Stanford's Men in Black: What's their Deal?


By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

So what's the deal with the black football uniforms? Good question, and with a pretty decent answer. Go ask Nike. Just do it.

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a self-proclaimed traditionalist when it comes to the Cardinal and White, said the school was approached by Nike, who offered to make the team black uniforms sometime after the 2007 season.

"After the 2007 season I wanted to take all the black out of the uniforms," Harbaugh said. "I wanted the uniforms to represent the Cardinal and White. When Nike said they wanted to make them, we said sure, why not?"

Some of the older players had input into the design, which featured Cardinal trim around the white numbers.

"The team wanted to wear them and they voted to wear them," Harbaugh said. "Maybe if we wear them again we could add black helmets, black shoes and black socks."

Harbaugh said the uniforms may return, but it's unlikely to be this season. Meanwhile, replica black jerseys were on sale at the Stanford Trackhouse store.

"It might have helped me run faster," joked Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who had a 52-yard touchdown run in Saturday's 68-24 victory over visiting Wake Forest. "It's just a jersey."

Luck acknowledged that he did worry some about the change in color before kickoff.

"As a quarterback you get used to throwing to a color," he said. "Wake Forest has black helmets and black uniforms and if they had worn them it would have been hard to differentiate."

Luck led No. 16 Stanford to scores in each of his eight possessions in the contest, throwing for 207 yards and four touchdowns. "I had no trouble," he said of the uniforms.

Menlo-Atherton High grad Sam Knapp will always remember the black jerseys. He caught his first college pass, a 7-yard completion from Josh Nunes to help set up Andrew Stutz's 2-yard TD run near the end of the game.

Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney was ecstatic about the uniforms. It seems black is one of his top color choices.

"I loved the black uniforms," Gaffney said. "I know some of the alumni didn't like them, but putting up 68 points, we can't complain."

Sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov, who played for the first time this season, thought the uniforms helped signify a more aggressive defense.

"When you wear all black you have a different attitude, more like going on the offensive," Skov said. "Plus the students and recruits loved them. They were sharp-looking to a lot of younger fans."

What's the deal with injuries?

Harbaugh again was adamant about not discussing anything about injuries: diagnosis, treatment, how long anyone would be out. Nothing. Just wouldn't answer.

Senior Ryan Whalen left Saturday's game against the Demon Deacons holding his arm. Independent sources confirmed it was a dislocated elbow and he will miss up to four weeks.

"As soon as I tell you, Notre Dame knows," Harbaugh said by way of explanation. "I might as well call them myself. That's valuable information. I would like to know the status of every player on their roster."

"Wales is the leader of the offense," Luck said. "He's been there, seen it all. It would be a serious blow if he's out for awhile."

Running back Jeremy Stewart has a severe ankle injury, also confirmed by independent sources. He's already missed two games and will likely remain out for some time.

Skov refused to discuss anything about his injury, which ESPN reported as an infection in his knee, even after the fact.

"I don't know where they got that information," Skov said. "It was nothing severe. I took a couple of weeks as a precaution."

Skov did acknowledge the injury was fully healed and would not pose a problem the rest of the season.

Sophomore defensive lineman Trent Murphy also has an undisclosed injury that could sideline him for a while.

What's the deal with the Irish?

Stanford players and coaches seem to have no problem separating the folklore surrounding their visit to Notre Dame, from their intention of working toward a victory. The Cardinal has not won in South Bend since 1992, when the late Bill Walsh devised a way to upset the Irish.

Harbaugh, who matriculated from Michigan, started one game at Notre Dame, though he didn't bother to belabor the point. He said he couldn't remember the score, just playing.

For the record, he played there on Sept. 13, 1986, completing 15 of 23 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown in Michigan's 24-23 win over the Irish.

Luck will actually be making his second trip to South Bend. He accompanied the team as a true freshman.

"It's a special place and an honor to go play there," he said.

Even in Texas, where football is second only to God, Luck had to put up with Notre Dame fans.

"There was one family, and I don't even know if anyone went to Notre Dame, who were diehard fans," said Luck, who was not recruited by the school. "They even named their Pee Wee football team 'Irish.'"

Gaffney was recruited by Notre Dame and visited the campus.

"The concept of Notre Dame, the tradition, Touchdown Jesus, that hasn't changed," said Gaffney, who choose Stanford for the chance to play baseball as well.

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Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm

So Harbaugh played five years at Michigan if he played at Notre Dame in 1986? He graduated from Paly in June, 1982 and if he played only four years, he would have played in the fall of 1982, 83, 84, and 85 plus I think he played in the Rose Bowl in either his junior or senior year. Doesn't really matter though. He was a close runner -up for the Heisman Trophy and had a great career with the Chicago Bears. I'm glad he's here and stays forever like Joe Paterno did at Penn State. The TV cameras dote on him and watching his facial expressions and antics during a game is entertaining to say the least - especially if the watcher can 'lip read'. Pray he doesn't have a heart attack.

Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm

So who came up with the idea of black jerseys? Nike or the players?

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2010 at 5:40 am

Nike a year ago. It is always about the money.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

The team looked great with the black uniforms, but I hope that they don't take this over the top with a dorky looking "black out" appearance next time.

Agreed that Nike should not have such an influence over the schools, but this goes back many years. It used to be only the Oakland Raiders wore black but now black is "the style" for all sports teams. It seems that "school colors" have taken a second priority to adding black?

Not a complaint, but more of a question. It's just another thing that everyone took for "granted" but was never a rule. For the Stanford black uniform, we can still say GO CARDINAL! :) Keep winning and black is OK with me....just don't add orange, yellow, green. ;)

Like this comment
Posted by Jferg24
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Loved the black uniforms! Black helmets and shoes would be great. Black is a power color. Raiders in their heyday and the Steelers everyday.

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