Friday, October 31, 2014

Providence College (1941)

“What if’s” are tempting, but dangerous at the same time. You make assumptions, you try to imagine what other people think … there are no facts or empirical evidence involved, just opinion, shots in the dark and flat-out fantasy. That said, here are my what-ifs for the teams in our football graveyard, had they elected to keep the sport:
  • Northeastern: Still treading water in the CAA.
  • Fairfield: A competitive team in the NEC or Pioneer League.
  • Boston University: Since BU’s other teams left the America East Conference for the Patriot League, the football team almost certainly would have joined the PL, and likely been a decent team, like BU's other teams.
  • Vermont: Rhody North — an underfinanced team in a sub-par stadium, and likely still waiting for its first league title.
  • Providence: Playing in the NEC, Pioneer or Patriot leagues. 
Ah, Providence … The basketball school tried its hand at football from 1921-41, with limited success. I’m guessing the Friars found football an uphill battle, as many other small Jesuit schools have before and since. (Among the Jesuit schools to drop football: Providence, Fairfield, St. John's, Villanova (dropped in '81, revived in '85), Marquette, Detroit, La Salle, Creighton, Xavier.) 
The team had only seven winning records over 21 years, and the onset of World War II spelled the end for the program. (St. Anselm College, a Catholic school in Manchester, N.H., also dropped football after the ’41 season and restored it in 1998.)
Amazingly, the school maintains a site devoted to the football team that blows away what a lot of current programs have for history sites. It features team photos, action photos and memorabilia. It’s the source of just about all my PC football info.

The last PC uniform, worn in 1941, is above: I’m not sure if there was a white road jersey, but it wouldn’t shock me, since the Friars wore white in the 1920s and ’30s.

A Providence-St. Anselm program from 1940.
Just a year later, both schools dropped football.

The 1941 Providence College football team, the last varsity squad in school history.
A club team was formed at PC in the 1960s.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vermont Catamounts (1970-74)

When I was in college, I had heard that Maine had played Vermont in football a long time ago. I also heard about a slogan the folks in Burlington had for their long-gone football team, and after I moved to Vermont in 2003, I got to see it up close:

Well, I’d say BU, Northeastern and the other teams profiled this week have been giving UVM a run for its money the last few years.
Vermont had a mostly sub-medicore football team for decades, but seemed to be turning the corner in 1974. They went only 1-5 in the Yankee Conference (4-6 overall), but the 1 was against perpetual powerhouse UMass, which shared the title with Maine that year. Their quarterback, Bob Bateman, was first-team all-YC and received the most votes of anyone named to the team. (After spending his senior year at Brown, he was drafted by the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals in 1976.) 
Things seemed to be looking up for a team that had never won the YC title … then the ax fell, as football was sacrificed for budgetary reasons. 
At least they haven’t lost since then, right? 
Rules, notes and whatnot about UVM football:
  • From the late 1950s onward, the Catamounts were consistently inconsistent. There were many overhauls and some wild experimentation — not uncommon for a losing program. Helmet colors over the last 20 years changed from gold to green to white to gold to green. Helmet insignias also changed frequently.
  • Gold, white and green pants rotated frequently, too.
  • Gold helmets were a constant in the leatherhead days, however.
Vermont football is long gone, but there are plenty of places to find stuff on the Catamounts: The Ariel yearbook (now defunct, just like the football team) has some nifty pictures, and a fascinating interview with the final coach, conducted after the program’s cancellation, can be found here (The page doesn't automatically come up, but under "jump to," type in 36). Helmet Hut shows off a few UVM helmets, plus some swell details about the program’s final years. A Cliff's Notes history of the program can be found in this UVM Alumni Magazine, and this blog has a slew of UVM pictures and program covers.
The 1970 Catamounts (uniform shown at the top) went winless, which seemed to plant the seeds for the program’s demise, according to the 1971 Ariel (page 115). The team began the season wearing the gold pants from 1969, but switched to white by midseason and was used through 1972. A solid, conventional uniform for the period.

The 1972 UVM football team in action against Northeastern, a fellow member
of the college football graveyard. These pix are from the 1973 Ariel yearbook.
The stadium is still around today, and is used by the Catamount soccer teams.

