Note: right now, I'm just working on Division I-A teams and how they chose their school colors. Once this portion of the research is done, I'll expand the page to include other divisions of college football.
Names of colors displayed in color signify the approved colors of the respective university for use on the internet. This will help to pin down exact shades, since universities use different colors for their uniforms, calling them similar names (e.g. UAB's green and gold are different from Baylor's).
Air Force: blue, silver
Akron: blue, gold
Alabama: crimson, white
Alabama-Birmingham: green, white (teams wear green, gold, white)
Arizona: cardinal red, navy blue
From Arizona's web site: UA's original colors were sage green and silver. However, in 1900, student manager Quintas J. Anderson was offered, at an extremely low price, a set of solid blue jerseys trimmed in red. The team needed new jerseys and had very little money, so Anderson accepted the offer. The new jerseys were greeted enthusiastically, and almost immediately red and blue were approved as the new school colors. While many shades of the colors have been used over the years, UA's official hues are cardinal red and navy blue.
Arizona State: maroon, gold
Arkansas: cardinal, white
From Hogwired.com, Arkansas' official athletics site: The use of Cardinal and White as school colors for the athletic teams date back to the beginnings of varsity athletics. In fact, the original school mascot was the Cardinal bird.
Arkansas, Little Rock: maroon, white, old gold
Arkansas, Pine Bluff: black, gold
Arkansas State: scarlet red, black
Army: black, gray, gold
Auburn: navy blue, burnt orange
Ball State: cardinal, white
Baylor: green, gold
From Baylor's web site: Spring time and a train ride inspired selection of school colors ... In 1897, while on a train to Bryan for a debate tournament, a member of the student committee which had previously been selected to choose appropriate colors for the University, looked out the window at the wild spring dandelions and remarked that the vivid yellow and green flowers made a "lovely combination." Other committee members present agreed and when they returned to Waco, the color combination of "green and gold" was recommended and readily adopted by the student body.
Boise State: blue, orange
Boston College: maroon, gold
From Boston College's official athletics site: As a story in The Heights on those early years noted, "A college man going to the games had no striped tie to wear. Nor was there any armband of any significant color that might let the wide world know that the `fair' rooters, screeching so loudly at anything at all, were followers of the Boston College team."
A committee of students, led by the school-spirited T.J. Hurley (class of 1885 and composer of "Alma Mater" and "For Boston"), was appointed to determine which hue would best represent BC. After considering the colors of rival Jesuit institutions: Holy Cross's purple, Fordham's maroon, Georgetown's blue and gray: the committee selected two Papal colors: maroon and gold. The student body unanimously approved.
Bowling Green: orange, brown
From Bowling Green's athletics site: The historical story behind how BGSU began using Brown and Orange as its school colors dates back to 1914.
Dr. Williams, the university's first President, gathered a group of people which included a Dr. L.L.Winslow from Industrial Arts as a selection committee for the school's new colors. While on an interurban (or trolley) ride to Toledo, Dr. Winslow sat behind a woman wearing a large hat adorned with beautiful brown and orange feathers. It is unclear whether or not she ever actually gave him a few of these feathers from her hat, however, he was so interested in the color scheme of the pair that he convinced the committee to approve the combination of Brown and Orange.
Brigham Young: navy blue, gold, white
From BYU Magazine: On Aug. 16  men's and women's athletics unveiled an updated identity system for Cougar sports, complete with new logos and deeper shades of blue.
Author's note: until this point, royal blue had been the blue of choice, and gold was not in the color scheme.
Buffalo: blue, white
California: blue, gold
From UCLA's web site: All UC campuses share variations of blue and yellow as school colors. The colors were chosen in June 1873. Blue was chosen as it symbolizes the ocean and the local wild flowers. It was also Yale University's color; many of the original more prominent professors, the first University President, the incumbent President in 1872, and the fathers of many of the undergraduates were Yale alumni. Gold was chosen as California was the Golden State, the Berkeley campus overlooked the Golden Gate, and the gold poppy was California's state flower.
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo: green, gold
Central Arkansas: purple, gray
Central Florida: black, gold
Central Michigan: maroon, gold
Cincinnati: red, black
Clemson: orange, purple
Colorado: silver, gold (teams wear black and gold)
From Colorado's athletics site: The official colors of CU are silver and gold. According to the book Glory Colorado, these colors were adopted by the class of 1888, as a symbol of the mineral wealth of this state. But in 1921, as football became more popular, there were complaints from the students that silver and gold did not look good on football jerseys. In fact, silver and gold ended up looking like dirty gray and dark yellow. It wasn't until 1959 that the football team changed its jerseys to black with yellow. And although the football team seems to have set the trend with its color choice, CU still has the official colors of silver and gold.
