Orange Watch: Syracuse football uniforms had long, colorful history before Nike

football

Remember when Syracuse wore these all-orange monstrosities during the Greg Robinson era?

(Editor’s note: Beginning this month leading up to the 2015 football preview series in late August, Orange Watch will highlight various antidotes related to Syracuse athletics.)

More than ever over the last decade, with the advent of specific websites and message board communities covering the various aspects of sports uniforms both in explicit detail and around the periphery of the topic, along with the marketing and design splash by the major apparel manufacturers and the organizations, in this case Nike and its long partnership with the SU athletic department donning the orange/blue and sometimes garish garments in multi-million dollar collaborations, the uniforms ‘Cuse athletes wear today makes news and often is a must discussed topic no matter a particular game’s final outcome.

While Syracuse has been in the national uniform spotlight several times over the last year or so, including the complete football makeover in April 2014, SU football program has actually had a very colorful uniform history with its unique primary color of orange.

» Related: What can we expect from Tim Lester’s offense at Syracuse?

During its glory run (six bowls in 13 seasons in which there were only six-seven total games) beginning with the first bowl game appearance in 1952, Syracuse football, like Georgia Tech and LSU today, used to wear white jerseys at home at Archbold stadium. From ‘52-1966, coach Ben Schwatzwalder, with his military background and always looking for an edge, thought white jerseys made his players look bigger, faster and stronger, while he also experimented his first three seasons (1949-51) and in 1958 with an all orange look, to better camouflage the football in the Orangemen’s explosive rushing attack.

In fact, from the national championship season in 1959 through the 1966 campaign, there were only three games in which SU wore its rarely seen blue jerseys, twice against Miami, the 1960 regular season finale at the Orange Bowl, and the 1961 Liberty Bowl at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium, the last game in a Syracuse uniform for Ernie Davis, weeks after he won the Heisman Trophy, and the groundbreaking 1965 Sugar Bowl game against LSU which we wrote about in our last column.

The switch to blue jerseys at home beginning in 1967, oddly enough, came about unexpectedly. Finishing up a home-and-home series against Baylor after having been blitzed 35-12 in 100 degree plus temperatures the year before in Waco, the visiting Bears mistakenly brought their white jerseys north, forcing the Syracuse staff to hurriedly retrieve the blue jerseys from Manley Field House. A 7-0 victory was an omen, and it was blue at home until the first three Frank Maloney seasons (1974-76) when the former Michigan assistant wanted to move away from the Schwartzwalder era with orange jerseys and out-of-place white helmets, before bringing blue jerseys and orange helmets back for essentially the next 28 seasons.

The last time SU wore white at home in football was the ugly 15-7 loss in the 2005 home opener against West Virginia, followed by a shutout win over Buffalo, the unfortunate ushering in of the Greg Robinson era with a throwback theme to the new uniforms that had gone unchanged for so long. SU has also worn orange jerseys (and pants) several times at home during the 2000s, under both Robinson and Paul Pasqualoni, a look that could be duplicated this season with the new Nike orange jerseys part of the 2015 mix.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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