By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

Like everyone else, Uni Watch is looking forward to the Rose Bowl -- and not just because it'll mean we finally won't have to look at Reggie Bush's area code anymore. The Rose Bowl has its own uniform history, one put into useful perspective by a communiqué that recently arrived from Uni Watch reader Drew Mackey. He writes:

"Ever since I was little, I always knew the Rose Bowl wasn't just the 'Granddaddy of 'em all' -- it's also the granddaddy of uniform modification. Why does everyone feel the need to completely cover their uniform in roses? They don't put oranges on their helmets for the Orange Bowl, or Doritos on the Fiesta Bowl helmets (yet)."

Sure enough, nothing brings out a team's horticultural side like the Rose Bowl. And while a few teams have worn a crown of thorns for the game, including Washington State in 1997 and Purdue in 2001, the rose bush is more commonly planted on the shoulders, a landscaping concept that appears to have been pioneered by Washington and Iowa in 1982.

Other teams sporting rosy shoulders over the years have included UCLA and Iowa in 1986, Michigan and Arizona State in 1987, Michigan State in 1988, Michigan and USC in 1990, Washington in 1992, Michigan again in 1993, Wisconsin and UCLA in 1994, Oregon (but not Penn State, which has always eschewed special bowl patches) in 1995, Arizona State in 1997, Michigan yet again in 1998, and Stanford in 2000, among others. Shoulder logos appeared in other bowls during this period -- here's Bo Jackson, for example, playing for Auburn in the 1986 Cotton Bowl -- but they always seemed like weak imitations of the shoulder roses.

Uni Watch kinda digs the use of unadorned rose illustrations -- simple, basic, classy. The same can't be said, unfortunately, for the designs that feature typography, which tends to get out of hand.

In any case, shoulder roses have fallen out of favor lately, with most teams now wearing just the Rose Bowl logo chest patch. The exception to this rule has been Michigan, which wore shoulder roses and the chest patch in 2004 and 2005. This part of a larger UMich tradition of wearing shoulder patches for bowl games, including the 1999 Citrus Bowl, the 2001 Citrus Bowl, and the 2003 Outback Bowl. These patches are known as "Big Jonnies," in honor of equipment manager Jon Falk, who personally screens the designs onto the jersey shoulders. But he seems less inclined to do it when Wolverines are wearing their road jerseys, which may explain why Michigan was plain-shouldered in last week's Alamo Bowl.

In other bowl-related uni news:

• Several readers have asked why some Nevada players in the Hawaii Bowl had a silver helmet stripe while most of their teammates were stripe-free. Uni Watch covered this a few weeks ago; could it be that some of you weren't paying attention? Tut-tut! Anyway: The stripe is Nevada's version of a merit decal. It's called a Striker Award, and is given to players who perform at a high level for three consecutive games. A nice concept, but it looks kinda weird when striped and non-striped players are close together.

• Priceless moment during last Thursday's broadcast of the Holiday Bowl, when a sideline reporter noted that Oregon was wearing its ninth uni combo of the year and then added, "You've gotta love a team that wears diamondplate patterns on their knees." To which a clearly befuddled Keith Jackson bluntly replied, "Why?" (Incidentally, according to that same sideline reporter, Oregon will have three helmet designs next season and will incorporate chrome into its color scheme. Really. With luck, however, an asteroid will strike the Earth before next September.)

• As reader David Main notes, you know these bowl-specific jersey patches have gotten out of hand when the Liberty Bowl patch is partially covering Fresno State's numbers.

• Last week, while discussing home-vs.-home uniform matchups, Uni Watch asked if Ohio State and UCLA had both worn home colors in the 1976 Rose Bowl. Big thanks to the literally dozens of readers who provided the answer with this photo. No shoulder or chest patches in those days, though -- wow, what a concept.

Paul Lukas never thought he'd be using the word "horticultural" in a sports article. Got a question for him? Before sending it in, see if it's on his list of Frequently Asked Uni Watch Questions. Archives of his "Uni Watch" columns are available here, here, and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list? Contact him here.