Well, THIS uniform is anything but conventional. Who designed these unis? Charlie Finley? Phil Knight? This is one of the wackiest styles I’ve ever seen (well, pre-Oregon) and definitely the gaudiest of the 1970s, at least for the purposes of this project. Curved numbers? Check. Horizontal stripes? Check. Monrochrome shirts and pants? Check, check, check. It makes one think that had they kept football, the Catamounts would have been Oregon before there was an Oregon.

The gaudiness of the 1974 UVM football uniform is offset by the gorgeous foliage.
The pix are from the 1975 Ariel yearbook.
The 1974 Catamounts face the UNH Wildcats for the final time.
 I wish I had a roster to identify these guys.
Vermont tangles with Boston University in 1974. Both teams have gone undefeated since ...
Ah, we've run that joke into the ground.

Note that not all white jerseys had the stripes in '74, and the socks had different striping patterns (check the photo directly above this paragraph).

This cartoon also appeared in the 1975 Ariel. Baseball was canceled in 1971,
reinstated in '78 and axed again in 2009.

In the old days of newspapers, reporters used the notation -30-
to mark the end of a story when they handed in their typewritten copy.
Here, it marks the end of an era in college football.

Up next: We finish our tour through the graveyard with the PC Friars.

Want more uniforms from the ol' 802? Of course you do! 1946-48, 1962-631964-671968-69.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Boston University Terriers (1997, 1968-70)

I’ll never forget the last time I saw Boston University football in person. On Oct. 18, 1997, Maine crushed BU 62-29 in the last-ever football game at old, unlamented Alumni Field. Immediately after the game, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for the new Harold Alfond Sports Stadium that would replace Alumni in ’98. I still have two coffee cans full of dirt from the ceremony after a bulldozer dug a big ol’ hole into the grass field:

Nothing in here but good ol' gridiron sod.
One week later, I attended a UMaine hockey game at Alfond Arena, where the message board announced that Boston University would drop football after the season. A big hush went through the crowd when the message was posted; only college hockey or UMaine sports news was ever posed on the scoreboard. Yup, it was pretty shocking, although there had been warning signs: Longtime coach Dan Allen bailed for Holy Cross, a non-scholarship program, after the 1995 season even though the Terriers made the NCAA I-AA (now FCS) tournament in 1993 and ’94.
While football was never the top sport there (hockey has always ruled the roost), BU had a proud football history that featured stars such as Bruce Taylor, Bill Brooks and, of course, the Golden Greek, Harry Agganis, a football and baseball star who reached the big leagues for the Red Sox, only to die of an embolism in 1955 at 26.
BU no longer has a team, but it’s still making positive contributions to the gridiron. The school’s CTE Center researches the long-term effects of brain trauma in football players and other athletes.
Researching BU's uniform history has been a piecemeal effort: the school has never placed old yearbooks or newspapers are online, but thankfully, many of its gridiron rivals have. (BTW, it's just so strange to see photos of old BU-Northeastern or BU-Vermont games, knowing the fate of those programs.)
Notes ’n stuff on BU’s uniforms: 
  • The basic look changed very little: White helmets were used for many years until 1965, and red helmets thereafter until the program’s demise.
  • Red pants were first used in the mid-80s and were used on and off until the end. Gray pants were worn in the late 1960s-early ’70s, and black trim was used in the ’90s.
  • Helmet logos changed frequently: the school crest was used a couple times, a few different “BU” logos, an ugly “Boston” wordmark in the late ’70s-early ’80s and a few years with blank helmets. The last couple years, the right side of the helmet was blank, and the left had a uniform number. 
After the school announced the cancellation of the program (at Homecoming, no less — ouch!), the players wore generic uniforms with black numbers for the UConn game a week later in protest. For the home finale, against UMass, the regular uniforms were restored. You can check out a picture of the protest game on the Hartford Courant archives.

BU always had bursts of excellence: The Agganis years in the early ’50s; the late ’60s; and the early-mid ’90s, right before the ship went down. This is what the Terriers wore in 1969, when they went 9-2 and lost to San Diego State in the Pasdena Bowl (yes, it was held in the Rose Bowl; the game was also known as the Junior Rose Bowl) in front of 41,000 fans. This pic is from the San Diego State library, and you can see more pics from the game here

This was Boston U's first -- and only -- bowl game, but the Terriers also made
 several appearances in the NCAA I-AA (now FCS) Tournament.
For some reason, I’ve always liked the interlocking “BU” logo (similar to Baylor) and the “BOSTON UNIVERSITY” across the jersey front, used from about 1966 to 1977.

