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Black Jerseys: Okay for Football, Bad for Basketball?

It’s a double standard ’cause it’s twice as true.

Well, it looks like the black football jerseys are here to stay.  Many are excited, many don’t care for them, but regardless, we can anticipate seeing them a few times in the upcoming season.  Meanwhile, as we anticipate the upcoming basketball season, seeing Cal’s squad wearing black jerseys is never something that even crosses our minds.  Black jerseys in basketball simply haven’t ever been a legitimate option, even though they seem to have been a hit for football.  So why are black jerseys accepted for the football team, but not the basketball team?

Different Objectives

It would be preaching to the choir to tell you all that Kentucky basketball has a little bit of tradition.  In fact, according to many, like the Sagarin rankings, Kentucky has the most college basketball tradition of any team in the nation.  When you have that sort of pedigree, your team’s only goal is to win while representing your school in a positive way.  Last year’s team did that perfectly.  But when it comes to representing your school, the scrutiny is a little higher, and the rules are a little stricter.  As the University’s most visible entity, the men’s basketball team has to be a bastion for the school in a way that no other program does.  As such, it’s entirely appropriate to limit them to wearing only blue and white.  Those are the school colors, and as the school’s most visible representatives, it’s something of a responsibility to wear those colors as part of the tradition of the team.

Remember when the boys wore those “platinum” jerseys that Nike promoted?  I don’t know of many people who wanted to see those more often through the season.  That’s partly because they looked goofy, but also because matte grey simply isn’t our school color.  Black would undoubtedly look cooler, but the principle is the same.

The football team, meanwhile, has a different task.  Naturally, both teams are interested in winning, but let’s be real: they have to use different approaches.  While the basketball team’s task is to preserve tradition, the football team does everything they can to generate excitement.  People will sell out Rupp Arena regardless of what color the jerseys are.  A blackout in football does a lot to create buzz and sell tickets.  According to Joker Phillips, via UKAthletics, just before the unveiling of the black jerseys:

“Anything that we can do to generate some excitement is good,” Phillips said. “I think there will be more excitement if we are making plays in those black uniforms. We explained to them that these uniforms don’t make plays and that the players wearing them have to prepare themselves and have the right attitude.”

For a while, even before the football team donned the black jerseys, we wondered if they were a fleeting idea, or something that would stick.  With the jerseys for this year released (and the option to wear them available on NCAA 13), it looks like they’re going to stick around.  Agree?  Disagree?  Regardless, it has the potential to get people excited.  For football, excited = good.

Mr. Wildcat

People outside the program may have forgotten that Kentucky basketball has worn a black jersey before; in fact, they did it before the football team did.  The reasons, though, were very different.  When Bill Keightley passed in 2008, the team decided to wear black jerseys in his memory, each with his name on the back.  Because the affectionately named “Mr. Wildcat” was so important to so many teams, the tribute was entirely appropriate.  Re-introducing the black jerseys for basketball, when the only other time they’ve appeared is for that tribute, would diminish the significance of that gesture.

Would black jerseys be disrespectful?  Not necessarily.  But why not leave it was what it was: a touching, symbolic act for an important member of the team.  Throwing on black jerseys now would cheapen it, even just a little bit, and that’s not something that sounds very appealing.

What has lots of significance for basketball, though, doesn’t apply for the football team.  The black jerseys for football are completely without that stigma, and there’s no sentimental reason not to use them.


So is it fair to think that the black jerseys are fine for football, but not okay for basketball?  The expectations for the teams are different, and they have to use different approaches to satisfy their goals.  For basketball, maintaining tradition is the number one priority.  Staying “atop the mountain of college basketball,” as Cal put it.  Football, though, has to generate excitement.  Love them or hate them, black jerseys are exciting.  The two separate aims of the teams probably justify black jerseys for one, but not necessarily the other.  Fair?  Maybe not.  Reality?  Well, just don’t expect to see Kyle Wiltjer in black this season.

Article written by Corey Nichols

45 Comments for Black Jerseys: Okay for Football, Bad for Basketball?

  1. Head Bussa
    9:04 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I certainly wouldn’t mind a game or two in black uniforms for the basketball team. It’s no big deal because, in the end, they are just clothes. I don’t really care either way, though.