Colorado State: green, gold
From Colorado State's web site: Our school colors, green and gold, were chosen to reflect the institution's agricultural heritage.
Connecticut: navy blue, white
From Connecticut's web site: the story
Duke: Duke blue, white
East Carolina: purple, gold
From East Carolina's web site: The school colors for East Carolina University - purple and gold - go back to the time when the first students arrived on campus in 1909. ECU historian Dr. Mary Jo Bratton, the author of "East Carolina University The Formative Years 1907 - 1982," said the selection of school colors represented one of the first traditions established by the students. In the early fall of 1909 the administration asked students for their suggestions on school colors. Old gold and royal purple won the vote.
In the following year, the colors carried over to the school's first baseball team, a club team, that won most of its games. According to Bratton the opening game produced a 6 - 2 win for East Carolina against a local Greenville team. The newspaper account of the game credited the effective cheering of the young ladies of the school for "winning the victory for the purple and gold."
Eastern Michigan: green, white
Florida: orange, blue
From Florida's web site: The origin of the school colors is a mystery. One explanation holds that the University of Florida acquired the colors from two of the schools abolished by the Buckman Act of 1905. The University of Florida at Lake City had school colors of Blue and Gold and the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville had Orange and Black. However, there is no direct evidence to support this claim.
The first printed reference to the school colors after the Gainesville campus opened in 1906 occurred in the Florida Times-Union of September 27, 1906. Reporting on the opening of the new campus, the newspaper stated that the buildings were draped in purple and gold. The next known color reference appeared in the first campus newspaper, the University News, and the colors were blue and orange.
In the November 1908 edition of the Florida Pennant, sucessor to the University News, the football team is referred to as the "ol gold and blue." Those colors appeared in several other articles including one by the YMCA stating that the 1911 calendar would have a border of old gold and lettering of royal blue. Something resembling those shades was used on the cover of the Pennant for the years 1908 and 1909. Finally, there was an "alma materish" song from that time period entitled Florida, My Florida (which was also the title of the official state song) that ended "And royal robes her form doth fold, We sing the blue and gold--Florida, my Florida." In all liklihood, the Blue and Gold simply moved to Gainesville from Lake City when the university moved in 1906.
In late 1910, blue and orange reappear. The 1911 YMCA calendar was not printed in blue and gold as planned, but was adorned, instead, with blue and orange edging and banners (figure on right). For a few years thereafter the order of the colors was interchangeable, but Orange and Blue eventually won out.
Florida Atlantic: navy, red, yellow
Florida State: garnet, gold (teams wear these shades)
From Florida State's athletics site: Florida State's school colors of garnet and gold are a merging of the University's past. In 1904 and 1905 the Florida State College won football cham-pionships wearing purple and gold uniforms. When FSC became Florida State College for Women in 1905, the football team was forced to attend an all-male school in Gainesville. The following year, the FSCW student body selected crimson as the official school color. The administration in 1905 took crimson and combined it with the recognizable purple of the championship football teams to achieve the color garnet. The now-famous garnet and gold colors were first used on an FSU uniform in a 14-6 loss to Stetson on October 18, 1947.
Fresno State: cardinal red, blue
From Fresno State's athletics site: The colors evolved out of an argument by women from Fresno Normal School and men from Fresno Junior College. The women were seeking blue and white to the men's red and white. A compromise was struck with the school adopting red and blue with a red later changed to Cardinal.
Georgia: red, black
From Georgia's athletics site: "Turf wars" involving Georgia and its ancient rival, Georgia Tech, began with the playing of the first football game in the series. And the effect of the opponent's underhanded ploy in that 1893 contest resulted in the senior institution's removing the color gold (or yellow) from its official school colors.
In the December 1891 issue of The University's literary magazine, the editors-selected members of the Demosthenian and Phi Kappa literary societies-had proclaimed those colors to be "old gold, black, and crimson". This selection extended an earlier custom of each class selecting its colors and publishing them in the yearbook. However, Dr. Charles H. Herty-faculty member, the father of intercollegiate athletics' at The University, and her first football coach-saw "yellow", as he called it, not gold when he spied the hues on the cover of The Georgia University Magazine.
