The best part about ranking uniforms is that everyone always agrees with you.
No one ever wants to fight you in the College Mall Fazoli’s parking lot because you liked the white-on-white-on-white look IU trotted out in 2011 and 2012, and no one ever tries to pour a warm PBR on your head at The Vid because you think basically every alternate from 2015 to 2017 looked like absolute butt. It just doesn’t happen. Everyone always agrees.
Anyway, the past 10 years of Indiana football uniforms were really something. From a range of helmets to impossibly weird pants, IU really tried it all.
Here’s the best and worst of Indiana’s sartorial choices from the decade that was — an objective, comprehensive and completely accurate list that is also perfect:
It feels like most college football throwback alternates work better in concept than they do in execution. Nothing looks worse than a modern helmet painted to look like some sort of insane, leather, 1920s-ass contraption (Hi, Nebraska!). And unless you’re one of a chosen few traditional powerhouses, the jersey designs of yesteryear are usually best left in the past. While the entire uniform set IU wore for the bicentennial game last season wasn’t a throwback to any particular year or era, it incorporated some cool aspects — the trident logo from 1910, the old-school typography and the subtle candy stripes — that functioned as a nod to the school’s past. Speaking of history, did you know IU leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 10-8-3, including an 8-5-2 advantage in Lincoln?
Here at CQ, we’re not normally into monochrome looks, especially the red-on-red ensembles IU has sported at times throughout its history. But the white-on-white-on-white sets from the early years of the Kevin Wilson era were pretty nice! Of course, some really terrible things happened with IU dressed in all white, like the loss at North Texas in 2011 and Tre Roberson’s leg injury at UMass in 2012. But it wasn’t completely awful. Nate Sudfeld debuted in that same UMass game and IU won its first Big Ten contest in almost two years when it beat Illinois later in the 2012 season. See? Not so bad! Although these were solid, they would’ve been even better with some balanced and standardized striping for the helmets and pants.
Anything with the chrome domes!
Millions of takes have been unleashed by fellow internetsmen since IU became a Helmet School in 2013, and we could probably do a whole separate post on Indiana’s best and worst helmets of the decade (don’t worry, we won’t). The majority of IU’s lids from the past 10 seasons were pretty fantastic — the state flag and block-I should be in the rotation forever. So should the chrome domes. Hell, make ‘em the default. Every uniform ensemble looked a little sharper with those bad boys on top. These things were DANGEROUS. So dangerous, in fact, that a source tells CQ that Memorial Stadium ushers were told to be on the lookout for anyone suffering a seizure due to the insane glare those helmets produced. Wild. Anyway, the chrome domes made every jersey/pants combination better. They were magnificent, and anyone who thinks otherwise is an fool. That’s the law here.
2017 Hep’s Rock
Absolutely not. Nope. What the hell were they thinking? I mean, I believe the idea for this set came from a good place, but the execution was awful. The limestone tinted pants were an homage to the legacy of former coach Terry Hoeppner, who famously had a limestone boulder placed on the turf beyond the north end zone of the stadium as a point of pride for the IU program. So IU and adidas teamed up for a tribute to Hep 10 years after his tragic death. Sounds nice, right? Who would object to that? I’m sorry, but you know who. It me. IU should’ve been able to void its contract with adidas as soon as the shipment of these uniforms arrived in Bloomington. The pants looked like acid wash jeggings and the script Indiana across the chest felt entirely misplaced. IU ran away with the only game in which these were worn, a 52-17 victory over Georgia Southern. So at least folks had the ability to either turn off the TV or leave the stadium after Indiana built its 24-point halftime lead.
In my first on-the-record sitdown with Tom Allen after he was named head coach, I saved my uniform question for last. College football coaches have the final say in wardrobe decisions, and I wanted to get a feel for Allen’s plan. Kevin Wilson really, really wanted IU to look like Oklahoma when he took over, so what kind of look would Allen draw up? A simple, clean design, he told me. Cool. Fine. As it should be. Then, of course, IU went overboard in cleaning up its look, scrubbing the names off the backs of the jerseys before the 2018 season. I’m still not sure if this was an Allen decision or one that was made above his head. Either way it was a major swing and a miss. It annoyed players and made the uniforms look bland. Give IU credit, I guess. The athletic department admitted after the season that a mistake was made, and returned surnames to the jerseys in 2019.
2016 IU candy stripe alternate
I know there’s a vocal group of candy stripe supporters who’ve long asked for the motif to be incorporated in the football uniforms. Unfortunately, there’s just a lot going on with this set, and not much of it works. The IU trident plastered on the chest makes it look like a semi-pro getup. The script Indiana down the pant legs? Mmmmm no. (Note to IU: enough with the script Indiana on football apparel!) While I applaud the consideration to use the state flag inside the numbers, it’s distracting when you see it up close, and it just adds to the unnecessarily busy top-to-bottom design of the entire uniform.
SOMEONE SHOULD’VE BEEN FIRED
Throughout its weird history, the Indiana football program has never been shy about straying from the school colors. The Hoosiers wore black wool sweatshirts for at least one game during their first Big Ten title season in 1945, and controversial coach Phil Dickens dressed the team in light blue jerseys in 1958. Then, there’s the program’s most infamous color departure, the 1997 “Black Jersey Game” vs. Kentucky. I mean, hell, does anyone remember the last time IU’s home jerseys were actually crimson? So there was already precedent when IU trotted out in odd, white and silver uniforms at the 2015 Old Oaken Bucket game. But that doesn’t excuse whatever the hell these were. Impossibly, IU chose to wear these stupid things in back-to-back regular season games, tossing them on again for the 2016 season opener at Florida International. Kevin Wilson should’ve been made to walk home from Miami for allowing that to happen. Just a terrible, horrible look.