If there is one image most associated with BYU sports, it’s likely a football player in Cougar blue.
Ever since BYU began competing in collegiate football in 1922, the Cougars have worked to establish a culture of success and pride. Through almost 100 years of play, the Cougars have worn dozens of different uniforms sporting different styles and colors. Some of these uniforms are forgettable; others iconic.
“I think that it comes back to tradition; that’s sort of the image that people associate with BYU football,” said BYU university archivist Cory Nimer.
The Cougars vaulted into the national spotlight with a 13-0 record and national championship win in 1984, and the team’s royal blue uniforms and “Y” helmet logo increasingly became associated with top-notch football.
Many alumni remember the glory of the ’80s and what the national championship victory meant to the university. The national spotlight only added more to the Cougar blue.
“It becomes a symbol of who we are,” said BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle.
However, not every uniform is as iconic. In an attempt to modernize the football uniforms in 1999, the official school colors were changed. This resulted in a new uniform that sported a dark blue jersey, blue shoulders, a white “bib” on the front and the player’s number in the middle. The pants were dark blue with a gold-tan stripe up the side.
This uniform was quickly changed in 2000 due to NCAA regulations, which prohibited teams from incorporating more than one main color into their uniforms. The jersey was altered to a solid dark blue color with a gold-tan outline for numbers and letters.
The Cougars once again changed their uniform for the 2004 season, which was mostly just an alteration to the jersey’s shoulders and sleeves. Jerseys sported white shoulders for home games and blue shoulders for road games. Player numbers and two vertical tan stripes were also added to the shoulders and sleeves.
This style only lasted a year before Bronco Mendenhall took the reins of the Cougars in 2005. He changed the colors and style of the uniforms to replicate and pay homage to BYU teams of the past, and even burned the 2004 helmet and jersey as symbolic of a return to tradition.
“(Bronco) wanted to go and re-establish the tradition of spirit and honor. He felt the best way to do that was through uniforms,” Tittle said. “We talk to the players a lot about standing on shoulders of those that come before you and representing the uniform helmet and what BYU football stands for.”
The athletic department wants the players to feel pride for the history of the program. Truly, they have a lot to be proud of.
On special occasions the Cougars break out alternate uniforms, such as 2014’s “Royal Revival” game where football players wore throwback royal blue uniforms against Utah State. The team has also featured “black-out” jerseys, a fan-favorite that includes a black jersey, black pants with royal blue accents, and a matte black helmet.
“My favorite is honestly the black uniforms,” Maddy Chamberlain, a junior studying economics at BYU said. “I think just because it gets away from the typical blue and white a little. I think it looks tight and changes things up.”
Photographs of past uniforms and teams are kept in the university archives to document the history of the team and keep the traditional memories alive.
“Archives are also about memory functions, helping people remember, helping them use what in one context is evidence for building things like tradition or common purpose among students; a sense of continuity over time,” Nimer said.
Regardless if the color is royal blue or navy blue, if there are stripes on the pants or just a solid color, each team represents part of the tradition. It is the privilege of the 2015 team to create their own legacies and contribute their tradition, spirit, and honor to the BYU uniform.