NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Vanderbilt unveiled its new uniforms for the 2012 football season on Wednesday night in front of a packed house at the West End Barnes & Noble Vanderbilt Bookstore.
Each of Vanderbilt's 16 scholarship seniors modeled the various combinations of the new Nike jerseys, as well as a brand new white helmet. It continues a theme from last year when the Commodores introduced a black helmet during the 2011 football season.
Commodore head coach James Franklin and his staff designed the uniforms, incorporating several different changes and subtleties that make the uniform unlike any Vanderbilt fans have seen.
Made with Nike's Cordura fabric, the uniform includes the company's flywire stitching in the shoulder of the jerseys and Vanderbilt written across the chest. It marks the first time since the 1991-1994 uniforms that the school's name is written across the front of the jersey.
Other notable features include an anchor emblem at the front neck of jersey and "Anchor Down" stitching on the interior neckline. Two Star-V logos are on each hip of the pants. Previous pants had included just one logo.
One version of Vanderbilt's gold jersey also features black shoulder covers with black numbering and letters. The Commodores' gold jerseys had been gold with white numbers and letters since 2008.
"Staying current, not going against our traditions and things like that, just staying current with the type of material with the few accents like the anchor in the corner of the collar, the anchor down on the back...adding the white helmet, it creates some flexibility for us," said Franklin to a crowd that in every way exceeded standing room only.
"Having the Star V on the sides so when you shoot from the camera angles, we're continuing to sell our brand. It just shows a change that we're making here," Franklin said.
"Not only do you have to provide an unbelievable education, not only do have to play with a certain aggression on the field and play an exciting brand of football...you also have to be sexy. That's what happened to us in recruiting last year when a couple of high profile guys jumped on, it made it okay for other guys to do it. And once you get that, you can start to get some momentum going and really do some good things."
The most popular debut of the night had to be the white helmet. Senior quarterback and captain Jordan Rodgers and senior safety Eric Samuels modeled the new headgear, which includes the V-Star logo, a black cage and a thick black middle stripe surrounded by two gold stripes going down the helmet. It's the first time since 1989 in which the Commodores have featured a white helmet.
When Rodgers appeared donning the new all-white uniform (including gleaming white cleats), the entire crowd let out a huge gasp.
"The new uni's are awesome, when Coach Franklin showed us as a team a few weeks back, everyone was so excited," Rodgers said on Wednesday. "We've been changing the culture around here with getting everybody more involved and in how we work, so it's a reward now to change how we dress, it's going to be good for 2012.
"We kind of knew we were going to get new jerseys but the white helmets were hush, hush. Coach Franklin told me and Walker [May], the team captains, a few months ago and we kept it secret, so really nobody has known about it until about this past week when a couple of guys found out. They're awesome. I think my favorite combo is the white-black-white. It's just going to add a wrinkle, it's going to add some excitement, and we're going to look a little faster out there maybe."
Vanderbilt's seniors modeled nine different combinations but Franklin said there's many more possibilities with the three different sets and helmets.
The 2012 season is rapidly approaching. The Commodores will begin practice on July 30th and kickoff the season on Thursday night, August 30th against South Carolina at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Vanderbilt returns 17 starters from last season's Liberty Bowl team and will feature the best signing class in modern Commodore history.