College Football Uniforms: Houston Cougars Defy NFL, Add Blue Uniform Anyway

    The Houston Cougars have decided to push back on a cease and desist letter sent by the NFL by announcing throwback college football uniforms.

    When it comes to the “Luv Ya Blue” uniforms, there’s no love lost between Houston and Tennessee, even pitting college football and the NFL against each other.

    The Houston Cougars wore their version of the iconic uniforms to open the 2023 season against the UTSA Roadrunners. Soon after on October 13, the NFL’s merchandising and licensing division sent a cease and desist letter that threatened legal action against the Cougars for allegedly infringing on the Tennessee Titans brand by wearing the alternate uniforms.

    After initially adhering to the NFL’s demand without committing to it permanently, Houston informed the NFL that it would use their alternative college football uniforms again, believing the school has legal standing due to the city of Houston’s long history with the colors and an alternate shade of blue.

    The Battle for “Luv Ya Blue”

    The NFL first contacted Houston in February 2023, stating that the league “did not consent to the Houston Cougars’ use of the uniform at issue or any similar designs.”

    The Cougars ignored that initial response, wearing a slightly altered version of the uniforms against UTSA in football, women’s soccer, and golf, prompting the cease and desist letter in October.

    Houston stopped wearing the uniform after the cease-and-desist but mulled over the letter for six months, consulting with an outside firm during that time, before issuing a response defying the NFL in mid-April, according to a report by Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.

    Per the report, the NFL has yet to respond to Houston and couldn’t be reached for comment.

    Since the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville in 1996 and became the Tennessee Titans in 1997, the team owns the intellectual property of the Columbia blue uniforms, colloquially referred to as “Luv Ya Blue.”

    The Houston Cougars believe they have a way to circumvent that by using a slightly different shade of light blue, known as “Houston blue,” and changing the striping on the jersey.

    The Rice Owls, also located in Houston, wore a version of the uniforms on September 30, 2023, against East Carolina. It is unclear why a letter from the NFL wasn’t sent to the Owls, but the uniform featured different stripe patterns on the shoulders and had “Rice” on the front instead of Houston, possibly clearing them from trademark infringement.

    As for the Cougars, a timetable for the alternate uniform reveal isn’t set as Houston awaits a response from the NFL.

    Houston’s History with “Luv Ya Blue”

    It may seem curious why a college team would battle the NFL over the color scheme of a defunct uniform of a pro team that left over a quarter century ago. Still, that specific hue has become synonymous with the city for more reasons than football.

    The Bluebonnet has been the official flower of Texas since 1901, while light blue has been the predominant color in Houston’s official flag since 1915. The Houston police department even painted their fleet of cop cars the color in the 60s, a trend they brought back last year.

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    The Houston Oilers were the toast of the town in the 70s and 80s, with stars like Earl Campbell and Warren Moon propelling the franchise into the lexicon. “Luv Ya Blue” became a movement that swept up most of east Texas.

    When former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams moved the team in 1996, he didn’t just take away a team’s colors, he took a part of the city’s history. Even the Titans’ professional replacement in Houston, the Texans, can’t wear the color.

    It’s personal for the city of Houston, so the Cougars decided to fight to reclaim that history. The Rice Owls have already joined the blue movement, and the Texans may soon join it after reaching a compromise for an “H-Town blue” alternate jersey.

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