When it comes to the uniforms that the University of Kentucky sports teams wear, it seems everyone has an opinion.
Whether you love or hate the incorporation of black or gray or pewter or whatever into UK gear in addition to the traditional Blue and White, there has been another feature that has seen its use increase in recent years, especially in UK men’s basketball.
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Introduced in UK men’s basketball uniforms in 2008 as an homage to the silks of Triple Crown winner and Thoroughbred icon Secretariat with the blessing of his owner, Penny Chenery, the checkerboard pattern has cropped up on other uniforms and even the UK football field subtly and not-so subtly.
Its use has come under fire from some critics who believe it to be too much of a knockoff of the Tennessee Volunteers checkerboard, which that program has used for a number of years longer.
On Tuesday, TheSpun.com put Kentucky'' football uniforms, which featured the checkerboard on the sleeves in many iterations, on a list of 10* College Football Programs That Need To Redesign Their Uniforms.
One of the checkerboard detractors, Kentucky Sports Radio producer Shannon “the Dude” Grigsby challenged UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on the use of the checkerboard during a segment of “The Morning Tip Off with Michael Bennett” Monday morning on iHeart Radio’s WKJK in Louisville.
“A lot of people have expressed concerns not liking the checkerboard uniforms,” Grigsby said prefacing his question to Barnhart “So, are the checkerboards here to stay or are they here for another year? What’s the future?”
“I really find it fascinating that people get fired up about uniforms,” Barnhart replied. “We were just talking about this off air. It’s so interesting to me. As we talk to our players — if I asked our football team what uniforms they want to wear, they want to wear the platinum ones and the black ones, and the minute we put those on, I get 84,000 emails about, ‘Don’t wear black and platinum.’ I got one guy that writes me an email — when we go on the road, we wear white uniforms, which is by rule, we have to wear the white uniform. He says, ‘You’ve worn white. You’re already surrendering before you’ve ever taken the field.’ I said, ‘That’s great, buddy. I really appreciate you understanding the rules of college football.’ That’s the mindset of what I deal with.”
Grigsby interjected: “Is it a deal with Nike, Mitch?”
Barnhart bristled: “Hey Shannon, are you going to talk over the top of me and keep going or do I get to answer what I want to? How about you be quiet and I’ll talk?”
It became clear uniform debates are not something Barnhart enjoys.
“I’m going to run out of time and can’t answer it the way I want to. I like our kids. We have a lot of our kids that like it. Frankly, we do have a deal with Nike and they came to us with some stuff from the silks of Secretariat. When we first started this, it wasn’t a checkerboard thing, it was the silks of Secretariat and that’s how we’ve honored it. A lot of our kids like it and we give each sport the opportunity to design their own uniforms, so that’s where we are.”
Listen to the exchange below and look over the UK uniforms over the last several years since the checkerboard's inception. Should UK keep the ode to Secretariat, or has its time passed?
When the checkerboard was unveiled in 2008, it began as a faint weave pattern in the uniform fabric and a short eight-square pattern on the belt line. Seven squares had the year of UK's national titles with the eighth square left blank to indicate the quest for another. UK won its eighth title in 2012.
The weave pattern in the fabric disappeared after the first year in them, but the belt-line checkerboard remained as shown in the 2009 edition worn by the team that included DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall.
In 2010, the swoop on the pant leg was replaced by a wide blue strip that had a checkerboard weave. The checkerboard remained on the belt line. This version stuck with subtle changes until 2014.
In 2014, the wide blue strip converts to a white and blue checkerboard.
In 2016, the checkerboard takes over as the striping on the tops and bottoms. This version continued through this past season.