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Steven M. Sipple: As long as Moos is in charge at NU, you won't see alternate uniforms often
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Steven M. Sipple: As long as Moos is in charge at NU, you won't see alternate uniforms often

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The alternate uniform 2019

Nebraska will wear black tops for Saturday's game against Indiana.

Bill Moos leans forward in his big leather chair as he recalls those gaudy lightning-yellow uniforms.

He loves this stuff. Loves college football to death. He was Oregon's athletic director in 2003 when the Ducks, who already had begun to shift the paradigm on uniform use, turned the concept up a notch.

Oregon unveiled blazing yellow uniforms -- green helmets, the rest of the outfit bright yellow -- for its opener in 2003 at Mississippi State. The uniforms looked like highlighters. They were god-awful. I told Moos that this week, and he just leaned back and laughed that booming laugh.

That I vividly remember the uniforms all these years later is, well, a victory for Moos.

"We wanted to blow everybody away," he said. 

Bright yellow was the Nike designers' idea. But Moos had to sign off on it. He signed off because he figured the players would like it. Plus, it would garner attention. He smiles as he recalls Mississippi State players turning their heads in warmups as Oregon players emerged on the field. He recalls all the discussion it sparked.

"I was like, 'Hey, the whole country's talking about Oregon football, and not about us cheating. We're innovative. We think outside the lines. And as long as they're talking about Oregon, I like it,'" said Moos, who took over as Nebraska's athletic director two years ago.

Moos liked that Oregon made alternate uniforms a staple of its brand. Nowadays, the Ducks virtually never wear the same uniform twice. But let's be clear on something: Moos doesn't plan to turn Nebraska into the Oregon of the plains as far as uniform use. In fact, he's intent on preserving the Huskers' iconic look, which means he's OK with limited use of alternate uniforms at NU -- very limited use.

"Don't mess with the basic look," he said.

Which is why if any of his coaches, in any sport, want to wear black in a season, it must be approved by Moos and his senior staff.

He's leaning forward in his chair again, intent on making a point.

"This is important," he said. "I firmly believe this: If you're the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Green Bay Packers ... don't mess with your look. They look the same as they did 75 years ago. But when you're an upstart -- the Denver Nuggets, Carolina Panthers,  teams like that -- you have to have some sizzle."

Moos is right on target when he says Nebraska fits in the uniform category of the Celtics, Yankees and Packers. Go ahead and invoke USC, Notre Dame, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State as being among college football teams who also fit the category.

"Don't mess with them," he said of the uniforms, adding, "I mean, I'm not going to walk in here and get red helmets with a cursive 'N.' That's a brand. You don't mess with it."

If you're going to mess with Nebraska's uniforms at all, don't do it often. That's Moos' approach. And that's the right approach. He's OK with Nebraska wearing alternate uniforms against Indiana on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Nobody asked me, but I think the black-and-white uniforms (with red accents) are sharp and classy. Maybe they'll help spark the Huskers. A lot of players absolutely relish alternate uniforms.

"But let's not make a steady habit of it," said Moos, continuing to emphasize his stance. "I think the players look forward to it. I think the fans do. But don't mess with the basic look. Oregon has its own brand. We have ours."

Moos had a similar mindset as Washington State's athletic director from 2010-17. 

"I brought the Nike boys in and we sat at a table," he said. "That's when I used my theme: We're going to honor the past, live the present and create the future. We were not going to mess with the Cougar-head logo. It's 80 years old. I knew the gentleman who sketched it and put it on the door of a pickup truck in the late 1930s or whenever. We're not messing with that."

However, Washington State did change up its uniforms under Moos. But Nebraska isn't Washington State. Moos understands that. He gives this subject a lot of thought. So he gave it a lot of thought when Husker volleyball coach John Cook came to him with the idea of using a black court. Moos initially was hesitant. But he came to believe it was OK to use black a couple times.

"That's probably enough," he said.

He favors the traditional scarlet and cream uniforms. He likes the iconic nature of them. He remembers something Nike founder Phil Knight told him: "You don't need a sign on the Eiffel Tower."

Oregon has its way of doing things with uniforms, and Nebraska has its way.

As long as Moos is sheriff, you won't see much change. And that's a good thing.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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