Monday, September 15, 2014

Holy Cross Crusaders (2013-14, 1986-91)

The College of the Holy Cross has had a deeply strange football history. The Crusaders have experienced the highest of highs (a trip to the 1946 Orange Bowl; an undefeated 1987 team that ended the season ranked No 1 in I-AA by the Associated Press; a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist in two-way threat Gordie Lockbaum) and the lowest of lows (a hepatitis attack that wiped out the 1969 season, the untimely deaths of two coaches, one by suicide). 
The last decade has been rather pedestrian by comparison in Worcester, but a return to magic of yore would be nice.
Rules of thumb, notes and trivia about Holy Cross’ uniforms:
  • This has been a rather tough team to piece together, thanks to constant changes, especially in the last 20 years. 
  • Purple helmets, however, have been a constant since 1976. White and silver helmets were part of the ensemble in the past. 
  • Numbers have been frequently on the helmets, but many fonts have been used.
  • The 2003 uniforms had ghastly uber-serfied numbers. I believe this style was one and done.
  • I’m pretty certain Holy Cross was the first school in this project to wear a manufacturer’s logo on the shirt (Champion, 1981).
  • Other than a few years in the mid-90s, names have never been used on the backs.
  • White was worn at home in the 1950s-60s, and purple jerseys were worn maybe once a year, a la LSU.
A smattering of Purple Patcher yearbooks are online, and you can find the student paper, the Crusader, here. Past Crusader sports editors include Dan Shaughnessy and Bill Simmons. What's in the water in Worcester? 
Holy Cross changed its helmets (number font) and home jerseys for 2013, and switched the road tops for 2014. The ’13 and 14 designs are shown above. Those helmet numbers almost look like the Red Sox' jersey numbers, only without the sharp edges.

The “classic” look takes us to that incredible year of 1987. The Crusaders went 11-0, outscored its opponents 511-110 and finished No. 1 in the AP Division I-AA (now FCS) rankings. Alas, the Patriot League had a no-postseason policy at the time, so we’ll never know how the ’Saders would have done in the NCAA tourney. No. 17 was Gordie Lockbaum, who played running back … and cornerback … and kick returner. He placed fifth in the Heisman voting in 1986 and third in ’87 and won more awards than I can possibly repeat here. You’ll never see the likes of him again.
Mark Duffner, the coach of that ’87 team, has been a long-time NFL assistant. 

Up next: we do a drive-by through the Northeast Conference.

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