Safety isn't guaranteed for tradition. Not even a little bit.
Oklahoma, one of college football's perennial powerhouses, has had a classic uniform that went hand-in-hand with those of Texas, USC, Penn State and Alabama. The Sooners will continue to sport the traditional crimson and cream, but have added an alternate uniform to their wardrobe.
The university released a photos and videos of the new unis, which feature a pair of new helmets, jerseys and pants. It's not a huge departure from the traditional look, and the unis will only be used in a supplementary role, but Oklahoma has nevertheless joined the uniform party.
The reaction on social media has been amazing. Yes, it may be fueled by the offseason, but opinions on the new unis have been polarizing. If nothing else, it gets folks talking about the Sooners in July.
ICYMI: OU unveiled its new alternate uniforms. The helmets are outstanding. The rest are, uh, not great. http://t.co/bnua1MoGaB— David Ubben (@davidubben) July 1, 2014
Nay. RT @Jake_Trotter: OK, thoughts on OU’s new uniforms? Yay or nay?— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 2, 2014
In the end, what matters is that the players love them. And this sort of thing appeals to recruits.
"I think recruits are always excited about uniforms, helmets and any of the looks that you might put on the field," said head coach Bob Stoops in a statement through OU's website. "(The additional uniforms) won’t be something we do constantly, but it will be a nice changeup and will be positive in recruiting, with our players and with our fans.”
Players and recruits simply don't view tradition through the same lens as fans do. Unless a recruit grew up in an Oklahoma household, he probably has little interest in the Bud Wilkinson era of the 1950s. While the unis pay homage to the program's history, the bottom line is they also look sharp.
That's all that really matters to the players.
As George Schroeder of USA Today tweeted, the time has come for other traditional programs to tinker with their threads too.
Penn State, Alabama, Texas, USC (did I miss any? probably) … feels like your time is coming, too - sooner than you think.— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) July 2, 2014
It's not necessarily about abandoning ship on tradition. It's about adapting to what's hot. Alternate uniforms are in, and players from Texas to Minnesota enjoy things that are new and different.
The changes can be subtle, like Alabama's Nike Pro Combat uniforms in 2010, or they can be louder, like Notre Dame's and Michigan's in 2011.
It matters little if a school has a deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas. If programs like Notre Dame or Oklahoma have shown us anything, it's that no classic uniform is safe from change. But, as long as the players like it, that's all that should matter.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.