Black jersey phobia and the Georgia-Clemson series

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Two subjects you can be sure UGA fans always have an opinion on: the Dawgs bringing back black jerseys and Georgia playing Clemson more often.

After word had leaked out from some recruits who tweeted shots of trying them on, Athletic Director Greg McGarity already had confirmed earlier this summer that Georgia has new black jerseys and plans on wearing them for a 2016 home game — though he wouldn’t say which one.

“Whenever the black jerseys are worn, people will know well in advance of it,” McGarity said. “It’s not a gimmick; it won’t be a surprise. It will be up to Coach [Kirby] Smart to make that call, but it will be a home game.”

Fan speculation centered on the Oct. 1 game against Tennessee or the Nov. 12 game against Auburn. However, buried deep in a release sent out Tuesday on what’s new at Sanford Stadium in 2016 was the apparent answer: the Nov. 19 game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

“Fans are encouraged to wear red for all home games, with the exception of our game with Louisiana-Lafayette.  For the November 19 game against ULL, fans are encouraged to wear black,” the release said.

Since it’s highly unlikely they’d be worn at a second home game where the fans didn’t wear black, that appears to be the black jersey game this season.

My personal choice would have been the Tennessee game, since the Vols greeted the Dawgs in Knoxville last year wearing their special smokey grays, though I could understand them being reintroduced at a slightly less high-profile game.

Still, ULL? Wow, talk about playing it safe! It’s hard to believe that the bizarre insistence by a superstitious faction of fandom that Georgia lost to Alabama in 2008 because of wearing black jerseys has led the athletic association to be this cautious in bringing them back.

I can see the case for not wearing anything but red at homecoming or against Tech, though I wouldn’t have minded the blacks at either, but the visit by Auburn would have been perfect, since Georgia already has a Blackout history with that school.

Black jerseys will be reintroduced at a game during the 2016 season. (Twitter)
Black jerseys will be reintroduced at a game during the 2016 season. (Twitter)

This idea some folks have that black jerseys — or any color jerseys — ever contributed to a loss is just nonsensical. As one alum put it: “I’ve played a ton of sports in my life and never once did the color of the shirt make a lick of difference.”

Georgia lost to Bama in 2008 for a number of reasons, including a disruption to the weekly routine caused by a late return from a night game out West the week before, but chiefly because the Tide was the better team that year. Georgia lost to Florida in those ugly black helmets in 2009 because the Dawgs were terrible that year.

Conversely, the black jerseys Georgia wore cannot be credited for the wins over Auburn or Hawaii in 2007. Granted, the Blackout and sudden appearance of the black jerseys against Auburn that year did hype up both the fans in Sanford Stadium and the team, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from having the lead in the third quarter before the Dawgs scored 28 unanswered points to turn a 20-17 deficit into the 45-20 victory. Georgia’s great comeback win was thanks to its superior play, not to what it was wearing (or the music the Dawgs were dancing to — remember Soulja Boy?)

As someone pointed out in a tweet quoted in a recent article in The Red & Black about the jersey color debate, Georgia also has lost many times wearing red, as well as while wearing the road white jerseys.

I didn’t hear anyone blaming last year’s embarrassing loss to Bama in Athens on the red jerseys.

Of course, college football fans (and UGA fans, specifically) have a history of emotional reactions with no basis in fact. Any change in routine during the week of a loss immediately spurs the finger-pointing. I remember when Vince Dooley introduced the red road pants in the 1970s, many fans hated them, especially after the Dawgs lost wearing them. They were bad luck, these folks said.

The red britches seemed OK after Herschel Walker wore them. (AJC file)
The red britches seemed OK after Herschel Walker wore them. (AJC file)

Then, Herschel Walker wore them and all that was forgotten. Likewise, the granite bulldog in the stadium. Georgia lost a couple of games after that was unveiled and suddenly some fans were calling for it to be removed.

All through history, in just about any culture, people would rather blame bad luck than admit they weren’t as good as someone else. But, for UGA to kowtow to such ignorance is really appalling.

Of course, not all the resistance to black jerseys is based on superstition. Some folks just don’t like messing with tradition, especially when UGA’s standard uniform is one of the best-looking in the country. Alabama, the standard against which all college football programs seem to be judged these days, doesn’t indulge in such “gimmicks,” these folks like to point out.

As longtime fan James Mullins put it in the Red & Black article, “The only thing it does is sell a lot of black jerseys for Nike.”

A valid point. But many other programs do have alternate jerseys, which the players love, and Georgia’s other teams frequently mix it up between red and black.

In my view, it’s high time the black jerseys, which look really good with the red helmets and silver britches, were reintroduced; I just wish UGA wasn’t being so timid in doing it.

Georgia’s colors are red and black — embrace it!

Georgia and Clemson have a great football rivalry. (Jim Hipple / UGA)
Georgia and Clemson have a great football rivalry. (Jim Hipple / UGA)

Another issue generating a lot of fan comment on social media was Clemson’s Dabo Swinney saying he wishes Georgia and Clemson play each other more often.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Swinney said, “If it were up to me, we would play Georgia every year. It just makes sense.”

I’ve said numerous times here that I’d like to see Georgia-Clemson, once the Bulldogs’ hottest rivalry, show up on the schedule more often than the single home-and-home deal once a decade in recent times. The two schools are just a couple of hours apart and have a great history, with many fantastic games having been played, including the most recent win by UGA in Athens in 2014.

However, judging by the comments on my Facebook page, I know there’s a divide between UGA fans over the wisdom of playing the Tigers more often.

Some fans yearn for the intensity of the rivalry between the Dawgs and Cats in the early 1980s. As Howard Jackson Whitfield Jr. said, “I would like at least every other year!!! Great games!!”

And in an era when giant flat-screen TVs and every game being televised present attendance challenges, there’s no doubt more people would rather see Clemson Between the Hedges than a cupcake. As my Sanford Stadium section mate Malinda Teasley Erwin said, “It would be a great series! It would fill Sanford stadium every time.”

Others, like Richard Hendrix Jr., “would prefer to schedule more games like the one coming up vs. UNC, against other ACC opponents we haven’t played nearly as much. A home/home with Va. Tech, FSU and Miami would be great and give fans new destinations to visit.”

And then there are the Georgia fans like Ross Marshall and Jake Smith who figure if Swinney wants Clemson to play Georgia every year, the Tigers should join the SEC — “where they should be anyway,” as Marshall put it.

Because both schools also have annual nonconference games against in-state Power 5 rivals, I don’t think playing every year really is feasible. It would lock up the schedules too much and preclude adding other enticing nonconference opponents, like the upcoming series with Notre Dame or potential future series against, maybe, Texas.

Still, at the very least I’d like to see Georgia and Clemson continuing to visit each other at least once per decade, and I think even going to playing each other four times in a 10-year period wouldn’t be too much.

Plus, it’s a great rivalry. I agree it makes for a tougher schedule, but, in the playoff age, that might be a bonus. And college football needs its traditions and rivalries; otherwise, it’s just the development league for the NFL.

What do you think? Feel free to share your own opinions on not just Georgia and Clemson playing more frequently, but also when (or whether) you’d like to see the Dawgs in black jerseys.

Go Dawgs!

If there’s something you want to discuss or you have a question for the Junkyard Blawg, email me at junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

Junkyard Blawg mugBill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.

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