The 24-year-old holder of a doctorate from Johns Hopkins had led initial efforts to stimulate and harness school spirit, organized the school's first Athletic Association, and saw to it that yellow was eliminated from the colors. "Speaking with student leaders, We all agreed we didn't want yellow around Georgia athletics", reflecting extreme distaste for anything "yellow", or cowardly. (Early on, the "crimson" became good ol' Georgia "red".)
A mailed glove, however, was laid across the face of Georgia athletics that day the rivalry commenced. It was the "somebody-stole-my-gal" maneuver perpetrated by "the Teckity Techs" of '93. Earlier that season, the Techs had chosen as their colors white and gold. And they proceed to deck out 200 young ladies from all-girl Lucy Cobb Institute in those very hues to cheer on Tech's varsity at old Herty Field. Alas, the finishing school's campus lay just about a mile and one-half from the playing field-in Athens! "These are our girls!", the cry arose.
So, until this very day, when a Georgia Bulldog smells out a Georgia Tech "Yellow Jacket", he sees red.
Georgia Tech: white, gold (teams wear white, gold, and blue)
From Georgia Tech's web site: 1891 - Tech students use white and gold as school colors for the first time, at an informal football game between Georgia Tech and Auburn University students. White and gold became a tradition two years later when they are worn by students from the Lucy Cobb Institute cheering for Tech at the first Tech-Georgia football game.
Hawaii: green, black, white, silver
Houston: red, black, white
Idaho: silver, gold (football team wears black and gold)
Illinois: orange, blue (teams wear these shades)
Indiana: cream, crimson
Iowa: gold, black
Iowa State: red, gold, black, white
Kansas: crimson, blue
From Kansas' web site: KU's colors have been crimson and blue since the early 1890s. Originally, the Board of Regents had decided to adopt the University of Michigan's colors, maize and sky blue. Maize and blue were shown at oratorical meets, and they may have colored the Kansas crew in rowing competitions in the mid-1880s. But in 1890 when football arrived at KU, a clamor arose for Harvard's crimson to honor Col. John J. McCook, a Harvard man who had given money for KU's athletic field. Faculty members who had graduated from Yale insisted that their academic lineage and Yale blue not be overlooked. In 1896, crimson and blue were adopted officially.
Kansas State: purple, white
Kent State: blue, gold
From Kent State's web site: Kent State's school colors are blue and gold - purely by accident. In the 1910 state charter, the school colors were orange and purple. However, a local laundry changed the colors. The basketball uniforms, orange and purple when they went into the hot water, came back gold and blue-black. Word has it that the team and student body liked the new colors so well they adopted them as the new school colors.
Kentucky: blue, white
From Kentucky's web site: The University of Kentucky adopted blue and white as its official colors in 1892. Originally, however, UK students had decided on blue and light yellow prior to the Kentucky-Centre College football game on December 19, 1891. The shade of blue, which is close to a royal blue, was chosen when a student asked the question, "What color blue?" At the time, Richard C. Stoll (who lettered in football at UK in 1889-94) pulled off his necktie and held it up. The students then adopted that particular shade of blue. A year later, UK students officially dropped the light yellow color for white.
LSU: purple, gold
From LSU's web site: According to "The L Book," the LSU Student Handbook, the University's colors were originally supposed to be blue and white.
However, several players decided to enhance the importance of the team's first football game when the Fightin' Tigers went to New Orleans to take on Tulane University.
Professor and Head Coach Charles Coates, along with quarterback Ruffin Pleasant, went in search of ribbons to decorate the locker room.
Since it was nearing Mardi Gras, the colors green, purple and gold were abundant in the city.
The store they visited had not yet received its shipment of green streamers, so Coates and Pleasant bought out the store's entire supply of purple and gold ribbons.
They returned to the stadium, dressed up the locker room with the selected colors and purple and gold promptly became the colors of the LSU Fightin' Tigers.
Louisiana Tech: blue, red
Louisiana-Lafayette: vermilion, white
Louisiana-Monroe: maroon (teams wear maroon and gold)
Louisville: red, black
Marshall: green, white
Maryland: Black, gold, red, white
From Maryland's web site: The University's colors are the same as those on the state flag. Black and gold are derived from the Calvert shield, while red and white are derived from the Crossland shield. The Calvert and the Crossland families were prominent in the Maryland colonial period.
