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 archive.org. 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).
|An advert for Bryant's 1999 homecoming, which also|
featured the Bulldogs' historic first home game. And Victoria Jackson!