrelated to the crimes. If the team plays, it will be Penn State no matter what uniform the players are wearing.” — Robert Eden

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“The Penn State uniforms have always been about tradition. This link between the uniforms and tradition is exactly the reason why I think they need to make a change — a drastic change. The Penn State program used to symbolize everything that was right about college sports, but as we have come to see, they used the power of this symbol to cover up and turn a blind eye while unthinkable crimes were taking place to protect this myth.” — Mike Hall

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“Changing the uniform is not going to change what happened. But at the same time, the uniform is so associated with Paterno that you can’t look at it and not be reminded. I think ultimately this is a decision that the Penn State community needs to make for itself.” — Joshua Snow Hansen

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“I don’t know what the correct punishment for Penn State is, but changing the uniforms seems pointless. How does that help anyone involved?” — David Mynatt

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“I’m a Penn Stater, so this whole mess is really tough for me. … I’m not sold on the idea of completely revising everything Joe Paterno did over the last 40-plus years as head coach, but Penn State can certainly revert to the style of the mid-’60s — before Paterno became coach — without their uniforms looking too anachronistic. If anything, that approach is would be better than modernizing or rebranding PSU into another Oregon.” — Jason Torban

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“I think the uniforms should remain the same. They are classic. The scandal is horrible. Changing or keeping the uniforms does nothing to change that. People will remember what happened and should remember it. The uniforms do not matter one bit in regard to the scandal.” — Gerry Dincher

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“Changing the uniforms would be — what’s the word I’m looking for here? — dumb.” — Jarrod Leder

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“No change to the uni. Changing would look like some kind hollow ‘Oh, we’ll just rebrand ourselves and that will fix everything.’ Or like they’re in disguise to escape recognition. No Joe Paterno memorial patch, either. His role in the whole thing is, at the moment, sinister. And until that’s cleared up one way or the other, best to avoid it.” — Rick Pearson

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“They should not change the uniforms. Making a kid wear a blue ribbon on his helmet for something he did not do is like hanging a scarlet letter on a child born out of wedlock. It’s not the kid’s fault.” — David Kenrick

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“Changing the uniform will just generate publicity for a school that quietly needs to go about the process of fixing, reorganizing, and healing. There doesn’t to be any more media publicity than absolutely necessary.” — Paul Stave

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“The student-athletes who will be representing the school whenever the football program plays again aren’t a part of this tragedy, and I worry that putting them into a different uniform that somehow represents this tragedy would be akin to hanging a red ‘A’ around their necks. … Many of them will have to live with the stigma of having played for Penn State for a long time. I don’t think that changing a uniform, which will only be worn by students who had no involvement in the situation, is a decent way to pay respect to the victims, nor is it fair for the student-athletes to be forced to be the spokesmen of the tragedy on behalf the university.” — Sean Deitrick

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“Penn State is famous for not putting the players’ names on the jerseys. ‘We all play for the team, the group.’ Well, you all kept secrets to protect the team. So they should put names on the back of the jersey, to show the importance of individual responsibility. And maybe a small ‘child protection services’ type of sticker on the helmet, in honor of the victims of child abuse.” — Timothy Tryjankowski

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“Joe Paterno was hired as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950, so they should adopt the uniform set that preceded Joe Paterno’s first design change, as a way of reminding the public that this university was around before Joe Paterno and will be around long after he’s gone.” — Colin

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“I think Penn State should change their football uniforms in response to the scandal, but only by adding a small symbol of some sort — a band, a ribbon, a small helmet decal, etc. — to remember the victims. I think a wholesale change to the uniform would be akin to whitewashing the history books.” — Lucas Grishaber

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“Add a ribbon to the helmets this year and then just redo the whole set for next year, maybe. Changing the navy to black for homecoming would be a nice touch. Not really sure what kind of changes going forward — maybe just add numbers to helmet, an extra stripe or two to the jerseys. I think they should keep it low-key as an homage to their on-field past but change things enough to break away from their off-field past.” — Skott Daltonic

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“Normally, I’m a fan of a traditional look for college football, and really for all sports. In this case, though, Penn State’s football program has shown its age by allowing such behavior to exist and remain over the past few decades. With that in mind, I would strongly suggest finding a new, more modern look, simply to show that the football program and the rest of the university is ready to make changes and show they’re not stuck in the past. I don’t think it’s an issue of trying to distance themselves from the scandal, but to show they’re willing to change and move forward.” — William Sour

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“Changing the uniform is a stupid idea. Penn State has some of the cleanest, classiest, best unis in all of football, college or pro. Changing that wouldn’t change a thing regarding what happened. And what would they change to, anyway? There isn’t any amount of rebranding that will make people forget what happened. Penn State could come out in bright pink unis with the words ‘We’re sorry for allowing so many lives to be ruined,’ and it wouldn’t make anyone forget.” — Sean Robbins

