When Washington State refreshed their jerseys in 2017, they opted for more combinations rather than originality. Nike and WSU removed the stripes on the shoulders, outlines on the numbers, and text on the chest of the jersey from their look that debuted in 2012. That left just a big block number on the chest and a WSU logo on the collar that maximizes the amount of matching combinations WSU can roll out on a weekly basis. The uniforms were met with mixed reviews when they were initially released. However, winning changes things.
Since 2017, WSU has gone 34-22 in their 56 games played with the new uniforms. In that timespan, WSU has tried 25 different combinations of helmet shell and facemask colors, jersey, and pants, with the all crimson look appearing the most at five times (once per season).
Everybody knows that the key to winning football games is having the right uniform combination. Look good, feel good, play good. Simple.
Some of WSU’s combos have performed better than others over the past five seasons and I’ve taken the time to crunch the numbers and analyze the data to find the best and worst uniform combinations — all the way down to what color logo or facemask is on the helmet — based on their record over the last 48 WSU football games.
Best Uniform Combo: “Senior Day” (4-0)
WSU has made their Anthracite-Crimson-Anthracite combination a senior day staple with the one exception being in 2018 when they wore them against Eastern Washington in their second home game. The Cougars routed the Eagles 59-24.
They first debuted for senior day 2017 against the top-25 Stanford Cardinal. The Cougs pulled off the upset in Luke Falk’s final home game as he hit Jamire Calvin over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner with under seven minutes to go. Not to be outdone, the senior day combo worked magic again in 2019 when Max Borghi punched in the buzzer-beater touchdown against Oregon State in a wild 54-53 thriller. The uniforms last appeared through a thick layer of fog last season against the Arizona Wildcats as the Cougs pulled away late for a 44-18 win.
Worst Uniform Combo: Crimson-White-Crimson (0-4)
Since 2017, this combination has delivered nothing but terrible memories for Coug fans. It first debuted at Cal in 2017 as the Cougs entered Berkley, dressed in their crimson and whites, in the top-10. The Cougars left Berkley without a touchdown and a 34-point loss on their head, 37-3. They made another appearance in the final game of that same season in the 2017 Holiday Bowl against Michigan State. WSU was again rocked in a 42-17 blowout loss.
After not making an appearance in 2018, the uniforms returned at Utah in 2019 with hopes the year-long absence would shake off the bad voodoo. They did not. Yet again WSU was on the wrong end of a route as the Utes pulled away in the second half for a 38-13 win, leading coach Mike Leach to call his players in crimson and white, ‘fat, dumb, happy and entitled’. But how much blame can Leach truly put on his players when they have to wear a cursed uniform?
The uniforms were last seen in 2020 in front of an eerily empty Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Once again, the Cougs were routed as USC took a 28-0 lead into the second quarter and never looked back for another 38-13 loss for WSU. If you’re doing the math, that’s four losses with a point differential of -109. It’s a shame this look has performed so badly over the years considering its near-perfect use of school colors on the road. But, here’s to hoping we never have to see that combination ever again for the sake of winning games.
Meanwhile, the all-crimson look has appeared the most times at five, boasting a 3-2 record, and eight other combinations have been worn just once.
Best Helmet: Classic (7-1)
Ah, the traditional gray helmet and crimson facemask. It doesn’t get more classic than that for WSU. The helmet has appeared the second most, behind the all crimson helmet (12), and has seen great success. The Cougars' only loss when wearing their classic helmet came in the 2021 opener against Utah State. Other than that blip, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing for WSU’s timeless look.
The only helmet with a better record is WSU’s white helmet with anthracite logos and facemask that was worn only once in 2017 in a 45-7 win against Nevada.
Worst Helmet: “Gray Ghost” (1-2)
WSU does have a pair of helmet combinations that have only been worn once in losses, but the “Gray Ghost” look, as I am unofficially calling it, comes in with a winning percentage of .333 in its three appearances.
