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Pitt ‘throwback’ rebrand provides potential roadmap for Syracuse

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Panthers balance tradition with an update that calls back to previous success.

Pitt Football Twitter

Syracuse Orange fans have always been pretty focused on uniforms, and usually the fact that we don’t like our current ones.

While we’ve long been a Nike school, SU has seemingly always received less interesting jersey options compared to other athletic programs. We’ve had the same basic (mostly character-less) men’s basketball uniform set for over a decade. While Nike also gave Illinois football what probably should’ve been our jerseys. (and then just gave them our current jerseys a few years later), as we’ve been wearing these since 2014.

Since the Nike contract’s been a frequent conversation here of late, it also seems like perfect timing that the sort-of-rival Pittsburgh Panthers — also a Nike school — unveiled their own new threads on Sunday:

After a couple years of flirting with throwbacks and the return of the Pitt script, they’ve gone all-in now. The brand’s been completely changed back over to the original colors — which nod to the Panthers’ former championship pedigree — while putting a modern update on a classic look. That number font is largely trash, and the secondary panther logo is whatever. But these do look like the sort of thing that both appeals to prospective players and also gives the fans what they want. They pulled it off for basketball too, if you didn’t see it.

Hopefully Syracuse (and Nike) have been taking notes.

We’d never aspire to be Pitt at all (who would?). But this largely follows the sort of strategy Syracuse should be following when it eventually announces a refresh on jerseys across the athletic department. There obviously won’t be a color change, but a return to some sort of traditional uniform elements seem like a no-brainer.

One potential issue with how the ACC’s tied us to Pitt is now any return to the script on our end looks like we’re just copying the Panthers — and that’s fair. I don’t think it matters much if our fans like it, of course. But to the outside world, it may just look like Syracuse saw Pitt’s idea and decided “hey, yeah, let’s do that too.”

Realistically, there’s also the fact that the SU script logo is far more tied to the men’s basketball team historically than the other teams (especially football). Other teams within the athletic department (women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse and more) have already been using the script at various points in the last few years, however. So it would stand to reason it just gets implemented across the board, versus having some sort of brand separation.

But does that make sense for football, in particular? The block ‘S’ is not iconic or even unique, but it’s a clearly-identifiable look for Syracuse. If we’re paying any sort of homage to these uniforms in a rebrand, the block ‘S’ is the easiest element to fit into that idea.

North Carolina State v Syracuse

I have zero insight on what’s planned for a potential new Orange football uniform set, but would think that the big changes would be no #PLATINUM (hooray!), orange uniforms for purchase and more orange in the uniform set in general. Add to that a simpler design that nods to the old 90s set — even if it doesn’t (and probably shouldn’t) copy it directly — and you can see how the Pitt comparison’s an apt one.

If I’m redesigning the uniforms, I probably skip the novelty number font and #PLATINUM elements, get a lot more orange in there and leave the block ‘S’, then call it a day. Maybe you rotate in an alternate helmet with a script Syracuse/’Cuse decal for a one-off game per year. But there’s a reasonable way to implement a change here without trying too hard.

Now, fingers crossed that Nike contract’s signed soon and we see these uniforms (whatever they are and however far along they currently are in the planning) sooner rather than later. And that SU opts not to do the release on a Sunday afternoon, just for the sake of hype and media coverage...