Up next: The team that’s been undefeated for 40 years!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fairfield Stags (1996, 2001)

When I started this project, Fairfield University was about the last school I had on my mind — just another wannabe D-I school from a part of a state that barely qualifies as New England. After a little digging, two things surprised me about the football team at this Jesuit school on the Connecticut shoreline:
  1. It lasted only seven years;
  2. It was quite good for most of its short existence. Fairfield fielded a team from 1996-2002 and went 44-28 with only two losing seasons — its first (1-8) and last (5-6) years. Coach Kevin Kiesel seemed to have done a remarkable job putting together a competitive team in a short amount of time, capped by a MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) co-championship in 1999. 
So why did it die? In short, the school grossly underestimated the cost of fielding a team, even a non-scholarship one, if this article gives any indication. But it seemed to be fun while it lasted.

A promotional poster for the first Fairfield varsity team, taken from an eBay listing.
Who knew the end would come so soon after the beginning?
Notes and other tidbits on Fairfield’s football uniforms:
  • It appears only one jersey style — a basic red jersey with white numbers — was worn during the program’s existence.
  • The “Stags” wordmark was used on the helmet until the last year, when a black “F” was used. The white helmets used a red stripe on one side and a black stripe on the other.
  • No manufacturer’s logo was ever used.
The Fairfield yearbook is called the Manor, and has some nice color pictures from the program’s first couple years. The photos you see here are borrowed from the Manor.

The Fairfield mascot is supposed to be a stag,
though it resembles the moose from "National Lampoon's Vacation."
At the top of this post is the uniform from the inaugural season: Pretty simple, outside the unusual helmet striping.

Game action from 1996, taken from the 1997 Manor yearbook.

I don’t have a road uniform from the last year, 2002, so I’ll offer the 2001 uniform instead. I believe this was the only year the team wore a MAAC patch on the jerseys; the few pictures I have from the 2000 and ’02 seasons show no patch. The Stags helmet wordmark appears to be slightly enlarged by this point. 

The 2001 home uniform. Black pants were also worn that year.

2002: The caption on the left says it all. No, not the one about going for the kick.


Up next: The Boston University Terriers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Northeastern Huskies (2008-09, 1976-77)

It’s always sad when a school eliminates a sport, whether it’s football or bocci. Often, when a team dies, that team’s history dies with it. What does anybody know about Pacific University football (the last Division I-A/FBS school to cancel the sport) other than Amos Alonzo Stagg coached there and Pete Carroll played there?
With this being Halloween week, we’re going to take a journey to the college football graveyard and check out the uniforms from five gone — and at this blog, not forgotten — programs: Northeastern, Fairfield, Boston University, Vermont and Providence. Yes, the Friars had football, back in the leatherhead days.
We’ll go in reverse order, from the most recent canceled team to the oldest. First up, the Northeastern Huskies.
I’ve always cracked that Northeastern canceled football in 2009 when the school found out it still had a team. The Huskies toiled in relative obscurity at tiny Parsons Field, which barely passes for a Division III stadium. But Northeastern definitely had its moments: Legendary coach Joe Zabilski went 101-76-6 during a 24-year run on the sidelines, and the Huskies won the Atlantic 10 title (shared with Maine) in 2002. A pair of NFL Pro Bowlers, Bengals tight end Dan Ross and Packers lineman Sean Jones, starred for the Huskies.  But coach Don Brown’s departure for UMass in 2004 was the beginning of the end, and the Huskies never had a winning record again. 
A mere 1,017 fans showed up for Northeastern’s last-ever home game, a rain-soaked 14-13 win over Hofstra in 2009. Sadly, Hofstra also cancelled football after the season.
Northeastern’s website actually has a page devoted to the history of the football team, a nice touch. Some schools eliminate a program and pretend it never existed, to the chagrin of fans, athletes and alumni. 
The Cauldron yearbook has been an excellent source of info, and also contains tons of great photos of Boston itself.
Notes and stuff about the Pooches:
  • Despite putting its yearbooks online, Northeastern is a tough team to research. Like Penn, the team constantly flip-flopped dark jersey colors, which occasionally makes for challenging research when black-and-white photos are the primary evidence.
  • One constant, however: Black helmets were worn from the early 1960s until the bitter end in ’09, albeit with many logo changes. “NORTHEASTERN” was featured prominently on the jerseys from 1991-2009, even as the jersey colors changed from black to red to black to red.
  • Gray/silver was used a trim color on and on through the 1980s.
Above is the last uniform style from Northeastern, used in 2008-09. I don’t recall any other college teams wearing Reebok jerseys at this time, but I’m probably wrong.

