Monday, January 11, 2016

Is Black the new Red for Wolfpack athletics?

Tuning in on TV to watch last Thursday’s home basketball game against Louisville, I encouraged the team wearing white uniforms to score and to play aggressive defense. My wife soon explained my team, the NC State Wolfpack, was wearing black. Louisville, the visiting team, was wearing white, a reversal of typical garb for college basketball. Home teams are usually in white (or a light color); visitors are in a team color other than white.

In addition to the confusing moment and the uneasy feeling the color selection offered throughout the game, the use of black uniforms simply looked awful! It was sacrilege of sorts. Unfortunately, NC State’s use of colors other than red and white in recent years has not been limited to basketball. In football last fall, Syracuse came to Raleigh to play a home team (the Wolfpack) decked from helmet to footwear in gray. And, in the Belk Bowl, "home team" Mississippi State was in its traditional maroon jerseys and helmets and gray pants, all team colors. My alma mater, NC State, wore black pants, white jerseys and black helmets. Where on the field was the Red and White Wolfpack?

There are many positives about college traditions, but, for some reason, recent Wolfpack athletics invaders who determine uniform colors have strayed from the Wolfpack’s longtime traditional red and white. And, the change has not been limited to colors. When Dick Sheridan was hired in 1986 to coach football, he changed the school’s traditional block “S” logo to a logo in the shape of a diamond to copy the logo he had at Furman. School traditionalists didn’t like it but Sheridan was successful on the field so he got his way, and the block “S” was tossed aside for all sports. At least he stuck with red and white uniforms.

When Sheridan left after seven seasons, basketball coach and eventual athletics director Les Robinson, a NC State alum and traditionalist, returned the men’s basketball program to the block “S” (with a smaller “N” and “C” embedded in the “S”). When Wolfpack alum Chuck Amato took over the football program in 2000, the block “S” logo returned to Carter-Finley Stadium with him. Thank goodness for Les and Chuck. About the only “odd” uniform change over the years, prior to the current football and basketball proprietors, was the football team wearing solid red uniforms, or switching the helmet from red to white and from white to red, but for full seasons.

NC State traditions have included the nickname Cow College, an affectionate salute to our College of Agriculture, an important part of the University’s founding. It’s understandable in today’s high tech world at State of the desire to downplay Cow College. The marching and pep bands no longer concludes football and basketball games with the playing of “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” But if getting away from our roots is so important to some, why did the University name its ice cream “Howling Cow?” Isn't that just a louder version of saying “Moo U!”

The University has many great traditions, and it creates more as the years go by. A recently installed tradition on the State campus is lighting the Memorial Bell Tower in a red glow for special reasons, such as winning a big game. Maybe the administration should consider using black lights instead or turning off the spotlights all together to give it that black tone if indeed Black is the new Red at NC State.

Last Thursday’s basketball game uniform situation was so confusing that, at one point, a Louisville player was substituted out and headed to the NC State bench instead of to the Cardinals’ bench where his team was wearing white uniforms. The player seemed embarrassed as he walked the length of the court behind the scorer’s table to return to his team. Easy mistake to make, huh?

Traditions are important to colleges and universities. One basic tradition at NC State is red and white team colors, not black or gray, no matter what the players may desire to wear. The color of the uniform will not make them play any better and it could be detrimental. The reason for standardizing team colors is for recognition—quick, what are Penn State’s colors; how about Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky, Southern Cal?—something not evident with NC State against Louisville last week.

If the use of colors other than red and white continues at NC State, then it’s time to re-write the Wolfpack fight song: We’re the Red and White and Black and Gray from State and we know we are the best. And, should the NC State Alumni Association change its blog title from Red & White for Life to Red & White & Black & Gray for Life?

Traditions matter, especially the Red and White tradition at NC State. If the Wolfpack wants to make a #Statement, winning is of utmost importance. Using only Red and  White uniforms is a close second.
Post Script: Sunday night at Wake Forest, the Wolfpack wore the traditional road red jerseys and shorts. The results of the game were the same as the first two conference gamesa loss. If it's any consolation, State looked a lot better losing this time than it did against Louisville. Hopefully, when the Wolfpack visits North Carolina later this week, we'll be wearing RED!
Thanks to the many loyal Wolfpack faithful who have read this post and who agree with my take. The comments below are just a few. I've heard from many more via email and telephone calls. NC State is the Red & White, and we should not deviate from it. But one man's opinion carries little weight. 

  • If you want to make a difference, then you need to put pressure on the Department of Athletics to right its wrong and return all team uniforms to combinations of Red & White only! If you want to make a difference, you need to contact Athletics Director Debbie Yow. email:; office phone 919-515-2109. Tell her RED & WHITE...ONLY!
  • You can also tell the NCSU Board of Trustees to take action, to limit our athletics teams to Red & White uniforms. Send your email to PJ Teal, Secretary of the University, at who will forward your comments to the full BOT.