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    Campus & Community

    Changing colors: The history of burnt orange and white

    By Christopher Palmer and Taylor McCausland
    Christopher Palmer and Taylor McCausland
    Published: Aug. 18, 2010

    The university’s colors have not always been burnt orange and white.

    In fact, during the first football game, the team wore gold and white. For some years, different athletic teams tried various color combinations — including bright orange, maroon and blue — before finally putting the matter to a vote.

    Jim Nicar, director of the Texas Exes UT Heritage Society, recounts how the university chose burnt orange and white as its colors.

    Visit the Texas Exes’ new UT History Central Web site for more fun facts.

    • Quote 2
      Dan said on Aug. 16, 2012 at 9:33 a.m.
      The Burnt Orange Answer The Board of Regents decided to hold an election to settle the matter. Students, faculty, staff and alumni were all invited to send in their ballots. Out of the 1,111 votes cast, 562 were for orange and white, a majority by just seven votes. Orange and maroon receive 310, royal blue 203, crimson 10, royal blue and crimson 11, and few other colors scattered among the remaining 15 votes. For almost thirty years, UT athletic teams wore bright orange on their uniforms, which usually faded to a yellow by the end of the season after having been washed a few times. By the 1920s, other college teams sometimes called the Longhorn squads "yellow bellies," a term that didn't sit well with the athletic department. In 1928, UT football coach Clyde Littlefield ordered uniforms in a darker shade of orange that wouldn't fade, and would become known as "burnt orange" or "Texas orange." The dark-orange color remained until part-way though the Great Depression in the 1930s, when the dye became too expensive. UT uniforms were bright orange for another two decades, until football coach Darrell Royal revised the burnt orange color in the early 1960s.
    • Quote 2
      Y Akanji said on Nov. 18, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
      This website has the answer to the "burnt orange" question: http://texasexes.org/uthistory/traditions.aspx?tradition=orangewhite
    • Quote 2
      K Bass said on Sept. 7, 2010 at 11:50 a.m.
      I just tolerated our school colors when I started school, but now I love burnt orange. I love the longhorns and I'm so proud to be a part of UT. Let the other schools wear common colors, ours is unique.
    • Quote 2
      Changing colors: The history of burnt orange and white | in tune said on Sept. 4, 2010 at 2:55 p.m.
      [...] including bright orange, maroon and blue — before finally putting the matter to a vote. Go to Changing colors: The history of burnt orange and white → Published on Saturday, September 4, 2010 · Permalink Topics: color-palettes, [...]
    • Quote 2
      Cordie Ray said on Sept. 2, 2010 at 9:42 a.m.
      Yeah, what about the BURNT Orange aspect vs. regular Orange?
    • Quote 2
      P. Young said on Aug. 30, 2010 at 3:42 p.m.
      But how did it change from orange to burnt orange? Perhaps because they couldn't get all the dirt out of the football uniforms, making them appear as burnt orange?
    • Quote 2
      Jenny Therkelsen said on Aug. 27, 2010 at 12:43 a.m.
      I never thought I thought I would say this but Burnt orange is a pretty good color. I wear it from head to toe literally. I am so glad my fellow alumni from so long ago did not pick maroon. I am also thankful we do not have the ugly shade of orange the other UT wears or the bright orange shade those cowboys run around up in Stillwater. I have found that pretty much anywhere you go you can find burnt orange, UT orange. Wearing burnt orange and white makes me proud to be a Longhorn.
    • Quote 2
      bankruptcy said on Aug. 26, 2010 at 6:02 a.m.
      Burnt orange and white are just synonymous with University of Texas. If you line up all the college football jerseys, it is so easy to pick out UT's uniform.
    • Quote 2
      Bill Roddy said on Aug. 23, 2010 at 6:58 p.m.
      I remember UT had a 1-9 record when I was in second grade, the year before Darrell Royal became coach, succeeding Coach Price. One of DKR's first moves was to change UT's uniforms to burnt orange and white, which evidently were the uniform colors under Littlefield. On his KTBC TV show with Cactus Prior, DKR stated the color change was to help change the team's attitude. Other schools said the reason was to make it harder to find the football, but DKR denied that on his TV show--I think he was smiling at the time. :-)
    • Quote 2
      David B$ said on Aug. 23, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
      With respect to academics, the school colors are still orange and white, as reflected on the hoods graduates wear with their black regalia. Burnt orange and white have become the favored colors for athletics and thus for everything else at UT, including the custom doctoral regalia; but the older colors still represent the University in certain venues.
    • Quote 2
      Leslie Warren said on Aug. 23, 2010 at 9:25 a.m.
