Since the Carolina football team unveiled the new black uniforms to be worn in this fall’s Thursday night match up with Miami, I’ve been thinking about jerseys, specifically alternate jerseys. Do teams perform better or worse when wearing something new? I took a look back at Carolina basketball and football over just the past two seasons to see what I could learn. This list might not be all inclusive, but these are the highlights that stuck out to me.
November 11, 2011: UNC basketball plays in the Carrier Classic and wears a camouflage blue jersey as their opponent Michigan State wears a similar look. In the obviously military inspired outfits, both teams jerseys read “U.S.A” instead of last names on the back. The Heels beat the Spartans 67-55 in front of President Obama, the first lady, and a collection of America’s finest in a game that will long be remembered but not for the action on the court. Heels’ alternate record: 1-0.
February 29, 2012: In 2010 the Heels wore a silver jersey to honor the 25th Anniversary of the Air Jordan brand, and this game they totally changed it up by wearing platinum. Which is a different metal than silver but essentially the same color. The Heels beat Maryland in this leap day contest, which was also Tyler Zeller’s senior night. The Indiana-native scored 30 points in his last home contest including setting a Smith Center record by making 20 free throws in the game. Heels’ alternate record: 2-0.
October 6, 2012: The white out of Kenan Stadium was highlighted by the football team donning white helmets. The Heels showed some offensive firepower as they beat the Hokies 48-34 behind Gio Bernard’s 262 rushing yards. Sean Tapley chipped in with a 94 yard kickoff return touchdown, and the Heels beat Virginia Tech in Chapel Hill for the first time since 1938. Heels’ alternate record: 3-0.
October 20, 2012: Two weeks after the white helmets first debuted, they got a slight alteration: navy facemasks to match the navy pants. In an ugly game, UNC took the lead late 30-26 in one of the strangest plays of the season. Eric Highsmith fumbled a completed pass, and when all hope seemed lost, Gio Bernard scooped it up and ran it in for the score. The Heels defense couldn’t stop Duke’s passing game as they scored the go ahead and eventual winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. Heels’ alternate record: 3-1.
October 27, 2012: One week later came the biggest play of the 2012 season, the Bernard punt return, and I’m sure all of our readers and Carolina fans are more than familiar with the navy uniforms and chrome helmets of that day. One interesting side note some fans might not know: the Heels didn’t warm up in these uniforms. They warmed up in the navy uniforms and white helmets, and switched to the chrome helmets before coming out for the game. Heels’ alternate record: 4-1.
February 9, 2013: Perhaps the most infamous look on our list, the match up in Coral Gables had the Heels wearing an interlocking NC on their chest. A similar look was worn during the 1999-2000 season, and though the Heels would make the Final 4 that season, most fans didn’t like the change. After the performance in this game, I’m not sure we’ll be seeing anything like this for a while. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade present, the Hurricanes dismantled the Heels 87-61. Heels’ alternate record: 4-2.
Analysis: The Heels should win two out of three of every game wearing alternate jerseys, right? Well you could argue that this is a tiny sample size, that these games have no actual corresponding effects from the jerseys, or that its dumb to even try and link uniforms game to game and glean any statistical evidence. I’d say you have pretty solid logic. Uniforms, though on a case to case basis might excite a team, probably have very little to do with corresponding successes or failures, but they sure are fun to talk about.