Oregon football has been known for cutting edge uniforms for years now, but it hasn't always been that way.
In The Uniform Craze That Revolutionized College Football, an NBC Sports NW podumentary on the Sports Uncovered podcast feed, we break down how Nike utilized branding to help Oregon compete with the upper echelon of college football.
By the early 2010s, Oregon's brand was in full force. With a new uniform combination every game, a national audience was always eager to see what Nike and Oregon had up their sleeves.
On January 2, 2012, they did not disappoint, debuting the new chrome football helmet against the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
When the Ducks came out onto the football field in Pasadena in front of a national television audience of 11.7 million, ESPN 's announcers couldn't stop gushing over the new helmet.
"I'll tell you what, it's not necessarily the uniform as much as the helmet," said Brent Musberger. "That's what strikes everybody right now and you know when I look at it as much as it's nice and flashy you wouldn't know it's an Oregon helmet because you can't see anything... It looks like a lightbulb is going on inside of it, it's so bright!"
"I had to put my sunglasses on a minute ago because the Ducks came out of the locker room with their shiny new helmets," responded Kirk Herbstreit. "Those things sparkle in the Southern California sun."
"They are chromed up although it's liquid metal, it has wings, it has the O. It looks [like] different colors [depending] what it is around."
But not everyone was a fan of the new helmets. Specifically Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema.
It got into the head of the coach at Wisconsin. He started complaining right away, I was on the field when Oregon came out and he's like "They can't do that.' - Tinker Hatfield
They were a huge hit with everybody else, including Joey Harrington, or should I say Joey Heisman.
"It was just wow and I think it complemented what Oregon was about at that time, which was speed and explosiveness," said Harrington. "I'll never forget De'Anthony Thomas taking that, breaking down the sideline right in front of us and you just saw this blur of chrome going by and was like, yep. I think I'm going to like these."
The last time Oregon played Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl— Elite College Football (@EliteCollege_FB) December 12, 2019
De’Anthony Thomas put up this stat line:
2 TD pic.twitter.com/ic7ZlnfNNX
As the game went on, the color of the helmets changed.
"It started with this incredible sunshine but by the time the third quarter rolls around, the sun's starting to set. And you get the colors and you get a different reflection all throughout the course of the game, the look of the helmet changed," remembers Harrington.
The helmet was such a success that Oregon brought them back for the 2020 Rose Bowl earlier this year.
Back-to-back bowl losses to top-ten opponents in 1995 and 1996 spawned a conversation between Mike Belloti and Nike founder Phil Knight about what the program needed to win.
Among the decisions was to reinvent the Oregon brand.
After back-to-back BCS Bowl losses in 2010 and 2011, some wondered if the Chip Kelly led Ducks could get over the hump and take down an elite, out-of-conference opponent.
On January 2, 2012, the Ducks broke through defeating the Badgers to win the program's first Rose Bowl since 1917. They did so with that iconic Oregon swagger that helped spawn a new power in college football.