South Carolina’s special jerseys created a not-so-special moment Saturday.
Game officials requested South Carolina to switch out of their military-benefit uniforms after pregame warmups because the numbers were hard to see, a SEC spokesman said. Conference officials could not recall a time when a team had to swap jerseys shortly before kickoff.
The Gamecocks were wearing special black jerseys with gray and black numbers and trimming as part of a tribute for wounded veterans and their families. The gray and black print in the numbers were stars and stripes in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Under Armour, the apparel supplier for USC, unveiled the jerseys 11 days ago, but about a half hour before kickoff, game officials had the Gamecocks switch out of the uniforms that benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
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USC played in traditional black game jerseys, which have white numbers. The Gamecocks still wore gray and black accented pants, shoes and helmets.
Coach Steve Spurrier said the last-moment wardrobe swap did not affect the team in its 16-13 loss to Auburn. “We had plenty of time to change,” he said.
An Under Armour spokeswoman said USC approved the jersey design. The school is not required to have design approved by the SEC and conference officials are unaware of any NCAA review requirement, SEC spokesman Chuck Dunlap said.
NCAA rules require “numerals of a color(s) in distinct contrast with the jersey” and that is why South Carolina had to make a change, Dunlap said. The Gamecocks wore black military-themed uniforms two seasons ago also on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, but the numbers were light colored.
Dunlap expects that athletics directors will discuss reviewing new jersey designs when they meet in December. “We want to make sure this never happens again,” he said.
Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank attended Saturday’s game.
“Under Armour is very sorry about the situation,” USC associate athletics director Charles Waddell said. “Next time we’ll make sure to have our I’s dotted and T’s crossed.” He thought the numbers might have been all right with the officials if they were bordered in white rather than garnet.
South Carolina still plans to auction game-issued jerseys with all proceeds going toward the Wounded Warrior Project.
Two more teams are scheduled to wear Wounded Warrior uniforms this season — Texas Tech on Nov. 12 and South Florida on Nov. 19.