Monday, January 5, 2015

Maine Black Bears (1976-84)



"Before coach (Buddy) Teevens came in, we had those old H-style goalposts like in high school. ... Our uniforms were like Penn State's -- really plain -- but then we went to the new satin pants."

-- Bobby Wilder, former Maine QB and current Old Dominion head coach, quoted in a 1987 Boston Globe article

In 1976, longtime Boston College assistant Jack Bicknell replaced Walt Abbott as the University of Maine's football coach. With Bicknell's arrival came the Black Bears' most dramatic uniform overhaul since 1949, when the Michigan-style winged helmets were introduced. In '76, the winged helmets (you can see examples of the uniform here, here and here) were ditched and a totally new home uniform debuted for the season opener against Acadia University. The new helmet had a big, fat block "M" on the side, which means Maine traded in one Michigan element for another.

As for the shirt and pants ... Gee, those look familiar, don't they?

Maine's 1976-84 uniforms bore an uncanny similarity to
the ones worn by these guys.

The parallels to Penn State's unis are hard to avoid. The light blue trim, used since the 60s, were snuffed out by '77 (the '73-75 roads were used one more year, likely as a cost-saving measure). 

Wearing the 1976 hybrid road uniform, Maine takes on Delaware in this image from
the 1977 Blue Hen yearbook. Note the unique socks on the Black Bears; I've never seen those anywhere else.

Alas, Maine -- hamstrung by a low budget and few scholarships -- couldn't win like Penn State, at one point going 2-17-1 in Yankee Conference play from 1977-80.

The 1979 Maine media guide. 

In Bicknell's final year (1980), jersey names were introduced, a Maine first. 


A serif font was used, but thinner than what the Bears wore from 1985-93. The image above is wholly inaccurate, by the way. Chris Keating, an outstanding linebacker who later played for the NFL's Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills, played for Maine from 1976-79. But I used No. 89 in my template, so I kept it. :) Keating, a member of the team's ring of honor, was one of three brothers to play at Maine in the 1970s; his son later played for Maine.

When Ron Rogerson became coach in 1981, the names were removed.


It's Maine, with names (see No. 95 on the right).
This pic is from the Lehigh Brown and White.
I'm impressed the B&W sent a reporter and photographer all the way up to Orono.

The uniform's finest hour came in 1982, when Maine went 7-4 and shared the Yankee Conference title (with three other teams!) after 15 years as the YC's punching bag. The four losses (including two in overtime) were by a combined 21 points. Someday, we'll have to discuss that 6 OT loss to Rhody ...

Coach Ron Rogerson leads the 1982 Black Bears onto the field in this pic from
the 1983 Prism yearbook. Rogerson was at Maine from 1981-84 and was the last in
a succession of Black Bear coaches to run the Wing-T offense. He later coached at Princeton (1985-86)
and passed away just before the 1987 season.

Running back Lorenzo Bouier, the leader of the '82 Maine offense,
is still second on the Black Bears' all-time rushing list.

In 1984, light blue trim returned, as stripes were added to the pants. I wonder if these were the new satin pants Bobby Wilder was referring to in the above quote? In that case, he should have credited Ron Rogerson, not Buddy Teevens. Ah, well... A switch to plain socks was also made.



Maine quarterback and future offensive coordinator Bob Wilder rumbles for yardage
on the cover of the 1985 team yearbook. Note the striped pants and the old-school
Yankee Conference logo on the bottom right.

In 1985, Maine hired Teevens, who gave the uniform another overhaul, a style Maine wore for some of the finest moments in program history. ... but that's for another time.

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