PISCATAWAY — Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs and football coach Chris Ash were made aware early in their tenures that many fans didn’t like the football team’s uniforms.
“My first day on the job, I probably had 10 or 12 people say to me, ‘You’ve got to change the football uniforms,’ ” Hobbs said.
Ash said he heard “a ton” of complaints about the uniforms.
Well, fans should be happy — or at least have a different look to criticize — because new Nike football uniforms were introduced at the “R Awards” banquet on Tuesday night at the Rutgers Athletics Center.
“I wanted to go back to a traditional Rutgers look, one that was identifiable with us when we go play,” Ash said. “When somebody sees our helmet or our jerseys, they can say, ‘Yeah, that’s Rutgers.’ I’m not into the Oregon thing and all the different uniforms and colors and things like that. I wanted a nice, clean professional, look that is traditional and identifiable with Rutgers.”
The look is much closer to the traditional look fans will recognize from the past than the unpopular version unveiled in 2012. The home uniforms are red jerseys with big white numbers that will be easily legible and white pants. The home helmets are red with a white “block R” on the side.
The road uniforms are white jerseys with big red numbers and white pants. The road helmets are white with a red “block R” on the side.
The jerseys have a “chainmail pattern” on the sleeves that looks like knight’s armor. The players’ last names will appear on the backs of the jerseys.
New Era! New Gear! pic.twitter.com/HSJKeAyKSu
— Chris Ash (@CoachChrisAsh) May 3, 2016
Ash said the process to change the uniforms was underway when he was hired in early December.
“I got here in time to make some tweaks and adjustments that I would rather do, but I didn’t come up with the idea of changing the uniforms,” Ash said. “That was already in motion. I was fortunate enough to be able to make some of the adjustments that fit what we wanted to do.”
Ash said the team will still have an alternate black uniform to use for one game per season. That uniform was not revealed on Tuesday night.
Ash hasn’t determined if Rutgers will award helmet stickers. He arrived at Rutgers after two years as co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State where players are famously awarded “Buckeye” stickers.
“We’ve had that conversation,” Ash said. “Obviously a lot of people around the country do helmet stickers — Ohio State, when I was at Arkansas Bret (Bielema) did some helmet stickers. I don’t know if I want to do that yet. We’ve had those conversations. It’s a possibility. People do it for various reasons. Some do it for on the field production, some do it for academics. So I’m not sure if we’re going to do it or not.”
Rutgers last introduced new uniforms in 2012 after agreeing to a five-year, $5.2 million deal that runs through 2016-17. The new uniforms were a stark departure from the program’s traditional look and reviews were mixed about the change.
The three uniforms — red, white and black — had a number of features inspired by the concept of knighthood and medieval armor. There were pre-scuffed chrome helmets, scratch marks on the shoulders of the jerseys and a stripe running down the pants to represent a sword.
But for all of the attention to detail, two glaring issues bothered many fans: The silver numbers were nearly impossible to read and the tint of the home jerseys appeared more salmon than scarlet.
In an NJ.com poll with more than 1,100 votes last September, only 6.9 percent of respondents were in favor of keeping the current uniforms. The majority (60 percent) voted to go back to the program’s traditional style, while 33.2 percent voted for a new look.
The old uniforms were supposedly a selling point for recruits, but that hasn’t been Ash’s experience.
“Not one recruit has ever asked me about the uniform,” Ash said. “When they come on campus, just like they do everywhere, they want to put it on and they want to take pictures with it. But nobody has ever said anything to me about it. Except a lot of fans have.”
Every Rutgers team had its uniforms altered to create a consistent look across the athletic department. A secondary logo of a Scarlet Knight was developed to complement the school’s primary block R logo.
“We’re trying to create a new culture around Rutgers,” Hobbs said. “The uniforms our students wear every day are part of that image, part of how we want to project. We want to project success, project intensity. We want it to be bright, powerful and I think that’s what Nike is trying to accomplish with their latest effort.”