Monday, December 11, 2017

Brown (2017), Bryant (2017), CCSU (2017)

It's that time of the year again -- hop on the sleigh, stuff the stockings and review the uniforms for the 18 active teams in our little project. We'll go alphabetically, more or less. (Since my files list Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire as UConn, UMass and UNH, they'll have to wait a bit.) We'll also skip Boston College for now, since the Eagles still have a bowl game in a couple weeks. So without further ado ...

Brown (2-8 overall, 0-7 Ivy League) didn't change a thing from last year's uniforms, which means the ugly black alternates are still around. Repeat after me: If black is not one of your primary colors, you shouldn't use it for an alternate jersey. Which is too bad, because Brown's regular home and road unis are among the best in the Ivy League, and the helmet logo, with the ivy weaving through the "B," is among the classiest around.

The Bears also added a black "JM" patch to the jerseys this year; I'm embarrassed to admit that despite tons of searches, I have no idea of the patch's significance. Readers?

More unis from the sons of Bruno: 201620152014, 2012-132004-082001-03, 1997-20001984-891981-8319781975-771973-7419721967-711959-651957-581951-56, 1914.

Bryant (6-5, 4-2 NEC) kept its uniform from last year, but brought back the white pants last worn in 2015. With the exception of one game, the Bulldogs wore the all-white uni on the road.

I like how the basic elements of Bryant's uniform have gone mostly unchanged since the program's founding in 1999, with the exception of those gray pants the Bulldogs wore for a couple years (see links below). The plain gold helmet is just that -- plain -- but it's also the only design Bryant has ever worn in an age of nonstop change and alternate helmets, and that's reassuring.

A few more barkin' Bryant unis:  20162015201420132004-06, 1999-2000.

Central Connecticut (8-4, 6-0 NEC, NEC champs, first FCS playoff appearance in team history) switched to a white helmet from a blue helmet, which the Blue Devils had worn forever, although I kept waiting for the blues to make at lest one appearance this year. The helmets still have the logo on one side and the uniform number on the other, a disease that seems to permeate many teams that wear Nike uniforms. The white pants, which were last worn in 2015, returned and were worn exclusively with the roads. 

With only two uniform designs used all season, CCSU is the first of four teams this season to receive a "KISS" Award -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well done.

Some more garb from CCSU: 2016, 2015201420131968.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Maine Black Bears (2001)

It's not always easy being a Maine fan. Small budget, middle of nowhere, so-so sports teams while your chief rival (New Hampshire) sits on the sunny Seacoast, makes the football playoffs every year and kicks arse in almost every other sport it plays in (I mean, hoops and soccer now? Really?). It makes you wonder if you should be playing the other UNH (University of New Haven) instead.

I oversimplify, of course. Maine in the past has churned out nationally-renowned, history-making teams in hockey, women's hoops and baseball. Maine football is always very competitive, and occasionally, very good. And in 2001, the Black Bears were flat-out outstanding. 

Ninth-year coach Jack Cosgrove had slowly dug Maine out from revolting (a long string of 3-8 years) to respectability to reaching the top. The '01 Bears went 8-2 in the regular season (cut short to 10 games because of 9-11) and 7-2 in Atlantic 10 play to share the league title with Villanova, William & Mary and Hofstra (Hofstra?), and qualify for the NCAA I-AA (now FCS) playoffs for just  the third time in their history. Maine even beat UNH that year (57-24)!

Maine opened the playoffs at McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., where the Bears pulled off the 14-10 upset for the first postseason win in program history. A pair of third-quarter touchdowns -- a 27-yard strike from Jake Eaton to Chad Hayes and a 4-yard run by the late Royston English -- made the difference. 

The Bangor Daily News pages tell the story:
Maine wins its first playoff game in team history.
Note the honor stickers on the helmets, something
the Black Bears haven't done in years.
A week later, it was on to Northern Iowa, the school Kurt Warner made famous, and the UNI Dome. Although the teams were tied at 28 in third quarter, UNI scored four straight TDs to take a 56-28 win. Eaton, a member of the school's Hall of Fame, threw for 330 yards and three TDs in a losing cause. English, the workhorse running back who ran for 1,301 yards in the regular season and scored nine touchdowns, was out with an injured right foot.

All told, however, it was an amazing season, as Maine tied a school record for wins (9, broken just one year later), and finished 10th in The Sports Network I-AA poll, Three players -- tight end Hayes, linebacker and future San Diego Charger Stephen Cooper and safety Lennard Byrd -- were named All-Americans by various groups. Cooper was the A-10's defensive player of the year and Cosgrove was coach of the year. The achievements go on.

