At long last, the Kentucky football team will become the men in black.
UK confirmed Tuesday that the Wildcats will wear black uniforms for the first time ever in football when they face Mississippi State in Commonwealth Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Kentucky is asking its fans to also wear all black for the game.
Wildcats Coach Joker Phillips said the decision to deviate from traditional UK blue and white was done because the Cats players have been agitating for years for a chance to wear black.
Never miss a local story.
"I've been hit with haymakers about black uniforms by players, by (the media), by fans," Phillips said Tuesday after UK's practice. "It's something we wanted to do just to throw the guys a bone."
Two years ago, the UK Athletics marketing department announced a "blackout" for a game against Mississippi State on Halloween night. At the time, the Kentucky players pleaded publicly for the chance to go all Johnny Cash.
Then-UK Coach Rich Brooks — as old school as leather helmets — could not be won over to the idea. "I haven't seen black in our school colors. They're blue and white," Brooks said at the time. "I'm an old traditionalist, I guess."
Before the 2011 Cats took to the practice field Tuesday morning, equipment manager Tom Kalinowski called UK standouts Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy into a part of the Nutter Training Facility that the players call "Fort Knox."
"It's where all the crazy stuff is," Guy said.
The two UK defenders were told that Kalinowski needed to work on their shoulder pads.
Said Trevathan: "I told him, 'Tom, my shoulder pads are all right.'"
When the players got in the room, they instead saw the new black uniforms. "I almost passed out," Trevathan said. "It was like Christmas for me."
The two changed into the Dale Earnhardt (the elder) look, then came back into a meeting room to surprise their teammates.
"And the crowd went wild," Phillips said, smiling.
The UK coach said he hopes the black uniforms will create excitement. "And there will be more excitement if we are making plays in those black uniforms," he said.
Early reviews of the new UK look — which feature a traditional Kentucky blue checkerboard pattern near the end of the sleeves — were positive.
"Unlike a lot of colleges this year with uniforms, these actually look really good," said Andre Woodson, the former UK quarterback and current student assistant coach.
Woodson, whose final season playing was 2007, said he and his teammates would have loved a chance to wear black. "These guys are definitely lucky," he said.
Besides doing something fun for its current players, Kentucky hopes there will be other benefits to altering its look.
"Recruits love it," Kentucky wide receivers coach Tee Martin said of teams wearing black uniforms. "I was waiting on the marketing department and everybody to release the story so I can re-tweet it and send out Facebook messages about it.
"Hopefully, (recruits will) like it and want to wear these colors."
The football contest against Mississippi State will not be the first time in recent years that a major UK sports team has deviated from blue and white.
On Dec. 7, 2008, Billy Gillispie's men's basketball Cats wore all black as part of a tribute to the longtime Kentucky equipment manager, Bill Keightley, who had died earlier that year.
Whether UK football wears black more than once depends on how the Cats play Saturday night.
"That's the deal," Phillips said. "If we don't play well, we won't see (the black uniforms) again."
Guy thinks the new duds will give Kentucky extra incentive to play well against Mississippi State.
"If you're gonna look like a monster, you gotta play like a monster," Guy said. "Look good, play good."