When the Boise State Broncos wanted to join the Mountain West Conference prior to the 2011 season, the league’s acceptance letter came with a catch.

The Broncos could not wear their all-blue uniforms for conference games on the blue turf at Bronco Stadium.

Reluctantly, the Broncos agreed.

But when they negotiated to stay in the Mountain West last winter after initially announcing a plan to join the Big East Conference, the Broncos were the ones who got final say.

All-blue would return to the blue.

So for the first time since joining the Mountain West three seasons ago, the Broncos will run out of the tunnel tonight in a nationally televised ESPN matchup with Air Force wearing their trademark all-blue uniforms on the blue turf.

“It just goes back to being Boise State,” safety Darian Thompson said. “That’s what people know us for.”

Coaches around the Mountain West will likely cringe if they flip on their TV’s tonight to catch part of the 6 p.m. kickoff at Bronco Stadium. It was several of the league’s coaches and athletic directors who voiced concerns over the blue-on-blue combo to school presidents and the conference’s board of directors prior to their arrival.

Conference commissioner Craig Thompson told reporters at Mountain West media days in 2011 that not allowing the combination of blue helmets, blue jerseys and blue pants on the blue turf for conference games stemmed from others within the league seeing it as a “competitive advantage” for Boise State.

Some coaches noted that watching game film to prepare for the Broncos became extremely difficult because the players blended in with the blue turf.

But with the Mountain West desperate to have the Broncos remain in the conference, they allowed the return of the blue-on-blue beginning this season. And the Broncos wasted no time bringing them back, deciding to wear them in the conference opener tonight on national TV.

“It’s an ESPN game, everybody is going to be watching so wearing the all-blues is going to be cool,” Boise State wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes said. “That’s what everybody wants to see.”

Thompson told reporters back in 2011 that the conversation briefly began with not letting the Broncos have a blue field, but “you know where that one went quite quickly so then it got to be the uniform.”

Boise State wore 11 different uniform combinations in 13 games in 2012, mixing and matching with the all-blues, all-whites, all-orange, all-gray and all-black options from Nike. They have multiple helmets as well.

New NCAA legislation this season states the numbers on uniforms must be clearly visible and a distinct contrast from the color of the jersey. Last year, the Broncos’ blue jerseys had gray numbers with an orange outline.

Arkansas State coach and former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin received a pair of personal foul penalties last week for wearing illegal uniforms during a game at Auburn. Arkansas State received penalties to start both the first half and second half, because they wore dark gray jerseys that were too close to the color of Auburn’s dark blue jerseys.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen said he’s not very involved in picking which uniform combination the Broncos wear each week. Instead he leaves that decision to a panel of seniors, who meet before the season and pick the combinations for each game.

Asked to name their favorite uniform combinations, players went with everything from the all-orange, to the all-black to, of course, the all-blue. Multiple players said they are hoping to wear the gray jerseys with black pants, a combination they have yet to do.

“I have a couple,” quarterback Joe Southwick said. “I think all-blue is kind of Boise State, a very classic look and then I like the black uniforms too. I think Nike has done a great job with us, and I know we’re always excited about being able to mix it up.”

Southwick was on the committee that decided upon the Broncos’ uniform combinations for the season. And there likely wasn’t much of a debate as to which combination they would go with for the conference opener tonight.

“I think it’s great,” Southwick said. “I know that’s classic Boise State wearing blue on blue on the blue. It will be good.”

But the Broncos players won’t be the only ones wearing blue. The Boise State athletics department has organized a blue-out at Bronco Stadium, with fans being asked to wear blue shirts, as well.

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B.J Rains covers Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press-Tribune. He also makes daily appearances on ESPN Boise.


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