The sporting public has become conditioned to treat with at least mild skepticism any “retirement” announcement from a certain subset of athletes.
This includes: pretty much any boxer, any athlete who leaves the game during his or her prime and any Hall of Fame quarterback to wear No. 4 and play for both the Packers and Vikings.
Floyd Mayweather … George Foreman … Michael Jordan … Brett Favre. Hey, they’re messy athletes who live for drama.
But having a jersey “unretired”? That’s not something you (or at least I) hear of every day.
That’s precisely, however, what the University of Colorado did with not one, not two but THREE numbers. Per the Associated Press:
Byron “Whizzer” White’s No. 24, Joe Romig’s No. 67 and Bobby Anderson’s No. 11 will all be worn again. The families of White, who died in 2002, Romig and Anderson approved the decision to bring back their numbers.
All three played more than a half-century ago, and all three will have their names and numbers appear on a patch worn by players this season. (Wide World photo of White from 1937 pictured above).
It makes a certain amount of sense, considering the size of football rosters and that numbers — at least-two digit numbers — are finite while time is infinite.
As much as we like to think about college football having a long history, eventually programs will run out of numbers if they play hundreds (thousands?) of years into the future and take numbers out of circulation for their all-time greats.
So I would imagine this business of unretiring numbers might become more commonplace as the years go on.
Then again, Colorado only has four retired numbers. The only one not “unretired” immediately is Rashaan Salaam, whose No. 19 was retired in 2017 — but only taken out of circulation for 19 years.
It’s already happened in other circumstances, including a similar one at Michigan which unretired six numbers starting in 2011. That “Legends” program, however, was discontinued a few years later with all the numbers going back into retirement.
In other cases, famous athletes who join new teams have asked for and/or been granted retired previously retired numbers.
For Gophers football, by the way, five numbers are retired: Paul Giel’s 10, Sandy Stephens’ 15, Bruce Smith’s 54, Bronko Nagurski’s 72 and Bobby Bell’s 78.
Maybe some incoming recruit in the class of 2060 will get to wear 78 if he really wants it?
Don’t rule it out. When it comes to players and apparently numbers, retirement is not forever.