  2. barn
    9:04 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    nothin’ but the Blue and White for basketball. i still remember the traumatic denim unis. they showed up like carolina blue on tv. don’t mess with our colors

  3. barn
    9:07 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    1–you sir have no esprit de corps

  4. Pabloco
    9:09 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I agree that wearing black for basketball would cheapen the Keightly night. I thought it was a great way to honor the man. Also, no more platinum, denim or other cutesy uniform choices.

  5. Big Blue 66
    9:11 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    do whatever makes our players excited…….1958 called, they want their old time dogmatic thought process back

  6. Youth
    9:12 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Again with many UK fans not understanding how I operate. In my eyes, alternate uniforms are sweet. Bring in Drake, bring in alternates. All follows the same logic, suckas.

  7. bill
    9:14 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Its usually the old timers that whine about the jerseys, like its about them or something

  8. Jones Returns
    9:16 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    One program needs gimmicks, the other does not…that’s why

  9. Head Bussa
    9:16 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    They won the national championship in denim. They could wear that anytime they want as long as they win it all.

  10. ukjonny8
    9:16 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    7- Right on point.

  11. Head Bussa
    9:18 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    3 — I certainly do, but I don’t think it our tradition and institution is based on uniforms.

  12. ukjonny8
    9:18 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I liked the black, the platinum, and even the silver ones we wore about 10 years ago against Michigan St. Its just something different that would only happen a few games a year that the players always seem to enjoy.

  13. Johnny Cash
    9:19 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I am an old fogey at the age of 32. I don’t like the black in any sport. But I can stomach it in football because they are trying to generate some excitement in the program. Basketball doesn’t need that. And do we really want to follow in the footsteps of Duke? I mean, I know those guys are really cool and all, but…

  14. ukjonny8
    9:20 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    2- Yes I remember like 2,000 people across the state had fatal hear attacks when they debuted. Only they didnt. Just a few crusty old timers that b*tched about them.

  15. JayCee
    9:22 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Steak sauce on bologna.

    Count me as one who’d rather just see some decent football instead of being wooed with bright lights and shiny colors.

  16. barn
    9:22 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    go big black/denim/platinum/neon. yeah i guess there’s no tradition with blue and white

  17. UK Fan
    9:23 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    The last time UK basketball wore black jerseys was not to pay tribute to Keightley but going into the SEC Tourney that year, Billy G wanted the players to get excited for the game because that was their only option to make it to the NCAA Tourney, which I am sure everyone remembers us losing. So I am not with you on that it would cheapen our symbolic act towards Keightley cause I would rather let a team that has a chance to win a national title represent that symbolic act of wearing black in tribute than us going out in such a terrible way and ending one of the longest active streaks in the NCAA at the time.

  18. Musehobo
    9:24 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    This is simple. We don’t need to do anything different in basketball. We’re the hottest school in the country right now. People see black jerseys as a charm. When your already at the top, the only kind of charm you can have is a bad luck charm. In football, we will take what we can get. Plus it doesn’t help that the black football jerseys are sweet, and the basketball ones leave something to be desired.

  19. adsf
    9:26 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Good article, Corey. That’s more like it!

  20. Youth
    9:26 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    All this talk of tradition is making me sleepy…

  21. Dougm68
    9:26 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    The blacks don’t look good. Stick with the checkerboard design with the blues and white. Better yet, let’s just get #9.

  22. ukjonny8
    9:26 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    16- I bet you think the team should still be wearing daisy duke shorts for their tradition too, dont ya?

  23. Head Bussa
    9:27 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    16 — Last time I checked the black, denim, and platinum uniforms had blue and white on them in some form. I’m not saying forget about the school colors, I’m just saying our championships, memorable seasons, players, coaches, and fans are a lot more integral to our tradition than what the uniforms looked like.

  24. Upton
    9:27 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Just don’t go all retro and bring back the short shorts.

  25. JayCee
    9:31 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    23- I think if it were even halfway original, or even if UK weren’t the very last school to do the black jerseys thing, more people would be down.

    As it is, it’s just a sad, tired and played out gimmick.

    Just win. Play dress-up after the games.