Memphis: reflex blue, medium gray
From Memphis' web site: Students in the first classes selected blue and gray as the school colors and the tiger as the mascot. (Tradition holds that the colors, those of the opposing armies during the Civil War, were chosen in commemoration of the reuniting of the country after that divisive conflict.)
Mercer: orange, black
Miami (FL): orange, green, white
From Miami's athletics site: UM's school colors were selected in 1926. The colors of the Florida orange tree represent UM. Orange symbolizes the fruit of the tree, green represents the leaves and white, the blossoms.
Miami (OH): red, white
From Miami's web site: Prior to the civil war Miami's library had fewer than 1,000 books, and according to Dr. Phillip Shriver, history professor and president emeritus, there was no need for a large literary facility.
The few books the university did own were housed in a room in Franklin Hall, now known as Harrison Hall.
To increase the size of this collection Rev. John Browne went on a two year east coast quest in search for new books. From 1810 to 1812, he gathered approximately 200 books to be brought back to Miami. These are the oldest books currently in Miami's libraries.
As the collection grew, the literature was moved to Alumni Hall, Miami's first free-standing library. Before King Library was built there were more books in the literary societies' libraries than in the university library.
"The Erodelphian and the Union [the societies which had more books than Miami], whose colors were red and white respectively, gave us our school colors," Shriver said.
Michigan: maize, azure blue (teams wear maize and dark blue)
From Michigan's web site: 1867 - Maize and azure blue adopted as class colors by a student committee and become official school colors in 1912 by action of the regents.
Michigan State: green, white
From Michigan State's athletics site: Details are sketchy as to when Michigan State athletic teams officially began using the school colors green and white. But records of the Athletic Association of the then Michigan Agricultural College show that on April 11, 1899, the organization took steps toward adoption of a green monogram, "to be worn only by athletes who subsequently take part in intercollegiate events."
It is generally thought the colors came into wide use with the arrival in 1903 of Chester L. Brewer as the school's first full-time director of athletics. Brewer also coached the Spartan football, basketball, baseball and track teams, the only varsity units in existence at the time.
Middle Tennessee State: royal blue, white
Minnesota: maroon, gold
From Minnesota's web site: Because the University's colors varied during the early years, William Watts Folwell, first president of the University, appointed English instructor Augusta Norwood Smith to choose permanent school colors. Smith, "a woman of excellent taste," according to Folwell, chose maroon and gold, the University's colors today. First used sometime between 1876 and 1880, the colors were not officially approved by the regents until March 1940.
Mississippi: navy blue, cardinal red
From Mississippi's athletics site: In 1893, when Ole Miss' first football team was in training for a five-game season, Dr. A.L. Bondurant, organizer and manager-coach, later recalled that "The team had much discussion as to the colors that should be adopted, but it was finally suggested by the manager that the union of the Crimson of Harvard and the Navy Blue of Yale would be very harmonious, and that it was well to have the spirit of both of these good colleges." These were adopted as the football colors, and have since been adopted by the University as its athletic colors.
Author's note: the red has since moved to a cardinal red.
Mississippi State: maroon, white
From Mississippi State's athletics site: Maroon and White are the distinctive colors of Mississippi State University athletic teams, dating back over a century to the very first football game ever played by the school's student-athletes.
On November 15, 1895, the first Mississippi A&M football team was preparing for a road trip to Jackson, Tenn., to play Southern Baptist University (now called Union University) the following day. Since every college was supposed to have its own uniform colors, the A&M student body requested that the school's team select a suitable combination.
Considering making this choice an honor, the inaugural State team gave the privilege to team captain W.M. Matthews. Accounts report that without hesitation Matthews chose Maroon and White.
In the 100 years since, every Mississippi State athlete has donned the Maroon and White in some sort of combination. Often a shade of gray has been added to the scheme, such as for the numerals. Briefly in the 1980s the men's and women's basketball teams wore all-gray uniforms with maroon and white trim, while football has at times sported silver game pants, and baseball will often wear all-gray road outfits.
Only once has a MSU team appeared in any other color combination. In 1938 football coach Spike Nelson secretly had cardinal and gold uniforms made for State, a selection that did not sit well with the team or the college at the first game. Neither the uniforms nor Nelson were back for the next season.
