Swinney explains why ‘the orange britches’ are worn in championship games
Though he was joking around Wednesday night, there was some truth to what Dabo Swinney was saying when he explained the Tigers’ identity conflict when he started as head coach back in 2008.
“We were chameleons,” Swinney said jokingly. “I really did not know what we were. I really didn’t.”
So, Swinney called a meeting with then sports information director Tim Bourret and former All-American linebacker Jeff Davis, who works on Swinney’s staff. The Clemson coach asked them what the traditional uniform was at Clemson.
Though Swinney came to Clemson as the wide receivers coach in 2003, the Tigers’ uniform to him during those five seasons was just whatever the seniors voted on that week.
“It was whatever it was,” Swinney said.
The uniform combination varied in those days from the traditional orange and white, white and white, all-orange, white and orange, purple and white, all-purple, orange over purple, white and purple and purple over orange.
“I knew once I got started in ’09, I knew I wanted to have some consistency,” Swinney said. “I was so tired of having to talk about our uniform every week. You talk about wasted energy, every single week. Can we wear this? Can we wear…? It’s like can we just worry about what matters.”
What mattered was getting Clemson back to being a championship program once again. Swinney wanted his players to focus on their opponents and focus on the little things that make them better football players, not how they looked when they went on to the field.
“There was no discussion about a uniform from where I came from for 13 years. We did not even talk about it,” Swinney said. “I wanted to kind of just create that consistency and that mindset.”
Swinney sat down with Bourret and Davis and looked at old pictures and came up with the look we all see today.
“Okay, this is who we should be, and that is what we are going to do,” Swinney said.
Swinney reverted back to Clemson’s uniform style from 1977-’82. The orange helmet and the white Tiger Paw with two purple stripes and a white one going down the middle. The jersey was orange with white pants and two thick orange stripes going down the sides of the legs. On the road they decided to wear their white jersey to go with the white pants.
Prior to the 2016 season, Swinney added the paws back to the top of the shoulder pads to complete the traditional look.
“There was an orange britches tradition which was kind of something that was unique to Clemson and I did not want to lose that so we just kind of decided, ‘Alight, we will wear the orange pants when there is some type of championship on the line. If not, we are not wearing them,’” Swinney recalled.
Ironically, Clemson wore the orange pants in Clemson’s first win, which happened to be at Boston College in 2008, who the second-ranked Tigers will be playing Saturday (8 p.m., ABC) with a chance to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. It will be the first time Clemson has worn the orange pants against BC since that game 10 years ago.
After giving up a 17-0 halftime lead and trailing by one point in the fourth quarter, the Tigers got a 64-yard kickoff return from C.J. Spiller and a short touchdown pass from Cullen Harper to Aaron Kelly to beat the Eagles, 27-21, on that cold November day at Boston College.
“I needed something,” Swinney said, while struggling to find the right words. “That was a championship, trust me. I’m probably not here if it was not for that win ten years ago.
“So, in ’09 we started that consistency and obviously the purple has been a part of our history, too. So, we kind of incorporated that into our military appreciation as a way to embrace that part of our uniform in honor of the military.”
Since then, Clemson has no longer worried about what uniform it is wearing, instead its players can focus on playing football and winning championships again.
“We don’t have any questions and there is no drama or any of that stuff. So, it has been good,” Swinney said.