  26. Mike Ranney
    9:35 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Black is just wrong for either team. Stick with Blue and White which is where our loyalties lie. Next thing you know people will be wanting some form of red in our uniforms. Faget about it!

  27. Bubba Earl
    9:45 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Why don’t we ask Jay-Z, Drake or P-Diddy to keep our colors, but design an entirely different jersey!

  28. Duuuuuude
    9:46 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Winning gets me excited……not jersey colors.

  29. UK
    9:49 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    u seriously have nothing better to write about than this? you’d have to be seriously bored to read that

  30. Computer Blue
    9:51 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    My opinion is that any team can use black, white, or gray even if it’s not their school colors.

  31. Honky Kong
    10:04 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Might as well…UK threw traditional uniforms for both sports out the window a long time ago.

  32. LeX
    10:09 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Those grey uni’s that uk wore this year were pretty fly so I dont know what youre talking about there. How much of a child do you need to he to not allow the occasionally cool looking jersey? Black and blue make a really clean color combo and our boys would look like badasses. If it looks cool and is mostly related, whats the problem?

  33. Really??
    10:17 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Why don’t we wear black jerseys once a year to honor Keightley with his name on the back. I think that would be a good tribute.

  34. ike
    10:33 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I dont know about anyone else, but black jerseys put me in mind of Billy Gillispie. That should be enough said

  35. bourbonbelly
    10:36 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I like how you think 33. That would be the best of both worlds–keeps the tradition alive and gives the players a jersey to get excited about.


  36. blueone
    10:48 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Black Bball uniforms look like San Antonio Spurs jerseys. and those are the worst uniforms in the NBA

  37. CATS
    10:53 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    18.) Or you could also say the only place to go is down. You have to stay fresh or people will forget about you. We need to chop off the blue hair’s lifeless cold dead hands. If anyone hasnt noticed our tradition hasn’t necessarily won us number 8. If it wasn’t for Cal pumping some new life into the program recruits wouldn’t give two shits about our blue and white tradition. We have to be fresh or the moths will settle in.

    New Flash! It is not about the fans…….we do not put the ball in the hoop……

  38. CATS
    10:53 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    36.) Yeah toronto’s are so much better

  39. Travis Ford's Jersey
    10:57 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    The point about wearing the black uniforms only once in basketball is wrong. We wore them again in the NIT game at Memorial, although they didn’t have Keightley on the back of the jersey.

  40. Big Blue B-Rad
    11:23 am August 21, 2012 Permalink

    34) Amen. I would prefer to pretend those two years never happened.

  41. Wes
    12:04 pm August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Doing something once is a tribute doing something occasionally or often is a gimmick. I thought the tribute was touching but if we did this yearly it would become a gimmick.

  42. playersfan
    1:35 pm August 21, 2012 Permalink

    What is wrong with just wearing KY blue! Gray, black and other colors just not it, even for fans. When you see a sea of blue, it does things. In Atlanta, SEC tournament Blue opens doors, because when KY is not there, the jobs, tips, and financial incentives go away, not even mentioning what a sea of blue does for the team.

  43. participant
    2:02 pm August 21, 2012 Permalink

    A uniform is not only clothing, it also represents something, in this case UK. Blue and white colors are a symbol.

    Or we could just change the colors on the US flag periodically, you know, to keep it fresh.

  44. Kyle
    5:02 pm August 21, 2012 Permalink

    I think jerseys go hand-in-hand with tradition. Our football team has none, so they can do whatever they want, and need to do so in order to attract recruits, fans, etc.

    Our basketball team is all about tradition and we have a traditional “look” and uniforms that are a classic. Our colors are blue and white. We don’t have hideous uniforms like Marquette or like what UofL wore at the end of the year. It is the same thing as football schools that have tradition like Alabama. Keep the traditional look.

    How many times have we worn the black basketball uniforms? 2 or 3 times and all under Gillespie? I know we wore them once and then they brought them back for the SEC Tournament, which I think we lost that game.

    I could live with a black (or non-blue and white) uniform ONCE a year in basketball, but that is the maximum. In my opinion nothing looks better than our blue uniforms.

  45. Boomer48
    9:41 pm August 21, 2012 Permalink

    They wore the black more than once that year!! Remember the SEC Tourney?