May 25, 2024

University of Houston football uniforms, explained: Why NFL sent cease and desist over Oilers-inspired jerseys


The University of Houston isn’t letting the NFL dictate what colors the school can and can’t wear. 

The NFL recently sent a cease and desist letter to the university in regards to their “Love Ya Blue” uniform, according to the Houston Chronicle. In the letter, the league claimed “the Houston Cougars’ attempt to free ride on the popularity of the NFL and the club violates the intellectual property rights of the NFL and (Tennessee) Titans.”

The colors of the alternate jerseys, which are used by all of the school’s athletic programs, closely resemble the tones for the Houston Oilers uniforms used back in the 1970s. The franchise was moved out of the state, relocating to Tennessee as the Titans, while the city of Houston eventually gained back another club in the Texans.

University of Houston football uniforms

At the beginning of the 2023 academic year, the University of Houston debuted their “Love Ya Blue” uniforms, which include a color pattern of light blue, red and white. The Cougars’ kits have a very similar Columbia blue in them, however the NFL does not own the color pattern associated with the Oilers uniforms. 

The Titans currently have the old Oilers uniforms as a throwback option in their rotation, which is why the NFL is threatening legal action against the university. Houston athletic director Chris Pezman said that a new jersey design was made in response to the NFL’s letter, however the colors used in the new Houston uniforms did not change.

To the football fan, the colors may be associated with the Oilers club, however, there is a deeper meaning to the scheme. The blue color used in the uniforms has been associated with the Houston Police Department for decades, the title of the color is informally called H-Town Blue and its use in the city long predated the Oilers’ arrival in 1959, according to Pezman.  

Despite the cease and desist letter, Houston informed the NFL that it will be adding H-Town Blue uniforms to its programs going forward, and have no plans on altering the hues. 

Oilers’ throwback uniforms

The Houston Oilers were an AFL club from 1960-69 before moving to the NFL. The franchise played in the league until 1996, when it relocated to Nashville, Tenn.

Houston gained an NFL club again when the Texans were founded in 1999, however, the jerseys of the old Oilers teams still remain with the Titans. Tennessee has used those throwbacks every so often in the NFL, repping the Columbia blue jerseys with red trim around white numbers, along with the signature white helmet with an oil derrick. 

The jerseys that the Cougars sport are quite similar to the Oilers’ sets from the 1970s. However, that does not mean that the university is doing anything legally wrong by wearing them. 





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