Here is the latest in The Citadel’s on-going Uniform-Gate controversy. To bring you briefly up to date: The Bulldogs wanted to wear their adidas-provided throwback jerseys (pictured to the right) for last week’s game against Furman.
These jerseys are similar to ones worn by Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan (and other teams, pictured below).
The Bulldogs wore the throwback jerseys during pre-game warmups. But the game officials told coach Kevin Higgins the jerseys were illegal (numbers on the front have to be eight inches high) and that the Bulldogs would be penalized if they wore them. The penalty is one timeout at the beginning of the quarter for each quarter the illegal equipment is used.
The Citadel changed into regular jerseys before kickoff, and lost by 24-17 to Furman. After the game, Citadel officials said they had received approval from the SoCon to wear the throwback jerseys. Complicating matters is The Citadel’s plan to auction off the throwback jerseys as “game-worn.”
But SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said Thursday that SoCon officials had never seen the actual throwback jersey in order to approve it. All that The Citadel provided, he said, was a picture of a Brigadier Foundation patch that The Citadel wanted to wear on the jersey. The patch was legal and was approved, Iamarino said, but the league office never saw a picture of the actual jersey.
Iamarino said game officials acted appropriately in ruling the throwback jerseys illegal.
This week, The Citadel went back to the SoCon seeking clarification and permission to wear the throwback jerseys in a later game this season. Iamarino said the SoCon went all the way to Rogers Redding, the NCAA’s coordinator of officials, seeking a waiver to allow The Citadel to wear the throwbacks, as Wisconsin, Nebraska and other teams have done in the past.
According to Iamarino, Redding said, “I can’t grant you a waiver. My advice is to follow the rules.”
Bill Carollo, the Big Ten supervisor of officials, told me that Wisconsin and Nebraska wore the throwback uniforms last year even though they should not have been allowed to.
“They say they got approval, but they didn’t tell our officials,” Carollo said. “But those uniforms are not legal. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin were reprimanded and told they can’t wear those uniforms again.”
Carollo said the trend of alternate jerseys is creating a “headache” for officials.
“There are so many deals out there and so many of the uniforms are not legal by the rule book,” he said. “Almost all of them are declined now. They just want to sell uniforms, and it’s kind of a headache.”
Iamarino said the best course is to follow the rule book.
“We’ve thought long and hard about this issue this week. You get yourself in all kinds of trouble when you selectively apply the rules. After a lot of thought, we’ve decided that we’ll play it straight up,” he said.
Iamarino said he’s advised league teams that want to to wear throwback jerseys to make sure the league office sees them first. “Again, we were never contacted by The Citadel to see the actual jerseys,” Iamarino said. “All we saw was the patch.”
Iamarino said it’s “frustrating” that the uniform rules apparently have not been evenly applied throughout college football.
“I’m not naive enough to think there’s not a whole lot of money involved at these schools, wearing these throwback uniforms and selling them to their 80,000 fans,” he said. “We wish the outcome had been different, but when you don’t apply the rules, that’s when you get into trouble.”
In a later email, Iamarino also points out that adidas is “essentially marketing illegal uniforms to programs with no apparent accountability on their part. Very frustrating.”