These are the alternate jerseys Ohio State will wear on Saturday night in Columbus when it faces Penn State. Did the Nittany Lions alert the fashion police?

You can take this for what it’s worth, and honestly…who knows what it’s worth? But it’s out there, and once I got my first look at the uniforms Ohio State plans to wear for Saturday’s titanic tilt against No. 2 Penn State at Ohio Stadium, I figured this might become a little bit of an issue.

So, here it is: There’s a report that surfaced from a reporter at WTOL-11, a CBS television affiliates in Toledo, that indicates Penn State protested the uniforms, trying to prevent the Buckeyes from wearing them this weekend.

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The same reporter also Tweeted this today, which indicates he might not have been averse to stirring something up in regards to the initial jerseys report to rile the home team:

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So, take it all for what it’s worth. This is the only guy that reported anything on it. And James Franklin also wasn’t asked about it during his weekly press conference today — which isn’t a huge deal; but when Franklin wants to bring something to the fore, he has a way of doing so. And he didn’t mention uniforms. Not once.

There wasn’t much to the original report outside of what you see in the first few Tweets. It didn’t indicate whether Penn State formally protested it, with whom it raised its concerns, or who representing the university made the protest. It also didn’t indicate what Smith — Ohio State’s powerful athletic director — did to get it approved. So, the report itself brings up a lot of questions.

But, these uniforms have been a bone of contention with Penn State fans since the prototypes were released. There have even been some questions floating around about whether the Nittany Lions would be allowed to wear their blue home jerseys on the road, considering the Buckeyes’ grays might not contrast enough to easily differentiate between those and the Lions’ road whites.

As you’d expect, the NCAA does have rules to govern this kind of thing. Also as you’d expect from the NCAA, the rules seem needlessly stringent. But, here’s the gist of what the NCAA rules expect, per Rule 1, Section 4, Article 5c, Subsection 1:

  • The jersey must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively.
  • The number must be of a color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number.
  • The home team’s number must not be of the same color as the number worn by the home team, as both jersey color and numbers must contrast for both teams.
  • The numbers should be clearly visible at a distance under a variety of weather and lighting conditions.

If Penn State wanted to do anything about this — bar the Buckeyes from wearing them, try to wear the blue jerseys, etc. — it would have to go through the Big Ten. The Lions would be allowed to wear their blue jerseys if they prefer, as long as they get written permission from the Big Ten.

Think you can’t get penalized for this? Think again. Earlier this season, officials tore down Florida A&M for wearing white jerseys with white numbers (with a pretty thick red outline, mind you) in its season opener against Arkansas. As per the NCAA rulebook, the Rattlers were penalized 15 yards at the start of the game for wearing the illegal threads, and a timeout was taken away from them at the beginning of every quarter they played without changing those jerseys.

That’s pretty steep. Here’s guessing Ohio State might find alternate jerseys a lot less fashionable if they start costing them yards and timeouts. So, they probably went through the proper channels to make sure no flags were going to be thrown.

At the end of the day, I’m pretty certain Ohio State is going to be allowed to wear these. They seem to walk a fine line when it comes to legality. But, I’ve seen less-distinct contrast between number color and jersey color, and it will be difficult to determine if they’re clearly visible from a distance until we get to Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Not so sure, either, they’re going to be too much of a clash with Penn State’s white jerseys (I might rather wear white if I’m Penn State, actually). Seems like their only case is with the color of the numbers being too similar, but 1.) I’m not sure how much that matters, in the long run, and 2.) the colors are similar, but obviously not the same (one is navy blue, the other is black).

It’s tricky, really. We’re really only looking at pictures If those jerseys are a darker shade of gray than they appear in the photos, there’s no issue. If they’re lighter — and they may appear as such under the lights — that could be a big deal.

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