It may not be easy, but 2001 proved that Maine football can turn some heads, win a playoff game ... and yes, even defeat UNH. 

UMaine Hall of Fame quarterback Jake Eaton
and the 2001 home uniform, with drop-shadow numbers. 
Another shot of the home uniform, with receiver Stefan Gomes.
Note the  HY-OOGE Atlantic 10 patch; the football version of the league was a successor to
the old Yankee Conference and a predecessor to the current CAA.
Oh, you wanted to read about the uniforms? Yeah, I guess that's this blog is about. Maine was in its second year of a monochrome look with a script "Maine" on the helmet. What was new was the home jersey, with the oh-so-trendy drop-shadow numbers that aged about as well as Nickelback. The road shirts, in their final year, were first worn in 1997. The all-blue look at home has continued to this day -- a nice bit of consistency in a college football world where uniforms are dominated by anything but.

Can't bear to be without Black Bear uniforms? Here are some more: 2016201520142011-131997-9919851976-84197519741965more 19651963-641957-591949-50, 1939-461928-29. Rivalry week: Maine-New Hampshire. Inside the jersey: 2010-13.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

With the Detroit Lions reviving their Turkey Day throwbacks this season, it had me thinking what teams in our little sphere would wear if they jumped onto the throwback bandwagon. A couple caveats:

1) The selections aren't so much how I want them to look as how as I think they would want themselves to look. So thingies like number fonts and collars aren't going to look exactly the way they did in days of yore. Which means ...
2) Stuff like manufacturers' logos, league logos and other random bits (see Dartmouth) stays around. 
3) A few of these styles haven't been covered here yet, which means I have some work to do.
4) Rhody gets two concepts because, well, what the Rams lack in wins they make up for with plenty of uniforms to choose from.

Anyway, this is just a harmless trip to fantasy-land. Happy Thanksgiving!

Boston College (1940 undefeated season)

Brown (1960s)

Cornell (1939 undefeated season)

Dartmouth (1925 national championship season)

Rhode Island 1 (1984 NCAA semifinalist)

Rhode Island II (1930s)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Columbia Lions (1961)

I was saving this one in case the unthinkable had a chance to happen.

Forget the Cubs. You want to talk about lovable, long-time losers, look no further than the Columbia Lions, they of SIX winning seasons (including this year) since formal Ivy League play began in 1956. A school with such a woebegone football history, a team that finished second in the Ivy League (1996) was inducted into the school's hall of fame. A school whose own band used to play the "Mickey Mouse Club" theme when the Lions took the field.

Well, all that history is that, just history. 

As I type this, Columbia is tied with Dartmouth for second in the Ivy League standings with a 4-2 record, one game behind Yale (5-1). If the Lions defeat last-place Brown on Saturday (a gimme; Brown is uncharacteristically awful his year) and Yale loses to Harvard (another gimme; despite last year's result, Tim Murphy munches on Yale like I munch on donuts), the Columbia -- yes, Co-freakin-lumbia -- will own a share of its first Ivy crown since 1961, when Americans first soared into space and Roger Maris hit 61 outta the park. And coach Al Bagnoli, who won a zillion Ivy titles at Penn, may be up for sainthood.

Which takes us to today's post.

Under the tutelage of Aldo "Buff" Donelli (whose 30 wins is third-most in program history; he also coached some outstanding teams at Boston University), Columbia went 6-3 overall, 6-1 in the Ivies to share the title with Harvard, which the Lions defeated, 26-14, in the regular season. The one Ivy loss was to Princeton; the other two were to Lehigh and Rutgers. (I may have mentioned this before, but as a program, Rutgers then was far closer to the Yankee Conference than the Bee-One-Gee, where it plays now.) The Lions scored a league-high 30.6 points per game in Ivy games.

Columbia's own website has a fine summary of the amazing season.

When Columbia clinched the Ivy League title, the Daily Spectator
put the team picture -- and a dig at Penn -- on page one.

According to the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia (2005), the '61 team hosts a party for all returning players during homecoming weekend. Hopefully, that's still the case. The ESPN tome also declares the '61 bunch the best in school history, even better than the fabled team that won the '34 Rose Bowl (which I hope we'll get to in a couple months).

The Spec's photos that year relied more on posed than action shots.
Here's a closeup of Bill Campbell's jersey, with big, curved numbers.
He later was a member of the school's board of trustees, and after his death last year,
the Columbia jerseys added a "67" patch in his honor.

