College football jerseys present an opportunity for designers to flex their creative muscles. While schools such as the University of Oregon prefer flashier uniforms, others like Penn State maintain the same classic look each year. But football is a sport, not a fashion show, and NCAA football jersey rules focus on elements that unify teams and allow players to be identified easily by officials and fans. Every team member must wear a jersey of the same design that meets NCAA standards or face potentially game-changing penalties.
Construction and Design
NCAA rules require jerseys to be full-length and worn tucked into the players' pants. The sleeves should completely cover the player's shoulder pads. The jersey can't be designed to tear away, and if it does rip, it can't be taped or tied in place -- the player must be given a new jersey. The rules allow teams to add stripes to the collar and cuffs of the jersey as long as they are no more than 1 inch wide. Stripes down the side of the jersey cannot be more than 4 inches wide.
Name and Number
Players' numbers must be the same color and style on the front and back of their jerseys. NCAA rules require player numbers from 1 to 99, displayed in Arabic numerals between 8 and 10 inches tall and at least 1.5 inches thick. Different players on the same team can have the same number, but they cannot be on the field on the same time -- and if they play the same position, they can't both play in the same game. Apart from the players' numbers, the rules permit players' names and school names on the jersey. Patches or decals no larger than 16 square inches may depict the school, conference, mascot, bowl game logo, American or state flag, memorials or military insignia.
In addition to size requirements, the color of the numbers must contrast with the color of the rest of the jersey. Players of opposing teams wear different colored jerseys, with the visiting team usually wearing white jerseys. If either team wants to deviate from this general rule by wearing an alternate jersey, the two teams must agree in writing before the season starts. If both teams plan on wearing colored jerseys, the conference has to certify the teams' colors contrast and won't cause confusion.
Penalties for Violation
If teams or individual players violate the NCAA rules for jerseys, they risk penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. Improper numbering leads to a 5-yard penalty, while wearing home jerseys without permission results in a 15-yard penalty. If a single player changes numbers during the game without reporting to a referee first, this also results in a 15-yard penalty for his team. If an entire team wears uniforms that don't conform to NCAA rules, it may be charged a timeout for not wearing mandatory equipment.
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