Fans first got a glimpse of Ohio State's 1916 throwback uniforms when the father of five-star cornerback commit Shaun Wade posted a picture to Facebook in early June of a striped jersey with Chic Harley's famed No. 47 across the chest.
Some questioned whether it was a concept, though it was confirmed to be authentic by a school spokesperson shortly thereafter.
“It's a tradition that's been going on here a few years,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday during the weekly Big Ten Football Coaches Teleconference. “I think the fans love it. Recruits love it.”
Ohio State wore its first alternate uniform in the 2009 game against Michigan as part of Nike's Pro Combat line, paying homage to the 1954 national championship squad by donning white helmets with black numbers.
Designs in the subsequent years have ranged from traditional jerseys honoring past national champions to chrome helmets with enlarged stripes. But none of the alternates worn over the past seven seasons caused as much controversy as last year's all-black uniforms. You either loved them or though Ohio State looked like Cincinnati, but the uniforms weren't made with fans in mind.
They were worn for the same reason mockups of the uniform were spotted in Meyer's office during an interview with ESPN more than a year before they were officially unveiled.
“That was sitting out on his coffee table for a reason,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said last year. “That wasn't for you guys to come and look at so he could impress you. It's sitting on the table because recruits saw it.”
Some fans loathe the thought of Ohio State wearing anything but silver helmets filled with Buckeye Leafs and scarlet jerseys with pro-style sleeve stripes. But winning trumps tradition, and the only way to continue to do so at a .919 clip is to attract the best prospects in the country.
And while flashy alternate uniforms aren't going to seal the deal for most recruits, they're certainly going to get them talking.
That's why Oregon has seemingly worn a different uniform in every game since 1999 and why Michigan recently partnered with Jordan Brand.
“Recruits are impressionable today and have a great deal of materialistic interest. So, reality is, we're going to respond to that,” Smith said. “Our job, our core mission, is our student-athletes that we serve, first and foremost. And that includes the recruits we're trying to attract. We talk about recruiting all the time, which is why we have a waterfall in the locker room that you can't walk through. I'm old school. When you say waterfall, I figure I can go underneath it, get my hair wet.”
The same sentiment can be carried over to kickoff times, where traditionalists would like to see every game played at noon. But night games, which were once few at far between at Ohio Stadium, have become a fixture of Ohio State's recruiting efforts. The Buckeyes only played 11 total night games in the venue's first 89 seasons, but will play their ninth game under the lights this Saturday since Meyer's arrival in 2012.
The atmosphere is undeniably more impressive under the lights, and the shiny new threads will only add to the appeal for those recruits in attendance.
- 2017 five-star quarterback commit Tate Martell of Las Vegas, Nevada, Bishop Gorman;
- 2017 five-star wide receiver commit Tyjon Lindsey of Bishop Gorman;
- 2017 five-star wide receiver commit Trevon Grimes of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, St. Thomas Aquinas;
- 2017 five-star cornerback commit Shaun Wade of Jacksonville, Florida, Trinity Christian;
- 2017 five-star running back commit J.K. Dobbins of La Grange, Texas;
- 2017 four-star linebacker Anthony Hines III of Plano, Texas; and
- 2017 four-star safety Bubba Bolden of Bishop Gorman.
- 2017 five-star offensive tackle commit Josh Myers of Miamisburg;
- 2017 five-star defensive end commit Chase Young of Hyattsville, Maryland, DeMatha Catholic;
- 2017 four-star defensive tackle commit Haskell Garrett of Bishop Gorman;
- 2017 four-star defensive tackle commit Jerron Cage of Cincinnati Winton Woods;
- 2017 offensive tackle Andrew Kerobo of Winton Woods;
- 2018 five-star running back Zamir White of Laurinburg, North Carolina, Scotland County;
- 2018 five-star defensive end Micah Parsons of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania;
- 2018 five-star safety Tyreke Johnson of Trinity Christian;
- 2018 five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman of Fairfield;
- 2018 five-star running back Jaelen Gill of Westerville South;
- 2018 five-star cornerback Derrik Allen of Marietta, Georgia, Lassiter;
- 2018 four-star wide receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts of Harrisburg;
- 2018 four-star linebacker Dallas Gant of Toledo St. John's Jesuit;
- 2018 three-star outside linebacker Cameron McGrone of Indianapolis, Indiana, Lawrence Central;
- 2019 four-star wide receiver Ja'Shawn Sheffield of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, Frederica Academy;
- 2019 four-star wide receiver David Bell of Indianapolis, Indiana, Warren Central;
- 2019 four-star defensive end Stephen Herron Jr. of Louisville, Kentucky, Trinity;
- 2019 cornerback Jaylin Simpson of Frederica Academy; and
- 2020 cornerback Mi'Quan Grace of Winton Woods.