What follows is a string of emails between University of Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman and the Nike product design team, unearthed by
an open records request making it up.
Email dated 3/3/14 10:51 AM
Hello Coach Beckman,
This is your Nike design rep. We'd like to come up with a special uniform for your team to wear for a single game this season based on a cool piece of Illinois football history.
Keep in mind that our company specializes in bright colors and bold designs, and this is a great opportunity to catch the eye of recruits you're targeting and build some excitement around your program. Also, keep in mind that photos from the game and video will live forever on the internet, paying dividends indefinitely. You can also expect to see quite a few of these jerseys sold to your fan base, everyone likes something new and cool looking to wear to your games, so you'll see them in the stands for years to come!
Please let us know if you have any ideas.
The Nike Design Team
Email dated 3/3/14 10:53 AM
Email dated 3/3/14 2:17 PM
Hi Coach B,
Thanks for your quick response. We've talked about it for a couple of hours, and we're not quite sure what to think of your suggestion. We normally tweak a team's usual color palette to bring out some bold colors, or pull something retro from their history. Is there a reason you want to go with grey?
We were thinking of going with a really smoldering, smokey orange, with maybe a very deep version of your blue or a super-electric blue accent. We think we can jazz up your "i" into something really cool. We're just spit-balling over here. Let us know what you think.
Any cool historical suggestions could really help us find a direction. Thanks!
Email dated 3/3/14 2:19 PM
What about, like, multiple shades of gray.
Email dated 3/4/14 9:23 AM
Good morning Coach B,
I forced our research intern to stay in the office and work overnight to find a cool historical point to work off of. He missed the birth of his first child (it was a boy! He's planning on going to meet if for the first time after his shift ends today, if you don't need any other research from him. Let us know either way, thx.), but luckily he found something about an Illinois player they called "the Grey Ghost."
It's a really cool story about how he beat Michigan basically by himself. We're really leaning towards the dark smoldering orange and dark blue with some grey worked in to really make the players look like they're moving fast. It has the potential to be really awesome. We've drawn up some renderings for you. What do you think?
Email dated 8/21/14 11:14 AM
The team is practicing so I'm going through some old emails in my office. Did anything ever come of this?
Email dated 8/21/14 11:17 AM
Hi Coach B,
Sorry to say that we kind of dropped the idea after you didn't respond. We kind of thought you hated the idea. We can still try and throw something together, if you like, but I'm sorry to say we're not going to be able to go with our original renderings. The orange dye just takes too much time to fine-tune. It won't look right. We'll see what we can get together and send over some concept sketches right away.
Email dated 8/21/14 2:51 PM
Hey Coach B,
Here are eight different options. Which one is your favorite? If we hear from you right away, we can get them manufactured just in time for your game against Minnesota.
Email dated 10/12/14 11:14 PM
Whatever you came up with is fine. Can they be ready next Saturday?
So there you have it. That's why the Gophers will be wearing white jerseys against a team wearing light grey jerseys. The NCAA and the Big Ten should punish Illinois for these ugly things. The home team is supposed to wear the colored uniform and the away team wears white. That's how it works.