Missouri: gold, black
Navy: navy blue, gold
Nebraska: scarlet, cream
Nevada: silver, blue
Nevada-Las Vegas: scarlet, gray
From UNLV's athletics site: The school colors of Scarlet and Gray can be traced to the late-1950s when UNLV adopted as mascot a wolf wearing a Confederate uniform. Scarlet and Gray were traditional colors of the Confederacy with its gray uniforms and red-based flag.
New Mexico: cherry, silver
From New Mexico's web site: The most common origin of New Mexico's school colors dates back nearly 100 years. Apparently, the school colors in the early 1890s were black and gold. Ms. Harriet Jenness, a faculty member who taught drawing, delsarte (drama), penmanship and music, suggested a change in school colors because black and gold did not give a true feeling of New Mexico. She suggested the crimson evening glow of the majestic Sandia mountains to the east. The silver came from when students and faculty took picnics in the Sandias and noted the Rio Grande looked like a silver ribbon winding through the valley below. Her ideas were enthusiastically adopted by the faculty and staff. The crimson was later changed to cherry, the color of a Sandia sunset. Miss Jenness died in 1895, two years before the colors were adopted as "official." From 1973-79, turquoise was integrated into the official school colors, at least, for the athletics teams. The football team wore turquoise jerseys at home during those years. Cherry and silver returned as the predominant colors in 1980.
New Mexico State: crimson, white
North Carolina: Carolina blue, white (athletic teams wear dark blue trim)
From North Carolina's athletics web site: The adoption of light blue and white as UNC's colors dates back to the 19th Century. When the University reopened following the Civil War, most social activities were directed by two literary societies, the Dialectic and Philanthropic. The official color of the Di was light blue and that of the Phi white. Since society membership was compulsory for all students, the opinions and activities of these organizations were by nature of circumstances all embracing. It was the custom for all men from localities west of Chapel Hill to affiliate with the Di and generally for students from the east to become members of the Phi.
On public occasions the student officers, marshals and ball managers were chosen equally from the membership of the two societies. It had long been the custom of each society for its members to wear its color on such occasions. However, the chief marshal and chief ball manager, one from the Di and the other from the Phi, wore combination light blue and white regalias and rosettes signifying that they represented the whole student body.
Later, when intercollegiate athletics were established, the question of what to wear became a problem. Certainly, the students wanted to be associated with the University, but the school had no official colors. So it seemed only natural for the fans to adorn themselves with the same combination as that used by the chief marshals and ball managers, colors which represented not membership in a society, but a University student body.
North Carolina State: red, white
North Texas: green, white
Northern Illinois: red, black
Northwestern: purple, white
From Northwestern's athletics site: The color purple (with white) was selected by a special committee in 1894 as the official school color, not only for the athletic teams, but for the entire university.
Notre Dame: blue, gold
From Notre Dame's athletics site: The origin of school colors can be traced back to the founding of the University. At the time of its founding in 1842, Notre Dame's original school colors were yellow and blue; yellow symbolized the light and blue the truth. However, sometime after the Dome and Statue of Mary atop the Main Building was gilded, gold and blue became the official colors of the University.
Ohio: green, white
From Ohio's web site: The green and white colors of Ohio University date back to 1896. Before that time, the university's unofficial colors were blue and white. However, it soon became apparent that these colors would be unacceptable for the new football team to wear. Ohio's newly hired football coach, Samuel McMillen, suggested that Ohio adapt as its colors olive green and white, which were worn at McMillen's alma mater, Dartmouth College. The proposal was put before the student body for a vote, and green and white became the colors of the school's uniforms in the fall of 1896. Down through the years, the olive green has evolved into a lighter, "Hunter" green color. As a side note, McMillen never coached a game for Ohio University, as personal problems kept him from arriving in Athens in the fall of 1896.
Ohio State: scarlet, gray
From Ohio State's athletics site:Orange and black were first chosen as Buckeye colors in 1878. When the selection committee learned that Princeton had already picked those colors, the group instead chose scarlet and gray.
Oklahoma: crimson, cream
From Oklahoma's athletics site: The official school colors of crimson and cream became official about a century ago and you can still see those colors worn proudly by Sooner athletes and fans alike on gamedays or when they want to show their love for the university.
In the fall of 1895, Miss May Overstreet, the only woman on the faculty, was asked to chair a committee to select the colors of the university. The committee decided the colors should be crimson and cream and an elaborate display of the colors was draped above a platform before the student body. The student body approved with great enthusiasm and immediately pennants, banners, badges and decorations of every description appeared on the streets, in the windows, at chapel, in classrooms, and all public places; however, local merchants could not supply the demand.
