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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The meaning behind Arizona football and basketball’s USS Arizona uniforms

Jesus Barrera
The Arizona football team enters their field decked out in their USS Arizona commemorative uniforms before their 48-27 win against Hawai’i on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Arizona Stadium.

The Arizona Wildcats football and men’s basketball teams provided their own twists to honor the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and specifically the ones who lost their lives aboard the USS Arizona. 

Arizona football’s second home game of the season against Hawai’i was the introduction of the one-time only Pearl Harbor gray jerseys and the basketball team wore its gray camouflage against Michigan St. in its season opener in the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu.

It’s not too often the Wildcats get to showcase their uniform swagger, but when they did this season, there was historical meaning behind it and it just so happened both football and basketball won in the Pearl Harbor style uniforms. Sure the uniforms have some flavor and sauce to it, but the meaning behind each patch and decal on the uniforms are more than the game of football and basketball. Here’s a walk through of each attribute of the Pearl Harbor look the Wildcats modeled in 2016.



What most people didn’t know was Arizona’s uniform was modeled after the USS Arizona in terms of layering of the ship. The helmet represents the upper mast structure of the ship, which is the highest part of it. The only throwback portion of the helmet is the red block ‘A’ that was pictured in the USS Arizona team photo.

Right above the facemask on the forehead of the helmet is the date of Pearl Harbor and the back has the USS Arizona bell decal from the UA Memorial Student Union. The back of the helmet at the neck area usually has the team’s name or Riddell branded on the helmet, but instead had the ship’s rally cry, which was “At ‘Em Arizona”.


Now that we’re down the torso of the uniform, it made sense for the jersey to be gray, which was inspired by the main body structure of a battleship also known as hull. The hull is the structure and framework of the ship and the football team placed most of the patches on the jersey.

The first part of the jersey is the enormous USS Arizona across the chest with a medallion worn by Esther Ross at ship christening and official introduction of the USS Arizona in 1915. The back has BB-39, the hull identification number, instead of last names. Joe Paterno always said that players should play for the name on the front rather the one on the back, but in this case, the Wildcats are playing for both.

On each shoulder had unique patches that take after the Pearl Harbor attacks. On the right shoulder was the hornet logo of the 47th Fighter Squadron and the Air Force Reserve Command is based on Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. The 47th Fighter Squadron shot down eight enemy aircraft during the Pearl Harbor Attacks. The left shoulder had a 48-star flag since Arizona was the 48th state of the United States.


There isn’t a special patch on the pants, but the red takes after the keel of the ship. The keel is the shape of the ship at the bottom and navigates the ship. So when running back J.J. Taylor ran for 168 yards, maybe it was the keel of the uniform that helped him travel through Hawai’i’s defense.


The Arizona basketball team got its taste of the uniforms honoring Pearl Harbor for the season opener against the Spartans and although these uniforms had more pop to the naked eye, there weren’t special patches all over.

Instead the Wildcats wore grey or hull colored camouflage uniforms with the red USS Arizona across the chest and “At ‘Em Arizona” on the back instead of player’s names. Each player also wore special “United We Stand” warm-up shirts and wore custom hull colored camouflaged Kobe 11s.

Arizona basketball isn’t new to the gray uniform look, but the ones against Michigan St. proved to be not only one of the most memorable uniform the Wildcats have worn, but also the one with the most meaning.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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