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It’s Time To Reinstate Penn State Hoops’ Black & Pink Uniforms

When it comes to Penn State men’s basketball, the typical Happy Valley “black shoes, basic blues” uniform adage hasn’t always held true. 

In 2014, the Nittany Lions added a sleek black and pink alternate look that quickly became a favorite for students and players alike. The uncommon color scheme paid homage to the university’s original colors, which were selected by three student representatives of varsity athletic programs in 1887. 

That year, the football team ripped off an “undefeated” 2-0 campaign in the black and pink threads. However, when the unit began to compete in more regular season contests in 1890, the pink color scheme began to fade with every wash, making the uniforms actually appear to look white and black to the naked eye. 

But, before Micah Shrewsberry took over the reins from Jim Ferry’s year-long stint as the hoops program’s interim head coach, his crew seemed to possess an entirely opposite dilemma. 

During Ferry’s COVID-19-hindered slate beginning in 2020, the Nittany Lions repped the black-and-pink look in 10 of 11 total away matchups. Moreover, Penn State elected to don the eccentric uniform combination in both Big Ten Tournament neutral-site battles that year, too. 

Initially, former head coach Pat Chambers decided to save the alternate ensemble for Big Ten/ACC Challenge games and high-stakes road contests against ranked opponents. While Ferry abused that sentiment, the community rallied behind the team’s unique identity in his lone campaign at the helm. 

Between the depths of the pandemic, students across campus bought black Penn State hoops jerseys with pink lettering to symbolize a flashier side of an athletic department so steeped in tradition and continuity. Now, the once fan-favorited alternate combination is simply nowhere to be found. 

Since Shrewsberry’s first matchup manning the home bench at the Bryce Jordan Center 2021, he’s coached 53 matchups for the Nittany Lions. Additionally, the head coach has led his unit out of an opposing tunnel in 17 road games and at eight neutral-site venues.

The “gritty, not pretty” maestro has certainly had a fair opportunity to bring the black and pink throwbacks out of the bag, but he’s only done so once in almost two years — on February 5, 2022, against Wisconsin. While the Nittany Lions fell valiantly in Madison that day, Shrewsberry’s crew put on a defensive clinic in the 51-49 falter. 

While the black and pink jerseys may have been overworn two years ago, the alternate set is certainly underappreciated now. The classic look deserves a long, overdue spot back in the regular uniform rotation, and stats tell an eerily similar story. 

Through Shrewsberry’s 17 road matchups with the Nittany Lions, the up-and-coming leader possesses a surprising 2-15 record away from Happy Valley. That’s an 11.7% winning percentage outside the Bryce Jordan Center’s confines. 

Although the abysmal clip likely isn’t a byproduct of player-worn apparel, Ferry squeaked out three road wins in the alternate uniforms at Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Maryland. 

After the Nittany Lions’ demolition of the Hokies in a 75-55 beatdown on December 8, 2020, Penn State moved to a perfect 12-0 record in the black and pink combination. When Ferry decided to make the look a permanent fixture away from home, the squeaky clean winning mark naturally collapsed. 

On Wednesday, Shrewsberry’s crew headed into the depths of Mackey Arena for a crucial showdown with No. 1 Purdue. While the contest wasn’t categorized with a “must-win” label, a victory would’ve pivoted the Nittany Lions from a bubble team into a virtual lock into the 64-team field, without having to face the dreaded play-in battle.

When Penn State took the floor, it wasn’t pretty — for two reasons. The Boilermakers’ center, Zach Edey, presented a vile matchup problem for Shewsberry’s undersized front court. Additionally, the scoreboard virtually favored Purdue before the opening tip-off without a black-and-pink allure gracing the Nittany Lions’ bench. 

Of course, nothing would have stopped Matt Painter’s group’s 20-point demolition of Penn State on Wednesday. The Nittany Lions surrendered a 22-4 run to open the second half in West Lafayette and allowed forward Mason Gillis to break the Mackey Arena three-point-conversion record with nine scores from beyond the arc. 

But, Penn State hoops should absolutely reserve its patented black and pink look for marquee matchups. Between all of the Nittany Lions’ historically dominant programs, men’s basketball may lack the most luster. 

Hell, a banner labeled “NIT Appearances” graces the Bryce Jordan Center’s rafters. For a program without much swagger to begin with, taking away a newly implemented program staple doesn’t gain anybody anything. 

It’s time to reinstate the black and pink threads for good, folks. And, if the Nittany Lions are indeed dancing, it would be WRONG not to see the look grace a “March Madness” branded floor in March.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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