Breaking down college football’s dress code
What we can learn from team head shots in college football
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Brent Venables made quite the fashion statement a day after February’s National Signing Day.
“We’re gonna get every player on our team in a brand new suit every year,” he informed reporters amid a 90-minute-long news conference. “Gonna bring in a tailor and measure ‘em up. Man, they deserve that. Gonna make ‘em put a coat and tie on and represent this university and themselves in the right way. And we’re gonna pay for it.”
That’s a significant cultural shift for the program. Because when you think players in suits, the Southeastern Conference should be the first that comes to mind. And Venables, who thrived as a defensive coordinator in the same region at Clemson, has seen firsthand how to build a juggernaut that can compete with the SEC.
Maybe that’s reading too much into what we have already seen OU players wear in their new headshots and presumably what they will be wearing on game days. So, I did a little more research.
How does team-photo-day attire play a role in a team’s success? We looked at every Power 5 school’s headshots before the 2021 season, hoping to learn anything we can.
In all, we looked at the 64 teams in a Power 5 conference (the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC). Notre Dame was not included, because if they want the benefits of me finding their 2021 football roster at 3 a.m. on a weeknight and entering that data into my little spreadsheet, then they’re going to have to join a conference.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the numbers.
Among the 64 teams in a Power 5 conference, 48.4% of teams had their players wearing suits in their head shots ahead of the 2021 season, while 29.7% had their players wear their jerseys and 21.9% had their players wear a team-issued polo.
Here’s how it breaks down:
As you can see, suits are the superior head-shot wardrobe option — at least for the 2021 season.
Teams in suits had the best overall winning percentage at .574, while teams that wore jerseys went .543 and teams in polos went .523.
If you had national championships for the individual categories, Georgia would still win one as a member of #TeamSuits. Michigan State had the best record among teams that wore polos at 11-2, while Oklahoma State had the best record among teams that wore jerseys in their photos at 12-2.
Among the four Power 5 teams in the top 5 of the final AP Top 25 rankings of the 2021 season, all four (Georgia, Alabama, Michigan and Baylor) wore suits. The other team in the top 5, Cincinnati, is a jersey school, which is fitting as they head to a conference that already leads the country for the most teams that wore jerseys in their headshots.
You may have noticed that as you head west, teams go more casual with jerseys and polos. As you go to the east, teams are more inclined to wear suits.
Let’s look at the team-by-team breakdown:
The only conference with just one team that wore jerseys in their photos.
For as prestigious of a school as Duke is, I found it funny the Blue Devils wore polos for their head shots. I suppose football team photo day is pretty low, however, on that institution’s priority list.
Does it shock anyone Baylor and Kansas State are the only suit programs in the Big 12? Just feels right.
Jerseys could’ve narrowed the gap on suits, but alas, Kansas is a jersey school.
The Big Ten is as even at the top of each category as any conference.
I’m honestly a bit surprised suits didn’t dominate the Big Ten even more.
Suits don’t quite have the power in the Pac-12 that they do out east.
See my note about Duke, and change it to Stanford.
I was not prepared for UCLA’s polos to look the way they did, but I think I’m a fan.
Suits apparently are mandatory in the SEC East, while the SEC West leans more casual.
Unless Texas changes like OU did to suits, the Longhorns and Aggies will be reunited in the polo section of the standings.
Thank you for letting me wasting a few minutes of your day today. Anything jump out at you? Get the conversation going:
Team standings were exported from sports-reference.com/cfb
Iowa seems to be shifting toward polos as their underclassmen all have polos in their team head shots, while their upperclassmen are wearing suits. If there’s a Hawkeye that can tell me why that is, drop a comment.
I fully understand this is the most pointless thing I’ve ever written, and don’t need to be reminded.
Feel free to put in that social graphic, team accounts