Oklahoma State: orange, black
From Oklahoma State's athletics site: the orange and black color scheme were copied from Princeton, as was the tiger mascot. Oklahoma State changed to the Cowboys around 1923.
Oregon: green, yellow
Oregon State: orange (teams wear orange, black, and white)
Penn State: blue, white
From Penn State's athletics site: Penn State's student-athletes are instantly identified by their blue and white uniforms - but those weren't the original school colors. A three-member committee representing the sophomore, junior and senior classes was appointed in October of 1887 to develop color options from which the student body would select the school's official colors. Dark pink and black was the unanimous choice of the student body after considering the color combinations presented by the committee.
Soon many students and the baseball team were sporting pink and black striped blazers and caps. However, problems arose when the pink faded to white after several weeks of exposure to the sun. The students then opted for blue, rather than black, and white. The official announcement of the new choice was made on March 18, 1890.
Pittsburgh: old gold, blue
Purdue: old gold, black
How Purdue got its colors
Rice: dark blue, gray
Rutgers: scarlet, white
San Diego State: scarlet, black
From San Diego State's athletics site: In 1898, San Diego Normal School colors were white and gold while the junior college colors were blue and gold. In 1921, the Normal School and Junior College merged to form San Diego State College and thus, white, gold and blue became the official school colors. Purple and gold were adopted for the 1922-23 term but this became a problem because the colors were the same as St. Augustine High School. It didn't go over very well when one couldn't tell the difference between an Aztec letterman's sweater and a high school sweater. Also, purple and gold were the colors of Whittier College, a fierce conference rival at the time. Not to mention the fact that manufacturers of Aztec merchandise in that era refused to guarantee the color fastness of San Diego State's purple hues.
Associated Students president Terrence Geddis led the movement for a change and, after pushing for reconsideration of school colors, students finally got a chance to vote on the matter in December of 1927. Under consideration were:
Green and Gray
Orange and Grey
Scarlet and Black
Black and Gold
That was followed by two days of voting the following month where students were to decide between Scarlet and Black and the previous colors, Purple and Gold. On January 19, 1928 the tally was 346-201 in favor of Scarlet and Black and it has remained that ever since. The new colors made their athletic debut at the January 28, 1928 basketball game at Pomona College.
San Jose State: gold, white
From San Jose State's web site: A heated debate was held in 1925 over the effort of some students to change the school colors from gold and white to purple and white. Tradition won out, and it was decided to keep the original colors - Gold and White. This same issue came before the students again in 1946, when after many weeks of discussion, the question was voted on. Once again tradition won.
South Carolina: garnet, black
South Florida: green, gold
Southern California: cardinal, gold
Southern Illinois: maroon, white
Southern Methodist: Harvard crimson, Yale blue
Southern Mississippi: black, gold
From Southern Mississippi's web site: The story of our school colors goes all the way back to the senior class of Carson High in the year 1910-11. The seniors could not decide on their class colors until their class sponsor saw a wide field of black-eyed Susans. She was so impressed by these flowers that she convinced the senior class to adopt the colors of these flowers, black and gold, as their class colors.
Later, in 1912, this former class sponsor was appointed to a committee that was to decide the school colors for Mississippi Normal College (which later became USM). Still fascinated by black and gold, she suggested these as the school colors. After a student body election, black and gold were designated the official school colors and have been ever since.
Stanford: cardinal, white
Syracuse: orange (teams wear orange and navy blue)
From Syracuse's web site: "How Orange was adopted as the color of Syracuse University was described in June 1940 at the fiftieth reunion of the class of 1890. The chronicler was Frank J. Marion, the motion picture pioneer. Marion, a member of the class he said was responsible for the change from the colors pink and blue, recalled:
At the end of our senior year Syracuse accepted the challenge of Hamilton College to a track meet and...a number of us went along to cheer our team. We wore high collars, right up to our chins-cutaway coats, baggy trousers, and rolled-brim derby hats. On our canes we had ribbons of the college colors, pink and blue.
Much to our surprise, we won the meet, and on the train coming home from Utica we tried to "whoop it up." What kind of "whoopee" can be made with pink and blue, the pale kind you use on babies' what-do-you-call-thems? It just couldn't be done!
So on Monday morning a lot of us went to see the chancellor in his office and told him our tale of woe. Chancellor Sims was a kindly old gentleman, a real father to us all, and he was very sympathetic. He agreed that pink and blue were not very suitable colors.
