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Entries in Indiana (3)

Friday
Jan272012

An Open Letter To Indiana Football:

Dear Mr. Glass and Coach Wilson,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Tim O'Brien and I am graduate of Indiana, class of 2010. I have long been a Big Ten football fan and a diehard Hoosier fan since first stepping foot on campus. In my relatively short time supporting IU football, I have been witness to the hope that Terry Hoeppner brought, the moving 2007 season, the struggles under Bill Lynch and the disappointing 2011 campaign.

While there may be a lot of bad history over the past few years and - well - decades, hope springs eternal. I believe in IU football and I trust we have the program headed in the right direction on the field.

However, I do believe that Hoosier football is headed backwards in one sense: Aesthetically.

When Coach Wilson came to IU, the Hoosiers came off one of their visually ugliest seasons. By allowing Adidas, and not tradition and a demand for excellence, to dictate our football uniforms, we ended up wearing these hideous, ink-blotted uniforms. Now, they may not have been as bad as when black was a part of the uniform when Randle El was in Bloomington (black is for boiler makers) but the lack of attention to details that plagued IU football on and off the field was visually symbolized by these bad uniforms.

Last season, Coach Wilson - and the football staff - came in, cleaned house and cleaned up the Hoosiers' uniforms. And while they were not bad in any specific sense, these uniforms lacked individuality: Coach Wilson brought not only a wealth of football knowledge from Oklahoma, but their uniforms too.

Let's take a closer look at the two uniforms. Both have red helmets with white facemasks and interlocking '_U' logos. Both have solid red or solid white jerseys that have team nicknames (that confuse people not from that state...) written in block lettering and both wear white pants with red double stripes for every game.

The only defining IU characteristic was a white helmet that, as you can see from this uniform analysis I did, brought us nothing but five losses and an average of 43.4 points against per game. Not good (plus, IU has no recent history in white helmets, just do away with them).

Now, while I understand why this new uniform set was created (1. To visually define a new era. 2. To get rid of those hideous previous uniforms. 3. To remind people of Oklahoma visually, and therefore co-opt their success and tradition. 4. The white helmet let the players have fun mixing and matching.), you were not the first person to do that with Indiana, Terry Hoeppner did it, too.

But not being original shouldn't be the only deterrence. Dressing up like another winning football program to inspire greatness and pride in one's own team is an old - and I would argue, incorrect - way of thinking. Just because you have the winged helmet design doesn't make you Michigan and just because you have a white helmet, you wont all of the sudden play like The U in the '80s.

When thinking about a visual identity, you should always think of Cool Runnings (yeah, I said it). When confronted with an identity crisis, Derice tries to find an identity by co-opting the Swiss team's. Sick of imitating the Swiss, Sanka finally stands up to Derice and explains to him that they cannot win by pretending to be something they're not:

"All I'm saying, mon, is if we walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican and is Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican."

What I propose to you is that last year's Oklahoma copycat uniforms were our Swiss team and the double stripe is IU's Jamaica.

What do I mean by, "the double stripe?" Simple. I believe it is uniquely Indiana when the helmet, jersey and pants all feature double stripes (white then a space and then white on red elements, the reverse on white elements).

See for yourself (click on an image to enlarge it):

It is a simple, elegant uniform that is both modern and classic, just like the interlocking IU. The double stripe echoes the proud traditions of the basketball program but still states a unique take on the classic identity. No other team in major college football has a white double stripe on a colored helmet, and yet Indiana has it in its history and tradition.

With this red helmet, you can the extrapolate the uniform from there: White double stripes on the red jersey's shoulders, red double stripes on the white's shoulders; the iconic block 'Hoosiers' remains; a red double stripe on the home white pants; and white stripes on the road red pants. The red road pants are a key that will help define IU's unique image.

I know you might be thinking that all of this is much ado about nothing, or that it's just outright nonsense, but people at the University of Oregon would beg to differ.

Whether or not you think what Oregon (read: Nike) is doing visually with their football uniforms is irrelevant. What is clear is that both proponents and opponents of their aesthetic philosophy agree is that their unique branding and their attention to aesthetic details has brought them from obscurity to national prominence.

The fact that they wear 12 different uniform combinations a season does not make them good at football, but by flashing these shiny objects in front of the eyes of 17 year olds while recruiting and then allowing them to wear these duds as student athletes has gotten them recruits that otherwise would've gone elsewhere. Some of their recruits have even acknowledged this.

Still not convinced that uniforms are a powerful tool in recruiting? Here's a short list of teams who do:

  • Oregon
  • Notre Dame
  • Ohio State
  • Michigan
  • Stanford
  • Northwestern
  • Michigan State
  • Oklahoma State
  • Boise State
  • TCU

I could go on, but those teams (all of which played in bowl games this past season) all have played in unique uniforms and/or have played in 'one off' unis, like the Maryland flag uniforms - which were hideous but brought national attention to a program that is otherwise unimpressive.

But unlike Maryland (Under Armour) and Oregon (Nike), IU doesn't have to go the rout of just giving their uniform supplier (in our case, Adidas) free reign, we can go a more classical route, like the one Michigan took this year or what Ohio State has been doing for the past few seasons: Keep a traditional, beautiful uniform as the normal set and sprinkle in some throwbacks, fauxbacks and punchy new designs.

And one doesn't even have to go far from Memorial Stadium to find ideas, you can just look across the parking lot to Assembly Hall.

By taking some of the iconic Hoosier imagery and tradition imbedded in IU basketball, Indiana can adapt and add it to football. Namely, the candy striped pants.

How iconic are the pants? Google "Candy Stripe" and the first result is to Wikipedia which has a definition for it as, " Candy stripe, the warm-up style for the Indiana Hoosiers mens basketball team."