The end of Northeastern football, as depicted on a 2009 trading card.
Kinda cool a Husky was included.

And this is what the Huskies wore in 1976-77, when they first put names on the jerseys. No. 84 was Dan Ross, who went on to a Pro Bowl career at tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1979-85. He is (and always will be) the Huskies' all-time leader in receptions (153), receiving touchdowns (13) and receiving yards (2,343). He died in 2006. In 1978, a big, thick "N" replaced the neat "NU" logo that had been on the helmets since 1968.

A Northeastern program from 1976, complete with porn 'staches.
The gray pants were gone by the time the season started.

Up next: A stag party with Fairfield University!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Delaware Blue Hens (1980-88)

First off, a little advance hype: In honor of Halloween next week, we’re going to journey into the college football graveyard and examine five defunct programs, with a new post each weekday:
  • The school that dropped a winning program after only seven years!
  • A team that hypes its 40-year undefeated streak!
  • A team whose program was canceled on Homecoming and the players wore generic uniforms in protest!
Should be a blast.
Until the 2000s, you needed an electron microscope to notice Delaware’s uniform changes over the previous 50 years or so. A sock stripe here, a shoe color there, a trim stripe somewhere else … you have to look carefully to figure out the changes. So while the Blue Hens kept the same basic look, they were making eensy-weensy modifications every few years. Even the Michigan-style helmet striping underwent slight changes over the years.
The biggest change Delaware made in its uniform from 1979 to 1980? The Blue Hens added blue trim on the road jerseys. Before that, the big change was the addition of blue face masks in 1978. Before that, a switch to V-neck collars in 1977. You get the idea. That said, the Hens stuck with this look until 1989 ... when the big change was the addition of a 100th anniversary patch.

This style was worn by quarterback Rich Gannon, shown in the 1987 Blue Hen yearbook, long before he an MVP, Super Bowl participant, broadcaster and anti-Raiders ranter.

Rich Gannon, before the New England Patriots tried to convert him to a defensive back.
That says a lot about the Pats of my youth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yale Bulldogs (1994, '96)

Upon further review, I left out Yale in my post a few weeks back on teams that wore the college football quasquicentennial patch in 1994. Yale also wore it that year, so here it is!
Also, featured today is Yale’s 1996 uniform, a transitional piece:
  1. It was the last year of legendary coach Carm Cozza, and the last year of the no-outline “Y” on the helmet until 2012;
  2. It was the first year the bulldog logo was worn on the sleeves and pants, and the first year a manufacturer’s logo (Starter) was used. In fact, the ’96 Bulldogs may have been the first team in this project to put the manufacturer’s logo on the front of the jersey (ugh).

The “N.A.” decal was added to the helmet early in the season after the death of Nick Adamo, a former guard and 1995 Yale graduate, in a plane crash in October 1996.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Harvard Crimson (1980-83)

There’s really not much to say about this look; Harvard’s uniforms have undergone minimal change since 1980, when the classic crest (complete with Latin lingo) was added to the jersey shoulders. The most notable change has come from the helmets, which have used a blocky, serif “H” since Tim Murphy became coach in 1994.
Check out the helmet logo from the 80s; that’s right down there with the Nebraska “N” on the excitement scale.
Another oddity: I believe football is the only sport at Harvard that uses gold in any capacity. My guess is that this a carryover from the pre-World War II era, when many teams wore tan/gold/khaki pants. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

HOMECOMING BONUS: Maine Black Bears (1974)

Well, it’s my alma mater’s homecoming (or is it Homecoming?) this weekend, so we’ll go back 40 years and look at a Maine team with an unusual accomplishment: The Black Bears shared the Yankee Conference title (4-2 record, tied with UMass) despite a losing record overall (4-6, with nonconference losses to Northeastern, Bucknell, Lehigh and Delaware). The key victory that year was a 7-0 win at UConn, Maine’s first at Storrs since 1954. The quarterback in ’74? A freshman named Jack Cosgrove … who has been the Black Bears’ head coach since 1993.

