When Mark Richt honored a request from his seniors to wear black jerseys for a 2007 home game against Auburn, he had no idea of the can of worms he was opening. For almost a decade, the black jerseys and their legacy have lingered over the program like a cloud.
The Bulldogs won the initial blackout against Auburn, as well as the subsequent one in the 2008 Sugar Bowl against Hawaii. But in 2008, Richt went to the well one too many times.
Georgia pulled another blackout against the Alabama Crimson Tide that season, but the Tide dumped a can of crimson paint all over the black canvas of Sanford Stadium. Alabama jumped out to a 31-0 lead and eventually held on to win by a 41-30 score. The loss ruined the black jerseys in the minds of many fans, including former team photographer Dan Evans.
“My first inclination would be to tell you that I hate them because of the last loss to Alabama,” Evans said. “That’s the first thing I think about, that defeat. That just tainted me against wearing any black jerseys.”
As a result of this crushing defeat at the hands of Alabama, the black jerseys have never made another appearance. Fans have clamored for the jerseys before big games in recent years, but Richt never relented. There have been alternates, such as the red “Power Ranger” uniforms against Boise State in 2011 and the black helmet and pants combo against Florida in 2009, but never black jerseys.
But now, the rumor mill has begun to work anew.
On July 15, pictures surfaced of recruits taking pictures while wearing black jerseys. When fans began asking questions on Twitter, 2017 four-star recruit K.J. Britt responded with a tweet that read, “Yes people. UGA will have black jerseys this fall.”
These pictures caused quite the stir in the Georgia community, as fans began to speculate if the team would wear black jerseys in the 2016 season. Freshman college student Mira Munro said even though she isn’t a huge football fan, she would support the program’s decision to bring back the black.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Munro said. “I think they look cool. I know that my stepdad mentioned something about it because he’s super into football. I’m not, really, but I think it’s cool.”
Munro added there is just something about the way the jerseys look on the field that makes them appealing to her.
Many fans believe that new head coach Kirby Smart’s arrival has a lot to do with the possible decision to break the jerseys out again. In their minds, a new coach should equal a new approach to the alternate uniforms.
“Yes, we should definitely do it,” junior advertising major Jessica Beaches said. “It’ll really make a statement for Kirby Smart’s first year as a head coach, since we haven’t worn black jerseys in years. To me, it partially signifies a fresh start.”
While lots of Georgia fans would love to see the black jerseys worn again, they don’t just want them to be worn for the sake of wearing them. Most supporters of the jerseys believe the jerseys should only be worn for a game that would match the importance of the previous blackout games.
UGA's black jerseys are my favorite jerseys in college football, I couldn't be more happy that they are gonna wear them again— Clinton Turpin (@ClintonTurpin) August 3, 2016
“Obviously it would look cool, but I feel like it would have to be the right game and the right atmosphere,” senior genetics major Benjamin Kidd said. “There have definitely been games in the past where I thought, ‘It would be awesome if we had black jerseys this game.’ But I don’t necessarily see any of those types of games this year. But it just depends on how the season goes.”
Both Beaches and Kidd said they would like to see the jerseys worn against Auburn, with Beaches adding that she would like for the next blackout to be a night game as well.
However, while the younger fans supported the black gear, older fans were less enthusiastic.
Evans’ disdain for the black jerseys stems from more than just the loss to Alabama. As an older fan, Evans is much more attached to the traditional uniform combinations the Bulldogs have made famous. But he concedes that change is inevitable.
“On a traditional side, I’m older, and I remember the traditions of red jerseys, red helmets and silver britches, with white jerseys and silver britches on the road,” Evans said. “To me, that’s what I think about when I think about Georgia football. I’m a traditionalist, and I think games should be played at noon on Saturday too. But that’s not going to happen.”
Sorry folks. I get the excitement the black jerseys brought against Auburn. But when it comes to UGA, I'll take the home red every time— Anthony Dasher (@AnthonyDasher1) August 2, 2016
Evans added he might think of the black jerseys a little more fondly had Georgia beaten Alabama, but he maintains that he still wouldn’t particularly like them due to his love of tradition.
Longtime Bulldog fan James Mullins echoed Evans’ views, as he is also a proponent of the traditional red and white jerseys. He views the alternate jerseys as nothing more than a “gimmick.”
“The only thing it does is sell a lot of black jerseys for Nike,” Mullins said.
Mullins said he doesn’t believe a football program should rely on ploys such as alternate jerseys to win football games. He compared the Bulldogs to another SEC program that Smart has just a bit of familiarity with.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alabama wear anything but white and crimson,” Mullins said. “I think if we’re going to be the classy program that we need to be, I don’t think we need to be messing around with uniforms to try and win a ballgame.”
At the very least, the prospect of black jerseys has stirred up a lot of conversations among Bulldog supporters. Some advocate for the jerseys, some are staunchly against it. As big home dates against Tennessee and Auburn roll around this fall, the question of whether they will be worn will be asked in comment sections and message boards ad nauseum. Whether Smart will act as Richt did and open the can of black worms, however, remains to be seen.