That's iconography you can believe in.

Now you may think those are a bit ostentatious, but Memorial Stadium already features the candy stripes, fans already wear the pants to games and, frankly, people seem to like my concepts with the candy stripes even if they admit that they're not all that practical.

What they are is 'fun', something IU football is rarely described as. And while even I, the guy who came up with this idea, think that these shouldn't be worn every game, it'd be fun to see them once and a while (maybe even around the time of Hoosier Hysteria...?).

Even if this idea is a real nonstarter, throwbacks are always fan favorites. Michigan rolled out a few throwbacks and fauxbacks this past season to much acclaim. Student athletes got cool new uniforms to wear, merchandise stores got new jerseys to sell and alumni got to wistfully remember their days on campus.

The Hoosiers could go back to an Anthony Thompson "Block I" throwback or go even further back to a design from the 1933 season, home or road or anything in between (heck, the Hoosiers wore powder blue in the early '50s). Anything is possible and most anything would be better than what we have now.

What I want most out of my Hoosiers is winning and respectability. I don't need national dominance, I don't need crazy uniform combinations every week and I definitely don't need to watch what feels like the Oklahoma freshman squad. I just want to be proud of how my team - my University - looks when they take the field, both in play and in dress. When I turn on the Hoosiers, just like in basketball, I want to see a team I can recognize as truly 'Hoosiers'.

Because if we walk like Hoosiers, talk like Hoosiers and be Hoosiers, then we sure as hell better play football like Hoosiers.

Sincerely,

Tim E. O'Brien

IU Class of 2010

Wednesday
Jul202011

Indiana Déjà Vu

Yesterday, Indiana announced a new uniform set for 2011. While anything is an improvement over this, I'm not sure just going back to this was the best idea ever.

A few weeks back, I had hopes that this would be IU's uniform next year. Aside from that silly collar, that's almost exactly what I wanted out of the Hoosiers' unis.

But, alas, the Hoosiers disappointed me yet again. The uniform - seen here and to the right - along with the helmet (at the bottom) are basically throwbacks to the Terry Hoeppner era.

And actually the new IU unis look a lot like my over-the-top IU concept, down to the overly fat uni numbers - except for the numbers on the compression sleeves, and the candy-stripped pants.

Compare: 2011 uni  vs. O’B. Candy-stripe.

Let's start with the helmet. I like the white facemask but that's where my love affair quickly ends. The only redeeming feature of the 2010 uniforms was the double stripe helmet.

Originally a one game throwback with a block I, the double stripe helmet from recent Hoosier past was so popular it was the new standard uniform helmet THE NEXT GAME and then continued to be for the next three seasons.

While the Hoosiers aren't the only red cap in the BigTen (Minnesota flirts with a red helmet), IU could at least continue having a unique red lid while they’re at it.

As for the jerseys, they're way too boring. Maybe add some stripes to the bottom of the sleeves, or maybe go with sleeve numbers rather than pad numbers, or go for what IU fans really want, the double stripe theme all over.

The Hoosiers were just shoulder stripes away from that design two years ago and they were a pair of pants (and that stoopid side blotch on the jersey) from having it last season. Keep it simple but don't make us an Oklahoma knockoff again (I mean, Riddell already thinks we're interchangable).

And please, for Christ's sake, remove the "For the Glory Of Old IU" from the inside of the collar.

Final Grades:

The Helmet - Love the facemask, hate (like, loath) the lack of stripes. Grade: D | Uni-Watch.com Scale: Seriously Stupid

The Jersey - No side blotches, but no stripes whatsoever. Grade: B- | Uni-Watch.com Scale: Good but could be Great

The Pants - Back to the ol' double stripe. Grade: A+ (so long as they wear red pants on the road) | Uni-Watch.com Scale: Great

Overall, two steps forward, one step back: B- (which is a vast improvement from the D- that was last year.)

Monday
Mar142011

Pacing Myself

One of the funny things about living in Indiana for four years is that I've been to more Pacers games than Bulls games in the past half decade (and that's with one of the games Pacers vs. Bulls).

Now, not that there's anything wrong with the Pacers or Conseco Fieldhouse, but I barely care about the NBA and my built in favorite/hometown team, the Bulls, are way better than this incarnation of the Pacers.

There are a few things I have come to realize, though.

  1. Always accept free skybox tickets. The beer is free.
  2. The Pacers aren't as white as I thought they were (although they're pretty damn white).
  3. The Pacers logo is great.

While I'm one to come in, shake up a team identity and look for improvements from the past, the Pacers have the perfect logo for their team sitting at mid court.

Now, since this isn't exactly a rebrand I guess this would be considered an update.

Uniforms

The Pacers should be commended, in an era when teams get rid of yellow for gold and turn blue into midnight navy, the Pacers have kept their colors reasonable. While I may have made the blue on the uniforms a little bit more blue than their current set, the current Pacer blue is still solid (but it has been getting a little too dark).

As for the design, like I said, I like to look into the past and the Pacers have a great uniform tradition. That being the case, my designs for the home and road are almost complete throwbacks and the alternate is a fauxback that can be worn at Conseco or at the majority of other NBA arenas.

Court

And while Conseco Fieldhouse is a beautiful facility and has a fine court, I thought I woud update the court to make it a bit more unique, like say adding the alternate's striping (which unfortunately goes down the players right side).

Well, that's it for my Pacer Update, I would like to thank the great people over at UniWatchBlog.com for once again highlighting my work (here is the link to my Q&A and Nets Rebrand). Please feel free to peruse my site and if you have any uniform or logo requests, feel free to email me here.