Jack Cosgrove (15) runs through the Vermont defense.

This is one of my favorite vintage Maine uniforms: The Michigan-style helmet, the curved numbers on the sides, just the right dose of blue trim on the shirt and pants … it  all meshes very well. One oddity: Many Maine helmets from about 1972-74 lacked numbers. I have no idea why. The numbers were moved to the back in ’75.

Three Black Bears were named all-Yankee Conference, including future longtime Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett, a defensive back. From the 1975 Prism yearbook, here are some pix of the ’74 Bears in action, including a few against Vermont and Northeastern. We’ll be seeing more of those two gone-but-not-forgotten programs in the next week or so.

Happy Homecoming!

Jack Cosgrove (15) barks the signals in Maine's last-ever game against Vermont.

The classic Maine helmet in all its glory. Tru-Stik?

The Black Bears take down a Northeastern Husky. Note the lack of numbers on the helmets.

The '74 Black Bears in action.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rhode Island Rams (1966)

The Rhode Island Rams have traditionally used light blue as their primary color, but navy has made prominent appearances off and on over the years, too; the Rams have used navy helmets and jerseys since 2011, for example.
From 1962-65, Rhody wore navy helmets with white horns, which were almost a dead ringer for what the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams used from 1964-72. From 1967-92, the Rams sported white helmets with light blue horns and white “notches” in the horns (which had a yellow outline from 1976-92). But in 1966 only, Rhode Island wore white helmets with navy horns:

The above picture is from the 1967 Grist yearbook, which later became the Renaissance yearbook. I wonder what's the story behind the name change? 

The jerseys and pants looked as they had in ’64. Note the uber-thin blue stripes on the pants, the only hint of light blue on the uniforms. Navy blue socks were used on and off.

In ’67, Rhody switched exclusively to light blue and white, and navy was banished to sidelines — not for the last time. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UNH Wildcats (1965, 2000)

We continue our look at one-year wonders with a couple of unique styles from UNH.

Andy Mooradian enjoyed a distinguished career as UNH’s athletics director from 1966-86, during which he shepherded the Wildcats’ leap from Division II to D-I in football and hockey, added women’s sports and hired such legendary coaches as Charlie Holt (hockey) and Bill Bowes (football). The field at Cowell Stadium bears his name, and for good reason. But in 1965, Mooradian’s only year as football coach, the Wildcats went 0-8 and they were outscored 292-58. That year, UNH ditched the silver helmets and pants they wore under predecessor Chief Boston for white versions:

The home jersey retained the look of previous seasons, but the roads underwent a slight change in the sleeves. Below left is the older jersey, from the 1964 Granite yearbook; on the right is what they wore in '65, from the '66 Granite. The difference is small, but it's there: 

In 1966, Mooradian became AD and Joe Yukica was hired as the new coach. Yukica added numbers to the sides of the helmet while the jerseys bore a striking resemblance to Penn State’s. Care to guess where Yukica played his college ball? By 1967, Yukica had turned the Wildcats into Yankee Conference title contenders and he was off to Boston College. 

Let’s fast-forward to 2000, Sean McDonnell’s second year as Wildcats coach. That summer, UNH unveiled a new brand identity for its sports teams; the big “U” next to the small “NH” was replaced by the logo the Wildcats have used since:


You can find a neat history of the UNH logo and mascot here.

When football season started, the classic “NH” worn on the helmets since 1976 was replaced by the new logo. But the shirts, for one year only, retained the vintage look of the Bill Bowes era, including the red trim that clashed with the new blue-and-silver helmet logo:

Alas, I don’t much to offer in terms of pictures of the hybrid uniform: Just one from the back cover of the 2001 Atlantic 10 media guide and one from the Valley News the day after UNH pounded Dartmouth in the inaugural Granite Bowl game. Look closely at the top picture, and you can see the new logo on Mr. Day’s helmet:

I’m not sure why the old jersey was used in 2000; with the logo unveiling occurring in the summer, there might not have been enough time for a proper jersey change and it was simply easier to recycle the late-90s garb. But the Wildcats wore new blue-and-silver uniforms in 2001, and the silver helmets from the Chief Boston years made a return in 2003, which have been used ever since.

Up next: A one-shot deal from the Rhody Rams.