"Professor J. Scott Clark was named chairman of a committee to find new colors, Marion said. "I recall that we seniors had a sneaking idea that we might put over the class colors, orange and olive green." Professor Clark consulted Baird's manual, then the authority on college matters, to see what combinations of orange had already been taken. Orange and blue were the most popular, but orange alone apparently was not claimed by any school and was Syracuse's for the taking. It was adopted unanimously by the committee, the faculty, the Alumni Association, and finally the trustees."
Temple: cherry, white
From Temple's athletics site: Well known is the fact that the official colors of Temple University are cherry and white. Temple University was the first school in the nation officially to use cherry as one of its colors, certainly by the year 1888.
Since cherry as a color has many gradations, just what the precise color is has raised questions over the years. Cherry, or cerise, which was the somewhat popular word used in earlier days, is considered by most dictionaries to be a moderate red, but one that can range from bright red to dark red. For this reason, a conscious effort has been made to standardize the color for athletic teams to somewhere near that of a ripe and bright American black cherry.
Tennessee: orange, white
From Tennessee's athletics site: The colors Orange and White were selected by Charles Moore, a member of the first football team in 1891, and were later approved by a vote of the student body. The colors were those of the common American daisy which grew in profusion on The Hill. Tennessee football players did not appear in the now-famous Orange jerseys until the season-opening game in 1922. Coach M.B. Banks' Vols won that game over Emory and Henry by a score of 50-0.
Texas: focal orange, pure white (teams wear burnt orange and white)
From Texas' marching band's site: The University colors, orange and white, were officially adopted by the regents on May 10, 1900, after a student vote. As early as 1885, students had displayed orange and white ribbons on special occasions. Athletic teams later unofficially adopted burnt orange. The official colors, as used in the university seal, are focal orange and pure white.
Texas A&M: maroon, white
Texas Christian: purple, white
Texas Tech: scarlet, black
From Texas Tech's athletics site: The college colors of scarlet and black and team name were adopted by students on March 15, 1926, during a convocation.
Texas-El Paso: blue, orange
Toledo: midnight blue, gold
From Toledo's athletics site: Midnight Blue and Gold were selected as the school's official colors by the Varsity `T' club, at its organizational meeting on December 1, 1919. Ten of the 14 football lettermen met to form the club and chose Ed Stader as the first president.
Troy State: cardinal, black, silver
Tulane: olive, blue
From Tulane's athletics site: From 1893 to 1919, the athletic teams of Tulane were known as the Olive and Blue for the official school colors.
Tulsa: gold, blue, red
UCLA: blue, gold
From UCLA's web site: All UC campuses share variations of blue and yellow as school colors. The colors were chosen in June 1873. Blue was chosen as it symbolizes the ocean and the local wild flowers. It was also Yale University's color; many of the original more prominent professors, the first University President, the incumbent President in 1872, and the fathers of many of the undergraduates were Yale alumni. Gold was chosen as California was the Golden State, the Berkeley campus overlooked the Golden Gate, and the gold poppy was California's state flower. UCLA generally uses a sky blue and gold combination.
Utah: crimson, white
Utah State: navy blue, white
Vanderbilt: black, gold
Virginia: navy blue, orange
From Virginia's athletics site: Orange and blue were adopted as the University of Virginia's official athletic colors at a mass student meeting in 1888. UVa athletic teams had previously worn silver gray and cardinal red, but those colors did not stand out on muddy football fields, prompting a student movement to change them.
One of the students attending the mass meeting was Allen Potts, a star athlete who played on Virginia's first football team in 1888. Potts showed up at the meeting wearing a navy blue-and-orange scarf that he had acquired during a summer boating expedition at Oxford University. Orange and blue were chosen as the official athletic colors after one of Potts' fellow students pulled the scarf off Potts' neck and, waving it to the crowd, yelled, "How will this do?"
Virginia Tech: Chicago maroon, burnt orange
The first school colors were cadet black and grey. From Virginia Tech's athletics site: The official university school colors - Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange - also were introduced in 1896. The colors were chosen by a committee because they made a 'unique combination' not worn elsewhere at the time.
Wake Forest: gold, black
From Wake Forest's athletics site: As early as 1895, Wake Forest College was using its colors in athletic competition. The school's literary magazine, "The Wake Forest Student," described them in this manner: "At last, Wake Forest has a college badge. It is a very neat button designed by Mr. John M. Heck and contains a tiger's head over the letters WFC. The colors are in old gold and black."