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“I absolutely believe Penn State should change their football uniforms in light of the Paterno/Sandusky scandal. I don’t believe they should (or will) go to the Oregon extreme with their designs and style, but most college football fans associate their current bland uniform with Paterno and his era. At the very least, PSU should add the lion’s head logo to the helmets. Heck, they’ve gone after numerous high schools for copyright infringement to protect a logo they don’t even wear. Use it!” — Jeff Behry

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“Penn State’s uniforms are pretty iconic, and that could be a very powerful symbol of change — as long as it’s a good change. Going Nike Pro Combat would be too in your face. I think flipping the colors may be just right. A seemingly small but powerful change.” — Duncan Wilson

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“The uniforms already looked this way before Paterno (with the exception of some stripes here and there). I think they should stay that way after.” — Mike Wilson

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“The uniforms should not change. They have the advantage of being nameless, so they can be re-inhabited. … I think trying to remake the school’s image with a new uniform is in many ways too easy.” — Daniel Listoe

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“The Penn State uniforms are timeless. Would we expect the Cowboys or Yankees to change their uniforms if this scandal had involved Jones or Steinbrenner? PSU football needs to keep its identity, especially now that Paterno is gone. Forget about a black memorial ribbon for Joe, what about a ribbon for the victims? The family/friends/fans of Penn State are already going through enough. They need to see blue and white on the field.” — Adam Triesler

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“I don’t think, under any circumstances, that the uniforms should be changed. Yes, the evidence thus far obliterates Paterno’s legacy and tarnishes everything he allegedly stood for, but it does not tarnish the ideals he failed to uphold. To the small extent that the plain, nameless, selfless uniforms that he dressed his players in represent him, they also represent those greater ideals. … Now, more than ever, the team should stand together as a faceless, anonymous group of young men dedicated to playing not for themselves, but For the Glory of Old State, and they’re already perfectly dressed for the occasion..” — Adam Knor

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“Black is typically a color for mourning. Unfortunately, black uniforms have already been overdone in far too many places. Penn State already has no player names on the jerseys, so removing anything that calls attention to individuals is not possible. The Sandusky scandal can’t be blamed on the players, anyway. I’m thinking a simple logo, along the lines of never forgetting, supporting the victims of Sandusky, and all sexual abuse victims, would be the answer. — Tom Mulgrew

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“Penn State should permanently add a blue ribbon for victims of sexual assault.” — Stephen Lownsbury

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“I think that they have to change them. Any attempt to keep this program operational has to come by distancing themselves from the past. Keeping a ‘tradition’ that included the horrid things going on in that athletic department is just asking for history to repeat itself. The team needs a fresh start. I would get Nike on the phone and tell them to go to town. Some new futuristic uniforms would get people talking about Penn State in a way that doesn’t include the past regime, and would give new recruits something to get excited about.” — Brandon Schwartz

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“My two cents: Change the helmet stripe from blue to black. Nothing else needs to change. It’s a simple statement if mourning for Paterno, the victims, for the failures of the university leadership and the program. By making the change to the helmet, you alter an iconic piece of the university in a very public way to acknowledge the events. — Ross Hazlett

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“I vote no memorial or changes to the uniform at all. Any memorial of any sort will inevitably be seen as a JoePa memorial, and he does not deserve that, after what’s come out in the reports. At this time, the right thing is for
Penn Sate to shut up and take their lumps.” — Christopher Falvey

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“I don’t favor Penn State changing their uniforms for the same reason I don’t favor the removal of the Joe Paterno statue from outside the stadium: They should be kept as a reminder of what can happen when a man is elevated to idol status and a football program is given carte blanche to do whatever it pleases. Remove the statue, change the uniforms, change the colors, build a new stadium — all of that attempts to whitewash what happened. Own it. Make penance for it. But never forget and never try to run from it.” — Ryan Mallon

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“Add a patch, black with white text: ‘JoePa.’ We mourn the dead, it’s that simple. Add an armband on the left sleeve — two thick horizontal stripes, pink over baby blue, the two colors we generally associate with children. Could say ‘Prevent Child Abuse’ or something similar.” — Adam Schecter

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“There’s nothing special about the PSU uniforms currently. So if you change that design and keep the same colors, it doesn’t accomplish much. In my opinion, if they wanted to change the brand, they would need to change the school colors. I feel that would be a complete rebranding and would allow them to move away from this and in a totally different direction. If they did that, then they could mess with the uniforms and add other design elements.” — Jerome McDonnell

