Georgia to honor ‘80 team by wearing ‘red britches’ vs. Arkansas

Georgia will play with a uniform combination that features red pants.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia football

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia football

Georgia will play with a uniform combination that features red pants.

ATHENS – Georgia football’s famous red pants are making a return in 2020. And if the Bulldogs can beat Arkansas, it will be a triumphant one.

Georgia will wear its rarely-used “red britches” in the Sept. 26 season opener against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark. The gesture is an homage to the 1980 Bulldogs, who wore them once that season, the season-opener against Tennessee, paired with white jerseys as a road uniform. This year is the 40th anniversary of that undefeated national championship season. A commemorative patch is prominently displayed on the chest.

“Yeah, we were given a heads-up on that,” said Frank Ros, linebacker and captain of the 1980 Georgia team. “It’s awfully nice of them to do that. Obviously, that was a special team and we’re honored they’re honoring us that way.”

Get a good look at the red britches because they are a one-time accessory, according to John Meshad, Georgia’s longtime director of athletic equipment.

“That’s the plan,” Meshad said. “One game, one-time uniforms to commemorate the 1980 season.”

The Bulldogs offered a not-so-subtle hint when they sent out a video via their social-media channels showing Herschel Walker highlights from the 1980 season. Those scenes were followed by current sophomore running back Zamir White modeling the new uniform in the Georgia locker room.

Also unveiled in that video were some new, specially-issued black jerseys that the Bulldogs are going to wear sometime this season. Exactly when remains undecided -- or a secret. But Georgia will be back in black at least this season.

That’s rare, but the red britches are really rare.

“(The discussions) probably started two years ago,” Meshad said. “We had a meeting and they wanted to do a throw-back kind of uniform. I left the office and grabbed a couple of pictures of Herschel against Tennessee and everybody just said, ‘this is what we’ve got to do.’”

Most importantly, coach Kirby Smart was on board.

“He liked it and I knew he would,” Meshad said. “He was in that meeting, too, and he liked how it coincided with the 40th anniversary of the 1980 team.”

Meshad got a little nervous about the red pants initiative when the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the start of the season. Georgia was originally scheduled to open the season against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the plan was to surprise the pro-Georgia Mercedes Benz Stadium crowd with the team running onto the field wearing the red pants.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they’ll still be able to wear them in the opener as the SEC schedule set up Georgia on the road at Arkansas. The red britches only work when paired with white road jerseys, Meshad said. Georgia normally wears its standard “silver britches” both home and away.

Officially, the Bulldogs haven’t worn the red pants since 1988. They broke them out for an important game against South Carolina that season. But after losing 23-10, then-coach and athletic director Vince Dooley ordered them boxed up for the forseeable future.

It could be argued that Georgia last wore red britches in 2011 when it came out in all-red, specially-issued uniforms for a season-kickoff game in Atlanta against Boise State. But, again, the Bulldogs were soundly defeated 34-21 in that contest. Those uniforms – forever to be known as the “Power Ranger unis” – also went away forever.

Georgia long has had a love-hate relationship with alternative uniforms. The Bulldogs famously broke out the black jerseys in secret in 2007 for the Auburn game, and Georgia went on to a scintillating victory. The Bulldogs also wore them for what was a 41-10 annihilation of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl that year.

Georgia plans to unveil a new black jersey this season.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia football

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Georgia football

But the next year Georgia flopped in black in a Top 10 matchup against Alabama at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs fell behind 31-0 in the first half on the way to a 41-30 defeat.

There also was a black helmets, black pants debacle against Florida in 2009. And so the alternative uniform trend was over.

But Smart set out to resurrect black jerseys when he became head coach in 2016. His aim, though, was not to make it a adrenalin-producing ploy. He felt black jerseys should be prominently incorporated into the uniform rotation on a semiregular basis simply because its one of the school’s primary colors.

The Bulldogs wore the black jerseys against Louisiana-LaFayette in 2016, Smart’s first season. But they haven’t since.

Meshad said he personally wouldn’t have minded Georgia wearing black again against Auburn in the Bulldogs home opener on Oct. 3. But he doubted if that would happen.

“Probably not,” he said. “There will be enough distractions that day.”

Georgia’s only other home games are Tennessee (Oct. 10), Mississippi State (Nov. 21) and Vanderbilt (Dec. 5). But, of course, the Bulldogs could utilize them Nov. 7 against Florida in Jacksonville.

One of the most talked-about features of the 2020 black jersey is the silver “spikes” that are sewed in around the collar. That, Meshad said, is an homage to Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga X.

As for the 40th anniversary of the 1980 championship, the school originally had planned an extensive celebration for the first home game of this season. That would have been Sept. 12 against East Tennessee State and would have included Dooley and every living member of the championship squad being recognized on the field, in addition to lavish events throughout the weekend.

That’s obviously impossible in the Age of COVID-19 and social distancing. The event instead has been pushed back to the 2021 season.

So, that makes red-pants gesture at Arkansas especially nice. But Ros said there’s an even better way 2020 team could pay homage to the 1980 team.

“They could win another national championship,” Ros said with a laugh. “I’d love to see that. We need one.”