MORGANTOWN - The annual Backyard Brawl pitting football teams from Pitt and West Virginia has traditionally been a battle between cultures, coal mines versus steel mines or city versus country.
So it is only fitting that the players on these two teams have been fitted with special Nike Pro Combat uniforms that pay tribute to their region's heritage. Those uniforms will be unveiled at noon Friday when the two teams hook up for the 103rd edition of the rivalry that dates back to 1895.
"I'm an old gold-and-blue guy," said WVU coach Bill Stewart. "But this was done for the right reason. The meaning behind (the uniforms) is what gets me excited."
NEW?THREADS?— West Virginia players will wear this special uniform in Friday’s clash at Pitt.
The Mountaineers' new threads will feature a helmet with a headlamp-like gold beam as a stripe, symbolizing the beam of light emitted from the hard hats worn by West Virginia coal miners. The white uniforms will be smudged in black as a show of respect to the coal mining industry so predominant in the state. The uniforms will also feature a special tribute to the memory of the 29 miners killed last April in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion.
"These are men of the mountains," Stewart said. "We are proud to represent the great people of the state. If you're a West Virginian and that uniform does not crank you up, there's something wrong."
Stewart said the uniforms, which were handed out to the players last week, will be a special keepsake from their playing days.
"I'm an old gold-and-blue guy. But this was done for the right reason. The meaning behind (the uniforms) is what gets me excited."
"It will be something to cherish for their whole lives," he said.
The uniforms also include special shoes and gloves for the players that feature school colors and logos.
"They're awesome," said WVU punter Greg Pugnetti. "It was like Christmas the other day when we got our stuff."
Pitt's uniforms will feature gold jersey numbers and a stencil stripe on the helmet that will conjure up I-beam images in homage to the region's steel industry. Pitt and WVU were the only two Big East teams to be so honored with the new uniforms and were two of just 10 teams nationally to have the special design. The others included Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, Boise State, Miami, Oregon, Texas Christian and Virginia Tech.
The jerseys are flying off the shelves at an unbelievable pace, despite the $80 price tag. Hibbett's Sports in Elkins reported they have sold out of their stock of jerseys, and the Book Exchange in Morgantown has also cleared its shipment of the jerseys. Coaches caps and dry-fit T-shirts are also available in certain locations.