As for the uniforms ... They bear more than a passing resemblance to the first-year Houston Oilers unis: Plain Columbia blue jersey with curved numbers, only outlined in navy and with no sleeve numbers (and no white road jersey, either; the Lions wore these baby blues home and road). Columbia's numbers are noticeable fatter than Houston's. White helmets with a dark number (in the same font as the jersey numbers, a nice touch) and a light blue stripe on the pants complete the outfit. It's simple, but it works. 

And if everything falls in to place, the 2017 Lions will be holding a yearly reunion at homecoming for the next several decades.

A photo from Columbia's lone Ivy League loss, to Princeton.

Other Lions unis that'll make you roar: 2015-16201420132003-051996198419831978-82, 1974-761971-7319701965-671955-561952-54, 1941-45.

QB Thomas Vassal passed Columbia to the Ivy title, while tackle Robert Asack was named all-Ivy.
They were featured in the obscure 1961 Nu-Card football set, which focused on college stars.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Inside the Jersey: Northeastern Huskies (1995-96)

Well, it's Halloween, which means it's time for a journey into the football graveyard in search of a treat from a long-lost program. And who do we see scaring up the kiddies but a Northeastern Husky, searching for some long-ago teammates so he can put a team back onto the field? OK, I'm rambling ... "et's go inside the jersey with this mid-90s Northeastern jersey, a style originally profiled here back in early 2016.

The Jersey: Northeastern 1995-96. The '94 style had a College Football 125th anniversary patch on the front, which may or may not have been worn on this one and been removed after the season. Can't tell.

How It Was Acquired: eBay, for about $40. Not bad, considering Northeastern jerseys don't appear that often.

Who Made It: Wilson.

Who Wore It: If my parents hadn't tossed out my old Maine-Northeastern programs from my college days, I could tell you.

Size: XL. This jersey may be from the 1990s, but it has a couple hardcore 80s features: The bottom is cut very high, so you can see which players have innies or outies; and the fishnet mesh pattern, perfect for those November games in 30-degree weather. 

The "2" has shown some wear and tear,
and is a different shape than the "2"s on
the front and back.
Condition: Some definite game use, as evidenced by the worn-out "2" on the sleeve. A photo from a 1990s Cauldron yearbook shows the road versions getting use in practice, so I suspect the homes may also have been recycled, as well. 

Other Stuff: The aforementioned "2" is slanted, while the "2s" on the front and back are straight across. ... The original jerseys had names on the back, and this shirt has some evidence of a nameplate removal ... The Yankee Conference patch on the front is intact. The YC's last year as 1996 before it morphed in the Atlantic 10 the next season ... My jersey is distinctly maroon in color (who made these, Harvard or UMass grads?). I've seen action photos of both maroon and bright red Huskies jerseys.

Ah, the days of the Yankee Conference. Northeastern
tried to join for about 25 years before it finally was admitted
in 1993.

Final Verdict: An odd jersey of a defunct team, perfect for Halloween. 

More Northeastern uniforms from beyond the grave: 2008-09, 1997, 1994-96, 1989-901982-861976-771973-751963-68, 19361935.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bryant Bulldogs (1999-2000)

Long before Bryant College fielded its first football team in 1999, the Smithfield, R.I., school was well known in football circles as the site of the New England Patriots' training camp from 1976-2002. Any mention of Bryant, and you knew the NFL preseason was right around the corner. (Well, other than looking at the calendar, duh.)

In the late 1990s, Bryant decided to get into the gridiron game itself and fielded its first team at the Division II level. Surprisingly, the Bulldogs were a strong team out of the gate, going 5-4 overall in 1999 and 4-4 in the Eastern Football Conference (a forerunner to the Northeast-10 Conference). On Sept. 11, 1999, Bryant defeated Assumption, 20-13, in its first game. On Oct. 2, Bryant won its home opener over Mount Ida, 31-20, before 4,817 fans -- a mighty impressive number for D-II in these parts. There were a few clunkers along the way -- a 60-20 loss to American International -- but all in all, the Bulldogs carried themselves very well for a first-year team.

The first Bryant Bulldogs team, 1999.
No truth to the rumor the school was named after Bear Bryant.

The uniforms haven't changed much over the years. To this day, the Bulldogs wear a plain gold helmet, black jerseys and gold pants. The helmet has never featured any logos, numbers or alternate versions. How many schools this century can say that? No, not even Penn State. (OK, Alabama and Auburn are two, and I'm sure there are others.)

Some early Bulldogs in action, 1999.
Note the odd location of the "Bryant" word mark.
Also note the "BC" for Bryant College in the sleeves.
The school has since changed its name to Bryant University.