      Give credit to both Coach Littlefield & Coach Royal! Your Burnt Orange answer is on the UT History Central Website: https://www.texasexes.org/uthistory/traditions.aspx?tradition=orangewhite
    • Quote 2
      Beeb said on Aug. 22, 2010 at 3:12 a.m.
      Darn, they should have voted for orange and maroon!
    • Quote 2
      Isabel said on Aug. 21, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.
      Would be interesting to hear about the burnt orange origin and have it resolved for school history. Perhaps as others have said, there is no "official" moment when the color changed. If so, it should be documemted as such. I prefer the burnt orange.
    • Quote 2
      Brandon M said on Aug. 20, 2010 at 8:20 p.m.
      They changed from bright orange to burnt orange because it blended with the football....UT used a lot of running plays in the offense so it was better.
    • Quote 2
      James Coulter said on Aug. 20, 2010 at 4:44 p.m.
      Could it have been color television? There is a much greater difference between Tennessee Orange and Texas Brunt Orange, of course I prefer the darker orange.
    • Quote 2
      Marvin Smith said on Aug. 20, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.
      Here's the story I remember from the time. Coach Royal ran a running offense that involved looking as if the quarterback handed off to 3 backs. Two were fakes and one the real handoff. As I recall Coach Royal wanted to go so far as to include on the stomach section of the uniforms a leather simulated football, so that each back seemed to be carrying the ball in his midsection. The NCAA outlawed it, and Coach Royal retaliated by changing the jersey color to best match the football, as camoflage. It was the ball color, not the color of livestock, that brought us to burnt orange. If you have ever watched Tennessee play, you know we don't want to match their light orange.
    • Quote 2
      Scott Greenwald said on Aug. 20, 2010 at 10:11 a.m.
      Thanks for sharing this. Always nice to pick up another piece of Texas history.
    • Quote 2
      Michael Van Winkle said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:24 p.m.
      I still would like to see some verification about the move to the color Burnt Orange and White. For years, I heard that the Burnt Orange was more consistent with the colors of the Longhorn Cattle, the University's Mascot, as one of the reasons for the Burnt Orange selection. This story above, about Coach Royal making the change is interesting, but this is the first I have heard of it. I recall the Darryl Royal Days at U.T., because I was raised during his era and watched every U.T. game that I could see or listened to everyone broadcast since we lived so far from Austin. I know the university, students and alumni gained his adoration and respected his decisions. However, I find it interesting that this was the reason for the color change.
    • Quote 2
      KENN HAMILTON said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 6:35 p.m.
      WHEN AT TEXAS IN THE EARLY 40'S SOME OF THE ORANGE WAS BURNT ORANGE; LIKE WHEN STUDENTS USED CREPE PAPER TO DECORATE BEFORE GAMES. IT WAS THE ONLY SHADE AVAILABLE AND SOME OF THE TRUE ORANGE WOULD FADE TO THAT SHADE....
    • Quote 2
      Hank Woodward said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 1:15 p.m.
      I recall the colors changed at a Texas-OU football game in 1958 or '59 when the team first wore BURNT orange and the cheer leaders wore BROWN (a dark shade of burnt orange) and white, which made the headlines of the Dallas Morning News the next day. Jerry Herring was head cheerleader in 1959, and I am sure he could shed some light as to the time and occasion.
    • Quote 2
      DAVID A. GRANT, MD said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 11:41 a.m.
      The question was: "...how UT chose BURNT orange"! But this was not fully answered! When I grew up in Austin and, until Coach Royal came on the scene, the colors were, in fact, true orange and white. But, it is my recollection that when ordering new football uniforms, Coach Royal wanted the pants and jerseys to be a color that the football would blend in with so it could be better "hidden" when in play! So a BURNT ORANGE shade was selected....and, thus the burnt orange and white came into existance and continues to this day! I'm sure someone in the football department (or the former voice of Texas Football, Wally Pryor) can remember that occurence and verify it. I didn't play football, but was on one of the swim teams (with Wally) under (Coach Tex Robertson) that over the years won more SW Conference Championships than football, baseball and basketball combined!
    • Quote 2
      Tweets that mention Changing colors: The history of burnt orange and white « Know -- Topsy.com said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.
      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Charlie Wood, Lisa M Daschofsky. Lisa M Daschofsky said: Changing colors: The history of burnt orange and white - http://www.utexas.edu/know/2010/08/18/changing_colors/ #HookEm [...]
    • Quote 2
      Charlie Wood said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 10:45 a.m.
