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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
UGA uniform superstition a tradition

By David Ching
ESPN.com

Little did he know at the time, but Auburn's equipment manager actually helped facilitate the biggest uniform switcheroo in Georgia football history.

Allow Bulldogs director of athletic equipment John Meshad to explain.

It was the morning of the 2007 Georgia-Auburn game and Meshad had driven a huge laundry bin -- suspiciously covered with plywood and bolted shut to keep it securely closed -- up to the door of the Bulldogs' locker room inside Sanford Stadium. Although the team's uniform guru would tell anyone who asked that the extremely heavy bin was full of towels, Meshad had actually been filling it in secret with the black jerseys that Mark Richt's team would wear that night. And now he was in a bind.

The bin sat in the bed of his truck, whose tailgate door jammed shut at the worst possible time. Now Meshad couldn't simply open the gate and roll the bin off the back of the truck. He needed someone to help him lift it over the side if he was to sneak the jerseys into the locker room -- and Auburn equipment manager Jim Vanzandt just happened to walk by in Meshad's time of need.

"I was just wondering about how I can still keep this quiet. I don't want to ask anybody for help," Meshad recalled. "Well, Jim Vanzandt was walking by eating a bag of potato chips and I remember giggling to myself and saying, 'Hey Jim, you mind giving me a hand here with these towels?' And he didn't. He didn't think anything of it and he went over there and picked it up.

And I said, 'My gate's broken' and he got in the back of the truck with me and we lifted it up and sat it on the edge and when that thing went off the side, it landed on the lid on the plywood and it sounded like a bomb going off. That's when he looked at me and said, 'Towels? Those are heavy towels.' I said, 'Oh, don't worry about it. Thanks, man. I appreciate it.'"

Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford led Georgia to a 45-20 victory over Auburn is its first "blackout" game.

Of course, the rest is history. Weeklong rumors proved to be true that night when the Bulldogs stormed out of the locker room wearing the black jerseys, matching the black attire that most of the home crowd wore that night. And Richt's club rode the electricity present in the stadium to an emotional 45-20 win against its oldest rival in an environment that ex-Bulldogs tight end Aron White described earlier this month as "beyond insane."

White is far from alone in that regard. The game stands as one of the most memorable nights of Richt's UGA tenure, although the Auburn Tigers -- and Vanzandt, in particular -- were not happy about their role in the Bulldogs' blackout celebration.

"After the game, he was mad as heck," Meshad chuckled. "He was like, 'Did I help you unload the dadgum black jerseys?' I said, 'Yeah you did.'"

Georgia's new getup

The Bulldogs broke out new uniforms once again when they greeted fans at the team's annual picture day on Aug. 17. This time, however, the debut wasn't veiled in the secrecy that has accompanied recent single-game uniform changes like the blackouts against Auburn and Hawaii in 2007 and Alabama in 2008 or the unpopular outfit with black pants and a black helmet worn against Florida in 2009 or the outrageous Nike Pro Combat combination for the 2011 opener against Boise State.

The most visible change to the Bulldogs' 2013 uniforms is a switch from Georgia's traditional block lettering to a rounded font, "Bulldog Bold," that Nike created for UGA athletics teams.

"Our iconic look is Herschel [Walker], it's Jake Scott, it's [Frank] Sinkwich. The uniform has changed a lot from Charley Trippi and Frank Sinkwich to Knowshon Moreno, but there's one thing we've always had: block numbers," said 1990s-era Georgia student manager Carter McInnis, a self-proclaimed "uniform nerd and Georgia fanatic."

"Number fonts do go with the team. The Chicago Bears have always had that rounded number. If you look at a Chicago Bears jersey and you know that's a Bears jersey because they have rounded numbers. That's their look. For us, I'm not a fan of it. I don't think it's that big of a deal, they're growing on me, and I understand the whole iconography with Nike and the word marks being the same font. I just think why mess with it."

The material of the uniform is a hit among the players, however, as Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said its fit is exactly like that of the Pro Combats from the Boise State game in 2011.

"It's lighter. It's more flexible," Murray said. "When I put it on for the Boise State game, I was like, 'Man, I don't even feel like I'm wearing anything right now.' It's just a lot more free. It allows you to move a little bit better.

Herschel Walker
Georgia brought back the "silver britches" just in time for Herschel Walker & Co. to make a national championship run.

"I told Coach Richt before the game, I was like, 'Hey, I think we should get these uniforms, this material, just in our base colors and stuff.' It took a couple years to do that, but it's definitely good stuff."