The numbers on the front are HY-OOGE -- almost like the vintage Seattle Seahawks  jerseys. Also note the odd location of the "Bryant" wordmark, which is off to the side and not below the neckline, where wordmarks usually reside.. (It did move to the neck on 2001.) And true confession time: I'm not exactly sure what's on the patch on the jersey front. All I've been able to discern is that it features a yellowish football with bluish lettering underneath. I suspect it's an Eastern Football Conference patch, but I've been unable to find a copy of the logo, not even after a couple hours digging through I don't believe it's an inaugural season patch, because it also was worn in 2000.

The rather sad-looking Bryant logo from '99 (top)
and the more bad-ass bulldog adopted a few years later (above).

A few more Bryant unis:  20162015201420132004-06.
An advert for Bryant's 1999 homecoming, which also
featured the Bulldogs' historic first home game. And Victoria Jackson!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Yale Bulldogs (1934-36)

In previous posts (and GG's Facebook page), I've mentioned the lack of consistency in college football uniforms in olden times. Often, slight changes are made year to year and the older jerseys are kept in circulation as a cost-cutting measure. 

(An aside, and yes, I'm cheating since it's about pro football: Lars Anderson's outstanding The First Star, about Red Grange's 1925-26 barnstorming tour with the Chicago Bears, notes the Bears owned only one set of uniforms and often had to no time to clean them because they were playing on almost-daily basis in order to cash in on Grange's fame. Thanks to the tour's success, the Bears later could afford more unis.)

The Yale Bulldogs of 1936 were no exception. The Sons of Old Eli (not Manning, thankfully) continued to wear their 1934-35 jerseys while they added a new set with a different friction-stripe pattern. The older tops used a navy pattern across the front, while the new ones used bluish-gray stripes off to the sides, perhaps to accommodate the new numbers on the front that debuted that year. The pants, meanwhile, changed changed to fiction stripes on the back, after previously wearing what appears to be a darker shade of tan/gold.

The inconsistency carried over to the only-for-'35 white jerseys: Some have a pattern that mimics the home blues; others are as plain as practice jerseys.  

The 1934 (top) and 1936 (above) Yale teams. Look closely and you'll find
inconsistencies in the '36 home jerseys, particularly the two players flanking
Larry Kelley, who's wearing the "Y" on the front. The "Y" jersey was worn
by the captains in preseason publicity photos, and never in an actual game.
Yale dons the white jerseys against Princeton, 1935.

Another oddity: Yale and navy blue go together like the Ivy League and wine-and-cheese tailgating (hey, I've been to Ivy games, and it's no Pabst Blue Ribbon crowd!), but the Bulldogs wore a decidedly lighter shade, almost a royal blue, from the early 1930s until about 1944. There's something just wrong about Yale and a lighter blue. At least the sacrosanct white helmet was there, although the famed "Y" on the sides was three decades away.

Yale (in the white helmets) takes on Dartmouth in 1934.

Two other notable things about Yale from this era, neither of which have diddly to do with uniforms. In 1934, Yale (only 3-3 at the time) upset heavily favored Princeton, 7-0, despite playing only 11 athletes for the ENTIRE GAME. This marked the last time in the pre free-substitution era a major college team used zero subs in a game. This team has been immortalized in two books, Norman L. Macht's Football's Last Ironmen (a pretty good read, and it gives tremendous insight as to how football was played in the 1930s) and William N. Wallace's Yale's Ironmen (which I haven't read, but I ought to). 

The Yale ironmen of 1934 (white helmets, light jerseys) during
their historic 7-0 win over Princeton.
The other notable item concerns one of the stars of that '34 Yale team, end Larry Kelley, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1936. (The cover of the Wallace book claims he was the first Heisman winner, which is half right -- he was the first winner after the Downtown Athletic Club's trophy was renamed for legendary coach John W. Heisman, and the first after balloting was opened to honor the best player nationwide, rather than the best player east of the Mississippi River. Chicago's Jay Berwanger won the first DAC trophy in 1935.) Kelley, an end, caught 17 passes for 372 yards in '36, back when 17 catches made for a great season. (Today, it might make for a great game.) In failing health, Kelley auctioned off his Heisman in 1999 for more than $300,000.

Larry Kelley.
After his death in 2000 (Kelley shocked everyone by taking his own life), Sports Illustrated wrote this excellent, if sobering, profile of him.

More Yale uniforms that'll make any Bulldog salivate: 20162015201420132006-111997-981994, 19961979-8219781974-771972-731967-6819651959-601954-58,  1949-53, 1930. Rivalry Week: Harvard-Yale.

Larry Kelley disturbingly resembles Vladimir Lenin in this 1930s photo,
but it appears to have been part of a bet on his pro football ambitions, or lack thereof.