Throughout the 1970s, an epidemic struck sports: Powder blue uniforms. It infected America’s pastime in Chicago, Kansas City and Philadelphia, among other places. So it’s not too surprising that in 1981, members of the Colorado Board of Regents thought powder blue would be great for the school’s football team despite the school colors being silver and gold (no, they aren’t black and gold, despite common belief). What followed is one of the worst uniforms in sports history.
Whether the idea came out of boredom, a need to make more money or just a way to mix things up within the program, Colorado regent Jack Anderson came up with the idea to change the school’s uniforms from gold and black to a light blue and gold. According to Anderson, the blue would represent the “deep blue of Colorado’s sky at 9,000 feet.”
We’re not sure why 9,000 feet was the distance chosen or why anyone bought the idea but on May 28, 1981, the Colorado Board of Regents voted to change the colors.
Instead of a simplistic black jersey topped with a blank gold helmet and black facemask, the Buffaloes ended up with this:
Not only did the new uniforms look ugly, fans complained that they couldn’t see names and numbers on the jerseys clearly.
In black and white photographs and videos for the team, the numbers were so washed out that they became unreadable. Not only were the uniforms causing an inconvenience for fans in the stands, they were also hurting Colorado players and coaches who needed to watch the film.
The team looked like UCLA from afar, but up close the uni was just all wrong. While the Bruins pull off their uniforms quite nicely by using a navy blue on their helmets instead of the powder hue, the Buffaloes made the huge mistake of combining the two on their domes with a powder buffalo, stripe (added in ’82) and facemask that was a complete abomination:
It didn’t help that the team stunk. In the four years the uniforms were used by the school, the Buffaloes won a combined 10 games.
The uniforms became so disliked that in 1984, head coach Bill McCartney – in his second season as the coach – decided to hold black throwback days for the Oklahoma and Nebraska games just to conjure up enthusiasm for the team on campus, much in the same way Notre Dame wears green jerseys on special occasions.
Then on April 24, 1985, Colorado sent out a press release titled “Black is Back.” In it, athletic director Bill Marolt stated he would allow Colorado teams to chose between black and gold or blue and gold uniforms. The football could not have picked black and gold quick enough. Under McCartney, Colorado went on to become a college football power, winning a share of the 1990 national title.
The powder blue uniforms have become so synonymous with losing that during the 2009 season when students wanted to protest the poor performance of the football team, their idea was to wear powder blue to the game in protest. It’s safe to say these uniforms are the least missed in the country.
Coincidentally enough, new head coach Jon Embree actually played at Colorado during two of the powder blue seasons – 1983 and ’84.
Don’t expect him to have a throwback day anytime soon.