Winning College Football Colors

What could be more American than football? For more than 130 years, cheering fans have shouted wildly to support the efforts of their favorite teams. Granted, those early games looked quite different from the battles waged today. When Princeton challenged Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on November 6, 1869, each team played with 25 athletes but without the assistance of any officials or referees, and the football resembled a round soccer ball. After the game, both teams sat down to dine together, demonstrating sportsmanlike camaraderie. By 1875, the football had become a leather-covered, egg-shaped ball, and three officials were included to referee. As the rules were modernized, the game became increasingly popular, and by 1900, more than 250 colleges and universities had their own football teams.

It was L.P. Smock, a Princeton football player, who introduced the first team uniform. Black knee pants and stockings were paired with a jersey trimmed in orange and a tightly laced canvas jacket. Numbers would not be added until 1937, and leather helmets were optional. Distinguishing the teams by color became important both for refereeing and for fan recognition. Today, traditional college colors are dearly loved by alumni and fans alike and easily identify opposing teams.

The following top five schools in college football rankings are familiar as soon as they step on the field:

  • University of Southern California - The USC Trojans proudly wear USC Cardinal (Pantone 201C) and USC Gold (Pantone 123C). As one of the oldest universities in the nation, this school opened its doors to 53 students and 10 teachers in 1880. Today, more than 33,000 students and 3,200 full-time faculty call USC home. The first football game was played in 1888, and the school colors were chosen in 1895. Winners of 11 national championships, this team takes its name to heart. Wearing the power of red and the authority of gold, the Trojans consider themselves the modern gladiators of college football.

  • University of Alabama - "Roll, Tide, Roll!" is the common cry of Alabama's "Crimson Tide" fans. Their red and white uniforms originally earned them the nickname of the "Thin Red Line," but after a particularly grueling, muddy battle against favored Auburn in 1907, sports editor Hugh Roberts renamed the team the Crimson Tide. At home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this college team has won 12 national championships and is the only SEC team to win five consecutive SEC football titles from 1971 to 1975. Once again, red is the color of passion, energy and power.

  • Louisiana State University - The LSU Fighting Tigers wear prestigious Royal Purple and Old Gold stripes on a white background. The colors were hand-picked by team captain E.B. Young for a game against Tulane in the spring of 1983. Mardi Gras was approaching, and the local stores had stocked purple and gold ribbons and streamers for the up-coming celebrations. The colorful trim was purchased to brighten the team’s dull gray jerseys.

  • University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma City's "Sooners" started out with crimson and cream colors but gradually settled on red and white. It was a Miss May Overstreet, the only woman on the college faculty in 1895, who led the committee to choose these particular colors. Today's zealous fans still prefer to identify with the original crimson and cream choices. The Sooners have won more college football victories since World War II than any other school in the entire nation.

  • University of Oregon - Contrary to popular opinion, Walt Disney's "Donald Duck" was not the original idea behind the team's name. Students and athletes at this Eugene, Oregon, school were first known as "Webfooters" in honor of patriotic ancestors in Massachusetts who helped George Washington and his troops escape the British in 1776. Later, Disney did allow "Donald" to be associated with the school's athletic teams. In fact, Donald Duck was made an honorary alumnus. In keeping with a flair for whimsy, the football team sports some different variation of green, yellow and white each year. The Oregon Ducks have the longest active run of BCS bowl appearances in football history.