      The University's colors are orange and white, NOT burnt orange and white.
    • Quote 2
      annette lucksinger said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.
      Please explain how the original bright orange became burnt. We had to live outside of Texas for several years, and when we returned, we found the burnt (almost brown, sometimes) version. Did we lose to the Aggies or what? Thanks and Hook'em!
    • Quote 2
      Miles Hawthorne said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 10:39 a.m.
      But why BURNT orange? This question was the subject of a running debate between Regents chairman Frank Erwin and Richard C. Fleming in the '70s, and remains unresolved, as far as I can tell. Fleming, an early grad of UT and the School of Law (ca. 1900), and a gadfly to the Board of Regents in his retirement, still held out for the original orange, much to Erwin's chagrin.
    • Quote 2
      Why I Bleed Orange « Clever Blog Name said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.
      [...] How UT’s colors became orange and white. [...]
    • Quote 2
      fdk said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.
      Curb is correct, change to burnt orange was one of Coach Royal first acts, to hide the ball, as he did not believe in passing.
    • Quote 2
      Tweets that mention Changing colors: The history of burnt orange and white « Know -- Topsy.com said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:32 a.m.
      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melanie Wise, Donnie Carpenter. Donnie Carpenter said: Learn how UT chose burnt orange: http://www.utexas.edu/know/2010/08/18/changing_colors/?AddInterest=1288 [...]
    • Quote 2
      Prudence Ching said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:28 a.m.
      Jim Nicar gave us such a clear history about the orange and white. I understand more now. Thank you Jim.
    • Quote 2
      Elizabeth A Korts said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:24 a.m.
      I seem to remember that the orange used to be a lighter shade (like Tennessee!) at one time and then we gradually changed over to the burnt orange of today. I'm I remembering wrong or is this true? Enjoyed the video.
    • Quote 2
      tom curb said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:19 a.m.
      Aw come on - I was at UT when the colors were changed from the bright orange to burnt orange. It was common knowledge that the burnt color blended very well with the football, which tended to confuse the defense on hand offs - especially belly plays that were a big part of UT's offense.
    • Quote 2
      George R. Bolin said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 8:48 a.m.
      Jim, That was a very good explanation of how Texas came to use the colors of Orange & White, but you never explained how we migrated from bright Orange to Burnt Orange. How did this come about?
    • Quote 2
      Charles said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.
      So how and when did it get from bright orange to burnt orange?
    • Quote 2
      Ray Bodnar said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 8:29 a.m.
      Video story on how UT selected burnt orange and white has a problem and does not play all the way to the end.
    • Quote 2
      Chris Williamson said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 8:00 a.m.
      Interesting, but why BURNT orange? Thanks, Chris
    • Quote 2
      Allie-Sue Gottwald, B.S.'62 said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 5:14 a.m.
      Great idea to add snippets of UT history to these newsletters! This one was not only interesting, but most colorful. Thanks!
    • Quote 2
      Glenn Buchan said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 1:12 a.m.
      That still doesn't explain how, when, and why the UT colors changed from bright orange and white, which they were when I came to UT as a freshman in the early 1960s, to burnt orange and white, which they were when I returned as a graduate student in the late 1960s. I still have "official" UT sweatshirts in both shades of orange. The story I heard at the time was that, since the University of Tennessee's colors were bright orange and white, the University of Texas changed to burnt orange to differentiate the two school's colors. That, of course, could be an "urban legend." I'd still like to hear the real story.
    • Quote 2
      djahnke said on Aug. 19, 2010 at 12:23 a.m.
      And the "burnt" came from where?
    • Quote 2
      Tom O'Hare said on Aug. 18, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.
      But this narrative STILL does not say why burnt orange won out over bright orange, nor when burnt orange finally became the official color.
    • Quote 2
      Hugh Brady said on Aug. 18, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.
      The headline is incorrect because the colors adopted in that vote were not burnt orange and white, but orange and white. In fact, a report in the 1960s confirmed that the orange was the shade adopted was the shade of orange painted over the entrance to the Texas Union.
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