As the 20th century opened, those colors became frequently associated with the college, particularly its athletic and debate teams. Most historians believe that their adoption comes from the connection with the tiger mascot, and not, as some have proposed, from any association with the Bible.
Washington: purple, gold
From Washington's athletics site: Washington’s school colors, Purple and Gold, were adopted in 1892 by a vote of a student assembly on the original downtown Seattle campus. One patriotic group favored Red, White and Blue as the University’s colors, reasoning that “since the school was named after the father of our country, our national colors should be the school’s colors.” The opposing faction argued that national colors should not be degraded for such everyday use. The debate was ended when a young English instructor, Miss Frazier, stood and read the following excerpt from Lord Byron’s “Destruction of Sennacherib.”
“The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
And the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.”
Washington State: crimson, gray
West Virginia: old gold, blue
Western Michigan: brown, gold
Wisconsin: cardinal, white
Wyoming: brown, Wyoming prairie gold
From Wyoming's athletics site: The story behind the colors of the University of Wyoming dates back to 1895. In the Spring of that year, the first ever UW Alumni Banquet was held. Decorations for the banquet included Brown-Eyed Susans, a flower native of Southeastern Wyoming. The Alumni were so impressed with the colors (brown and yellow) and the beauty of the flowers that they decided to select these colors as the official school colors at UW. In recent years the colors have been modified to brown and Wyoming prairie gold.
Brown: brown (teams wear seal brown, cardinal red, and white)
From Brown's web site: The College Color, brown, the obvious choice as it would appear today, was not adopted until after 1866, when the Brown Paper reported on the question of choosing a college color, "the general opinion seems to be that brown should be adopted ... Nothing could be more appropriate for Brown-bred boys ... It is the very mark of hardihood, of pluck, of soberness - if you will - but of victory." The color brown, of course, has dominated the athletic uniforms for years, and indeed might be considered more "sober" than the first known uniform of a Brown team, that of the crew in 1859, which was described as "gray check pants; salmon silk shirts; blue skull caps." There is no record that the Corporation endorsed the students' choice of brown. In 1925 the University submitted a swatch of brown material to the Textile Color Card Association of the United States, Inc. to ascertain its exact shade (which proved to be Tobacco), and at that time the University colors were recorded by the Association, apparently mistakenly, as brown and white. In 1947 the brightening up of the football uniforms by the addition of gold brought forth letters of both approval and disapproval to the Alumni Monthly. In December 1952, after the subject of the drabness of the Brown academic hoods, black lined with brown, came to attention, President Wriston appointed Vice-President Bruce Bigelow a "Committee of one to pick official colors for Brown University and to put it over." A year later a University Color Study Committee was appointed. On the recommendation of this committee, on April 9, 1954, the Advisory and Executive Committee of the Corporation voted, "That the University adopt as the standard colors for the lining of all its academic hoods, seal brown with a single chevron of cardinal red similar to the red in the cross of the University coat-of arms." Although the vote appears to relate only to the colors of the hoods, in communicating this vote to the Textile Color Card Association, Bigelow wrote, "it is likely that these colors will be considered the 'official colors' of the University." In 1967, the colors, official or not, were noted for the first time in the football media guide as "seal brown and cardinal." They are now recorded in the athletic guides as "seal brown, cardinal red, and white."
Columbia: Columbia blue and white
Cornell: carnelian and white
Dartmouth: green and white
Harvard: crimson (teams wear crimson and white)
Pennsylvania: blue and red
From Pennsylvania's web site: There are several stories concerning the origin of Penn's colors. One tale explains that George Washington, having been invited to a Pennsylvania Commencement to receive the first presidential honorary degree, donned his best uniform--a blue tunic trimmed in red. Mention of his attire was the first official recording of colors at a Penn function, and the use of red and blue may have been continued as a mark of deference to our Founding Father.
Another legend, perhaps more plausible, concerns an early track meet at Saratoga, New York, between Penn, Harvard, and Yale. When asked by the officials what colors would be representing the Penn faction, the Pennsylvania captain reportedly replied, "We're going to be wearing the colors of the teams we beat," i.e., Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue. We shall assume that Penn was victorious and thus loyalty to the red and blue sworn.
Princeton: orange and black
Yale: Yale blue and white
College Football Tradition