STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - James Franklin had been occupying the head coach's office at Penn State for just a short time before he began thinking about a way to honor the history and tradition of the football program on the field.
The result will come Sept. 30 at Beaver Stadium, when the Nittany Lions will honor "Generations of Greatness" at their Big Ten game against Indiana by wearing throwback uniforms that contain different elements from past teams.
"We wanted to pay homage to our history and traditions and do something fun and exciting," Franklin said Thursday at a news conference at the stadium. "We're taking all the different moments in time throughout our history and being able to tell a story. What better way to tell a story than with our uniform?"
At first glance, the uniform looks to be the same basic blue that Penn State has worn over the years. But different aspects will include gray face masks (a feature from 1959 through 1986), numbers on their helmets (1959-61, 1967-74), a blue stripe on the pants (1952-68), and white shoes (1979 Sugar Bowl), among others.
For guidance on the different subtle uniform changes over the years, Franklin and assistant athletic director Jay Takach consulted with Spider Caldwell, the team's longtime equipment manager.
"When me and Spider first talked about this three years ago, all those things were downstairs," Franklin said. "He brought up the helmet with the gray face mask - he already had it. The numbers on the helmet - he already had it. We've had all these things in our history, and we were able to get video of things that helped as well."
Franklin said the new uniform was revealed to his players Thursday at a team meeting and received an enthusiastic reaction. He said the white shoes had "probably the biggest impact on our players."
Takach, who is in charge of the athletic department's equipment services, said the entire project took about 16 months and was kept under wraps until the formal announcement Thursday.
"We had to do it all in secret," Takach said. "We had to do all the ordering for cleats, socks, and uniforms back in October, and we've just been cranking on it getting it done, trying to get everything in."
Training camp change
Now that the NCAA has banned two-a-day practices in the preseason, teams may start training camp one week earlier to allow them to use the maximum of 29 practices. Though the official start of his team's training camp has not been announced, Franklin said Penn State will start earlier but add only a few days instead of a week.
"Most of the coaches I've talked to are not extending it as far as they could," he said. "They're not leaving it as it was and they're finding a middle ground, which is what we did.
"The other issue you have is we're talking about the length of season and time demands on the athletes anyway. So it doesn't really make sense to add another week to the season if we're talking about time demands."