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Whither Blackout?: Whether the Black Jerseys Should Go the Way of the Red Britches

I hesitate even to broach the subject, but it is a topic that we in Bulldog Nation ultimately must discuss. What are we to do with the black jerseys?

We all know the course of events. The black jerseys, which previously had not been worn by a Georgia squad since the Rose Bowl at the end of the 1942 campaign, have been donned three times in the Bulldogs’ last 17 games, with results ranging from the magical to the impressive to the downright disastrous.

Clearly, we went to the well too often and what began as an inspirational change of pace became instead a gimmicky distraction that did more for the other team than for the ‘Dawgs. Should the black jerseys be retired permanently or merely shelved for the short term?

There is, of course, a useful parallel in the annals of Georgia football history. I’m sure you know what I mean:

In the 1970s, and most famously during the "Wonderdogs" season of 1978, the red britches were a staple of the Bulldog road uniform. The Classic City Canines came out attired in their red pants for the first game of the 1980 campaign, against Tennessee in Knoxville, and they looked sharp:

The following week, at the first home game against Texas A&M, the silver britches were brought back. Vince Dooley had replaced the famous silver pants with white ones in 1964 and he revived the dormant tradition just in time for Georgia’s national championship season. The silver britches have, of course, been a defining feature of the Bulldogs’ home and road uniforms ever since; offhand, I can think of only three instances since Coach Dooley’s final season on the Sanford Stadium sideline in 1988 that the ‘Dawgs deviated from this (against Wisconsin at the end of the 1997 season, Florida in 1998, and L.S.U. in 1999).

The red pants still made occasional appearances in the short run, though. At the recommendation of equipment manager Howard Beavers, the Red and Black broke out the scarlet road uniform pants for a game against Clemson at Death Valley in 1985. In a contest that saw the emergence of James Jackson at quarterback and a pair of crucial interceptions by John Little, the ‘Dawgs emerged victorious by a 20-13 margin.

Afterwards, Coach Dooley offered one of the more unfortunately phrased quotations of his entire career:

Quite frankly, I am not big on trousers or jerseys or that type of thing, but rather, I am concerned with what is inside. I think that what was inside those pants today certainly got the job done.

It sounds like that was the year Reed Rothchild and Dirk Diggler walked on at inside linebacker and strong safety, respectively.

For his part, the sainted Dan Magill wasn’t buying Coach Dooley’s line about disbelieving in the magic of the red road pants. Wrote Magill in Bull-Doggerel: "I am positive that he really thought the red britches were a vital factor." Support for the longtime Georgia sports information director’s claim could be found in the Bulldogs’ return trip to Lake Hartwell two years later.

When the Red and Black went back to Clemson for another battle royal with the Tigers in 1987, the home team had the game circled on the calendar. The Fort Hill Felines were considered a national championship contender that year, and Georgia appeared to be the only major obstacle before the South Carolina game.

Naturally, the Tigers wore their orange pants for the occasion . . . and not just any old orange pants, either. They picked out an especially snazzy pair, going with shiny orange britches with a tiger paw at the top and black and white piping down the sides. On the Friday night before the game, in order to counteract whatever Death Valley mojo the orange britches would enable Clemson to conjure, Coach Dooley sent Beavers back across the state line to Athens to retrieve the red pants for Saturday’s game.

On a nasty rainy afternoon, the ‘Dawgs held a late 20-16 lead when Jackson was tackled in the end zone for a safety to cut the Red and Black’s four-point lead in half, then the Country Gentlemen went on the final decisive march that ended in yet another last-second David Treadwell field goal to make it 21-20 for the Tigers.

If my memory is not faulty---as, admittedly, it could be, so correct me if I’m wrong---the red britches have not been seen in the 21 years since.

Should that be the fate of the black jerseys, as well? You tell me, and explain your answer in the comments below.

Go ‘Dawgs!