The look first debuted in the 2017 Apple Cup in which WSU was routed 41-14. The helmet didn’t return until a trip down to Oregon in 2019 where the Cougs fought valiantly against the 11th ranked Ducks but left too much time on the board for Justin Herbert, who led a game-winning drive down the field for a game-winning field goal as the clock expired for a 37-35 Ducks victory.
The Gray Ghost made its home debut in 2021 for a Family Weekend affair against the Stanford Cardinal. Paired with the anthracite jersey and pants, the Cougs won a 34-31 thriller with a strip-sack from Quinn Roff sealing the win in what proved to be coach Nick Rolovich’s last game as the Cougar leader.
Trends say we won’t see this helmet until 2023, with it appearing every other year since 2017.
Best Jersey: Anthracite (7-2)
When black jerseys became the college football universe's infatuation in the early 2010s, WSU opted for something different. WSU blended that craving for a dark-colored jersey to wear on those prime-time night games, with its school colors, delivering the color anthracite to us. Nike refreshed the anthracite look in 2017 by dropping the crimson text for a much easier-to-read white that pops. The new anthracite look has delivered some of the best memories in WSU football history.
The jersey made its debut in 2017 against Oregon State with the traditional gray helmet and gray pants for a 52-23 win. Anthracite made it’s full debut on a magical Friday night against the top-five USC Trojans two weeks later when the Cougs showed off the anthracite helmet and pants to tag along with the jersey. The end result, a 30-27 upset thanks to a clean blitz from Jahad Woods on Sam Darnold who lost the football and it was recovered by the Cougars. The all-anthracite reappeared in WSU’s biggest weekend ever a year later against the Oregon Ducks for College Gameday. I think we all know how that ended.
The anthracite uniform is so clean that it was actually worn more than the home crimson uniform in 2017 (Four times to three). After delivering two of the biggest wins in WSU Football history and starting a perfect 6-0, the uniforms have lost some magic, losing two of its last three with its first loss coming on the 21st night of September in 2019. It last appeared in 2021 with the “Gray Ghost” helmet in that 34-31 win over Stanford.
Worst Jersey: White (11-15)
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. WSU has only worn the refreshed white jerseys on the road and winning on the road is much harder than it is at home.
The Cougars did win their first game in the new white jerseys, knocking off Oregon in the “Icy White” combo 33-10, but lost four of their next five games in the whites to end the 2017 season. WSU went just 1-5 in 2019 in their white uniforms with their lone win coming against the Houston Cougars in Houston.
Despite the white jersey's record, they are the only jersey to be worn in an Apple Cup win since the 2017 refresh. The white jersey also takes home the title of most worn at 26 with anthracite being the least worn at nine times. Crimson sits in the middle at 21 appearances.
Best Pants: White (10-1)
Despite their relative white jerseys owning the worst record, the white pants have done very well for themselves. Debuting in a 2017 win over Nevada, the white pants won the Cougars seven straight games before running into their first and only loss at Cal in 2019.
The white pants bounced back with a win in their lone appearance at Oregon State in 2020, then picked up two wins on the road in 2021 with the latest one being the sweetest. (See picture above)
Worst Pants: Crimson (10-10)
The equipment team has done a good job of spreading out the wins and losses if our worst pants still sit at .500, but it is a bit of a surprise to see WSU’s classic crimson pants be the worst of the four options while being worn the most. It doesn’t help that four of it’s 10 losses stem from the cursed “Crimson-White-Crimson” combo.
The refreshed crimson pants were a part of the signature all-crimson look that first appeared against Boise State in that overtime comeback win and last appeared in the 2021 Sun Bowl against Central Michigan.
As for the others, the anthracite pants have been worn 16 times with a record of 9-7 and the gray pants have been worn the least at nine times with a 5-4 record.
With these statistics in mind, that leaves Coach Dickert and the equipment staff with one option. Embrace the analytics and either go with the undefeated “Senior Day” combo every week, or rock a classic helmet, anthracite jersey, and white pants look that takes the best winning percentage from each piece of equipment in order to give WSU the best chance at winning every game.
While WSU has a number of options for uniform combinations, they also have a number of helmet shell, logo colors and facemask colors they can choose from. Perhaps that can be covered in a uniform deep dive part two.