Dooley's adjustments

The font change of 2013 is one of the more noticeable adjustments to Georgia's uniform in some time, but subtle modifications have actually been fairly frequent for the past couple decades.

The collar style has changed numerous times, as have the location of the numbers on players' arms or shoulders and the placement of Georgia's "Power G" logo on the traditional "silver britches."

Speaking of the Bulldogs' iconic game pants, their return in 1980 was one of the biggest uniform alterations of coach Vince Dooley's UGA tenure. When Dooley became Georgia's coach in 1964, he made aggressive changes to the Bulldogs' longtime look of silver helmets, red jerseys and silver pants -- a snappy getup that UGA historian Loran Smith said influenced the uniform look of two NFL teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons.

With help from artist Anne Donaldson, whose husband, John, was Dooley's defensive backs coach, Dooley first placed the "G" logo on the team's new red helmets. And because of his objections to the way fans changed the Bulldogs' "Go You Silver Britches" cheer to "Go You Sons of …" -- you get the idea -- Dooley did away with the silver britches in favor of white game pants.

"Fortunately we won. We got off to a good start and by the third year we won a championship and early on we had some big wins and I was able to survive and they didn't want to kick me out," Dooley said. "Well, they thought about kicking me out on some other occasions, but at least from the uniform standpoint, it caught on because we won. Otherwise I'd have been gone in a hurry."

By 1980, Dooley determined that enough time had passed and he brought back the popular silver game pants. The Bulldogs won the national championship that season, and the Bulldogs have worn the silver pants, for the most part, ever since.

"You always have a little superstition," Dooley said of mostly sticking with the silver pants. "If you're winning, why would you change?"

Dooley laughed and admitted that same superstition was partially to blame for the Bulldogs failing to wear red game pants ever since a 1988 loss at South Carolina while wearing shiny new red pants.

The Bulldogs absorbed a 23-10 loss that day in Columbia, S.C., and Dooley was irritated enough that he took the pants out of Georgia's uniform rotation -- although he corrected an old wives' tale that he immediately sent the red pants to Lincoln County High School for its players to wear following the South Carolina loss.

"We used them for practice," Dooley said. "We didn't throw them away."

Recent alterations

Georgia's uniforms changed little under coach Ray Goff -- aside from a switch from Russell Athletic jerseys and Wilson pants to Nike -- but his successor, Jim Donnan, made some noticeable changes in the Bulldogs' overall look.

In 1996, he did away with the Dooley-era star stickers on the back of the players' helmets that commemorated good on-field plays and added a black stripe down the center of the helmet, a shadow on the jersey numbers and new styles on the collar and sleeves. The changes -- particularly the black helmet stripe -- were not particularly well-received.

"The Georgia people didn't like it worth a flip," said Dooley, who was athletic director at the time.

When Richt took over in 2001, he personally sketched out an idea for a dog bone reward sticker to place on the back of the players' helmets. Initially Georgia players received white dog bone stickers to reward good on-field plays, but the program has since added black bone stickers to recognize their academic achievements.

Richt's tenure has mostly honored the traditional red-and-black look that Georgia fans have come to expect, with most of the changes jumping out to only the most attentive fans.

Georgia Helmet
When Mark Richt arrived at Georgia, so did the dog bone helmet stickers.

One of the bigger differences in the Richt era is that the Bulldogs have worn a variety of styles of silver britches, ranging from the program's traditional shiny look to a more breathable gray material that has no sheen.

For Georgia fans who prefer shiny pants, Dallas Cowboys style, Meshad has some good news.

"Next year, in 2014, we'll finally have the pants back," Meshad said. "The silver britches will be back. This year you'll see a version of them, but they still won't have the sheen and silver that we like until 2014."

Not much like Oregon

Georgia's new look has received mixed reviews among fans, but the Bulldogs remain fairly unambitious with their uniform updates compared with their Nike brethren at Oregon. The Ducks have distinguished themselves in recent years with a seemingly endless variety of uniform combinations -- and the frequent uniform changes seem to appeal to today's players.

"I like what Oregon does. That's really cool," Georgia receiver Michael Bennett said. "I think it's great, and I know recruits love it. I know when I was in high school, I loved that stuff. What kid doesn't want to look cool when you play? Because if you look good, you play good -- that's the old saying."

Then again, unlike some fans who go overboard on the subject, most players have the perspective to know that their uniform isn't what makes the difference when they need to convert on third-and-1 in a close game against an SEC opponent.

"I'm pretty sure any team would love to have that many combinations," receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. "But is that going to win you a game? No."