The font seems sleeker. The decal on the helmet seems more intimidating. And the color goes outside the boundaries of Fresno State’s traditional red and white.
No. 16 Fresno State’s all-black uniforms – which will debut in Saturday’s “Blackout” game against Nevada at Bulldog Stadium – go outside the Bulldogs’ comfort zone, who last year did not wear any special uniforms beyond an inverted combination (white jerseys and red pants) for the Hawaii Bowl.
Red at home, white on the road. That’s been the norm.
But Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, his coaching staff and the players wanted to diversify Fresno State’s appearance on the field. The Bulldogs debuted all-white uniforms in their Aug. 29 season opener against Rutgers (they wore that combination again against San Diego State).
A Bulldogs football team has never worn all-black uniforms – which Fresno State will don before a national ESPNU audience and a sold-out crowd of 41,031 at Bulldog Stadium.
Until now, that is.
DeRuyter approached Mark Younger, Fresno State’s head equipment manager, in the offseason. The message was clear:
“They were looking for some diversity and some different things that they could wear for their uniforms,” Younger said.
The project kicked off in February. Younger and his staff mocked up designs with computer graphics supplied by Nike to show the coaches and the athletics department’s marketing staff.
Other colors were contemplated for the Bulldogs’ special uniforms, Younger said, “but really it was black that the coaching staff was going to choose because that was the feedback that they were getting from the players.”
Six different designs were presented to DeRuyter, coaches and the athletic department’s marketing team.
“Ultimately, the final design was picked from all of those,” Younger said. “There were pieces from every design, it seemed, that actually went into the final product.”
The all-black Nike Combat uniforms have new, intricate designs. The red in the numbers and names on the back of the jerseys are a different shade.
The black helmets feature a foil-type decal of the Bulldog face (red eyes and tongue) in place of the usual four-paw dog design on the left side, the player’s number on the right and a thick, centered red strip one the helmet’s forehead that thins inwardly toward the back.
For some, all-black is a first.
“I’ve never worn a black uniform,” said junior safety Derron Smith. “I’m pretty excited and I know all the guys are.”
The uniforms were first introduced to the team and the public over the summer, when the university’s athletics department launched a preseason promotion teasing photos of the uniform via social media.
“They’re sweet,” said defensive lineman Nikko Motta. “It’s just different. We love them. It’s good for the fans and it’s good for the community to get some new stuff out here. We’re excited that we have these new helmets.”
The Bulldogs will host their second sellout of the season Saturday against the Wolf Pack.
The all-black uniforms have played a part in generating the buzz and interest in the community, said Paul Ladwig, Fresno State’s Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Relations.
“You’re going to continue to see us do special things with uniforms,” Ladwig said.
“It may not be black. Maybe it might be dark blue next year. Maybe it’s silver from head to toe or something of that nature. But I think we knew going in we had something going on with specialty uniforms. We know what’s going on around the country with other schools doing it. I think this is just a part of the phenomena right now with specialty uniforms.”
“… We know that it works, and that’s the neat thing about it.”
The Bulldogs’ all-black uniforms cost $50,000.
To offset the entire cost, players have been given the option to buy their helmet and jersey after the team completes its final game of the season.
The second wave of sales will be offered toward donors, Ladwig said, before the remainder of the jerseys and helmets are made available to the public.
Fresno State has been on the conservative spectrum of college football in regards to its uniform and helmet modifications. The Bulldogs’ uniforms and helmets were redesigned twice under former coach Pat Hill.
The most recent changes to Fresno State’s appearance were made in 2011, when the team debuted its current set of home and away uniforms.
“Over the course of the 22 years I’ve been here, it [the uniforms] really hasn’t changed a whole lot,” Younger said. “It’s been modified, but never drastically like using the Bulldog face or using a black uniform that’s outside of the school’s colors.”
This season, DeRuyter has given team captains the ability to choose what uniform combinations the team will wear heading into games. Like the all-black uniforms, it’s led to diverse combinations.
Red jerseys and helmets and white pants against Cal Poly and UNLV – with a throwback helmets featuring the Bulldog script against the Rebels.
The new uniforms and this season’s variety, DeRuyter said, will also help with recruiting.
As for the current players who will take the field Saturday?
“Oh, they loved them,” Younger said of the players, who took this year’s team photo in the black uniforms.
“It was a very good response. They were very happy with them when they saw them.”