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“I don’t believe that you should ever live your life defined by a tragedy, whether it’s the World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina, cancer, or, yes, even a huge child molestation scandal. I realize that Sandusky was an evil man and that the cover-up was just as shameful, but that’s no reason to change a uniform. The uniform of Penn State stands for more than an evil man who harmed children and the men that covered it up. If you change it now in the light of recent events, then that will always be a marker of when you allowed a horrible tragedy define who you are.” — Pat West

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“Should we change the uniforms? Absolutely. Initially it will be met with resistance, like every other necessary change here at Penn State since November. But in order to progress, we need to let go of the past. … Change the uniforms to all black, for the victims we mourn. Their lives have been changed in horrible ways, and for anyone beyond those victims to claim offense or persecution is abhorrent. Black helmet, Black jersey, black pants. White numbers to remind everyone that the student in the uniform isn’t the villian. I think that point needs to be driven home for those not on campus. The students aren’t the villains; they are just confused and upset.” — Nicholas Popczun

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“I believe Penn State should change the uniform The current uni is a stark example of tradition at the highest level. In this case, Penn State tradition has been tainted. The tradition was Joe Paterno. He is and was Penn State. Penn State should no longer focus on tradition in any form in terms of football on. Therefore, everything connected to football in any way will need an overhaul and a refresh. The only way the football program will survive is if the focus shifts from tradition to cutting edge, modern, and changing. Maybe something similar to Oregon.” — Michael Johnson

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“I can go either way with most aspects of the uniform, but what I absolutely think they should change is the cleat color. They have worn black cleats for years and years because Paterno thought it made you look slower. As the story goes, he wanted the team to appear slow on film so that on game day other teams would be surprised by their speed. I think a change to white cleats (or white with blue stripes, or whatever) would be a nice way to ‘cleanse’ themselves of a pretty specific influence.” — Ted Bloss

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“I think Penn State probably should change their uniforms in response to the scandal, even if they are gradual changes over a couple years. The first thing that needs to change is the helmet. The plain white helmet is so synonymous with Paterno that something needs to be done, even if it’s just adding the Nittany Lion logo. Another option would be blue pants on the away uniform.” — Kyle Martinek

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“No way! Things are very bad in Happy Valley right now, but this is one tradition that has to remain.” — Dave Rakowski

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“I believe that Penn State should most certainly keep their traditional uniforms. Add a one-year commemoration of the victims, perhaps, but nothing major. I’m not sure I see a reason why changing the uniforms would help.” — Jon McCue

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“I tend to think that people should not be defined by the bad things they do. I wouldn’t wear a shirt saying “I [fill in the worst thing I've ever done].” It’s sort of like a scarlet letter, which is more about shame and the self-righteousness of those who don’t wear it. The uniform predates and postdates Paterno, so I just don’t see the point.” — Caleb Borchers

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“My vote is for the changing of the brand of Penn State football, and that includes the uniforms. Why not mark this time at the school as an important date? To this day, I cannot drive by my hometown church, let alone step in, because it is where we had the funeral services for a close family member. The sight of it brings back the pain and loss. I imagine that the uniform worn by the Nittany Lions would do the same for those affected. This is an opportunity for the school to show the country that they are changing, and looking to the future.” — Logan Light

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“The Penn State football team should absolutely not change their uniform design, because no Penn State uniform ever abused a child, or covered up child abuse, or turned a blind eye to child abuse. Much needs to change about the way Penn State does business, but changing the team’s uniforms as a response to the tragedy, or even as part of a response, would be insultingly inadequate.” — Zach Hoover

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“The uniforms might be the easiest, most visible and most powerful sign that Penn State is ‘changing the culture,’ so I would go to Nike, let them have at the design of the football uniforms, and cross my fingers. One other good thing can come out of it: The players at Penn State have really been yanked around because of something Sandusky and these administrators did, and now these players are hearing about how Penn State football is evil and deserving of the death penalty. So involving the players in a uniform redesign could be a good way to give the players a voice in a situation over which they’ve had no control.” — Michael Rogers

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“While changing the uniforms might be a nice symbolic gesture to erase the past, I think it would cause more problems than it would solve, with people falling into two camps: those who don’t think anything short of shuttering the team would be an effective gesture, and those who don’t want to eliminate everything from the past.” — Andrew Jobe

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“If they go with a new look now, the new design will always be the uniform that was created because of the Sandusky scandal. … Perhaps one day, such a change may allow for a clean break from this dark chapter in the university’s history, but a change now would only magnify the situation, not dampen it.” — Michael Rich

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“Yes, Penn State should have to change their uniforms. The old, plain unis claimed to represent an upstanding, honest program. We now know this wasn’t the case. So they should be forced to change their uniforms to something so garish that Maryland and Oregon would blush.” — Keith Friedman