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Entries in NCAA (9)

Monday
Aug132012

I Am Uni Tracker (And So Can You!)

I've been uni tracking for a while now. Last year, in the wake of the release of Indiana's white helmets, I began the Hoosier Tracker. Soon thereafter, I began my collaboration over at the Basketball Uniform Database.

This year I have decided to track Northwestern's new duds and have been given the honor and task of being the third iteration of the Duck Tracker.

The Duck Tracker brings new challenges with the position.

Obviously Oregon's many uniform combinations and frequent one-off uniforms present challenges in getting the most up to date documentation up as quickly as possible. With the Hoosier Tracker, once I had set it up, it basically took me five minutes to make the changes and upload the new picture. On many weeks, I had the Hoosier Tracker updated by the opening kickoff (just in time for the irish coffee...).

This is my goal for the Ducks this year, but my muti-tracking means this might not be the case every week. But the previous three season of Duck Tracking have been excellent and popular - very popular - and the need to keep up with the precedents they set is a challenge I hope to live up to.

And this is the challenge of breaking into uni tracking: The seemingly daunting task of tracking. This is why, today, I call on anyone with some free time and the will and the tenacity to pick a college football team and track them.

It's for the greater uni-nerd good.

The task will not be as hard as it may seem, as almost anyone can do it. All you need is a .blogspot.com address and a way of tracking your team.

The great thing about tracking is that the way in which you can track a team can vary from person to person, team to team and it can also reflect something about the tracker. For my Hoosiers, last season I used a 3D template that I had created with a background that changed based on the location of every game. This personified what I've been known for over at Uni Watch (the 3D templates) while actually putting them to good use.

But I wouldn't expect Rick Pearson to track like that. Knowing how Ricko used to track, I wouldn't want him to track like me.

And that's the point. Some people will hand draw, some might just use game photos and some might use templates like I plan on using this year - in some fashion - for the three schools I'll be tracking (If you are a person who may want to use a 2D or 3D template of mine, you can find and download them here).

For anyone willing to take up my challenge, I will add a link to your website to all of my tracker sites and together we can start a revolution. Hell, if you are really going to join me, I am even willing to make you a header logo that fits the theme of the three headers I will be using this year.

Rather than taking on a whole league or a whole history, let's start small, together, and we might be able to accomplish something collectively great.

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

Friday
Sep302011

B1G Rivalries

This weekend, BigTen conference football returns and so do BigTen rivalry games.

Earlier this month, I posted my concepts and tweaks for all 12 BigTen teams here and on the wonderful SportsLogos.net, showing what I thought the schools should wear every game. Some people over at SportsLogos noticed that many of my designs a fairly traditional and/or pretty close to what most BigTen teams currently wear.

Heeding this criticism, I decided to create what I referred to as a 'Rivalry Series' (although inspiration credit goes to this guy here). What follows are six rivalry games, their special uniforms and descriptions. Enjoy:

The Bucket Game - IU vs PU

Indiana: I bring back my much beloved candy-striped pants but pair them with (a variation of) their actual 2011 jersey. The helmet matches their current lid and features the iconic interlocking 'IU'.

Now, originally, my design showed a candy striped helmet and that the compression shirt sleeves and the socks not matching, but that was because each individual player could either wear vertical or horizontal stripes - so long as they wear all matching - allowing for fun customization while still being 'uniform'.

However, I scrapped both those ideas and returned the standard helmet and unified all the stripes.

Purdue: As this years visitors, Purdue comes to The Rock wearing all old gold. The 'P' logos; helmet, shoulder and pants stripes; and numbers all sink up to match: Black trimming White. The numbers are a modern variation of classic varsity block. Finally, the compression shirt and socks are Boiler black.

The Land of Lincoln Game - U of I vs NU

Illinois: The Illini host this year's Sweet Sioux Tomahawk game Land of Lincoln game, and they come onto (a) Memorial Stadium* wearing fauxbacks to a simpler time. Three simple stripes grace the shoulders and pants. A rounded version of the state name appears on the helmet (as opposed to "Illini" which has appeared on the lid in the past). Only blue and orange grace the uni (except the shoes), just like it was back in the day.

Northwestern: The Wildcats are also donning a fauxback of sorts. The white helmet is inspired by this helmet from NU history. The jersey is basically their current road uni with the addition of the 'N-Cat' logo while the pants have a purple double stripe that give the 'Cats a sleek, clean look.

The Heroes Game - NU vs UI - There isn't much history in this 'rivalry' game so I manufacture some from the uniforms:

Nebraska: As the home team, Nebraska comes out in a uniform that honors many of their best teams from their long, storied history. While the helmet design is the same as the one's they've worn since 1970, the red facemask harkens back to 1982. The jersey focuses on both those eras as well. The shoulder numbers are from the 1970 unis while the sleeve 'N's are from the 1983 team.

The pants are from both eras but the red belt screams 1983. The black shoes and white socks go through many generations of Huskers.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes come into (a) Memorial Stadium wearing fauxbacks to their 1958 National Championship team. While Iowa has worn fauxbacks to this era before, they've never worn the road version of these before. That's a shame, because those were some beautious unis. The moving of the stripes from the sleeves to the shoulders is just for player continuity (no lost stripes due to lack of undershirt).

Also, the facemask is unapologetically black.

Paul Bunyan's Ax Game - UW vs Minn - One of the Best rivalry trophies in all of sports deserves some great unis:

Wisconsin: The home team in 2011 comes out wearing something like nothing you've ever seen take the field at Camp Randall. The helmet is a variation of the current helmet that rids the flying W of it's unnecessary drop shaddow. This harkens back to most of Wisconsin's history, when the helmets were only white and red.

The Jersey is simple yet completely original. The shoulders are adorned with stripes that will quickly remind any UW fan of Bucky Badger. While the pants are almost identical to their current set, the socks pick up on the Bucky Badger theme and run with it all the way to victory.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have a tough task winning in Camp Randall. This Fauxback set calls upon the predecessors of this Minnesota football squad to lead them back to the path of victory and BigTen supremacy. The undershirt features Goldy Gopher's double stripe (just like my other concepts) and gold become predominant to remind the team of their victorious and glorious past.

The Land Grant Game - PSU vs MSU

Penn State: The home team for this game will march into Happy Valley with a uniform that will be very recognizable to it's fans and opponents. While there are some design changes (many of them have a fauxback feel) the biggest difference may be the color on the uniform.

The Blue on these unis are more royal blue than the current navy blue unis the Nittany Lions currently wear. This is a throwback to an earlier era. Combine that with helmet numbers, the return of white jersey accents and a singular, thin blue stripe on the pants and Penn State has a modern update of a classic uniform.

Michigan State: The Spartans recently unveiled a new Nike Pro Combat uniform for 2011. However, I disagree with Nike's use of Bronze and Black on MSU's uniforms, particularly since MSU is named after a group of people who are famous for wearing red. But Michigan State's colors are green and white and as such, those are the only colors I use on this uni.

The shoulders of jersey pop thanks to a green field that adorns them which flows nicely into the optional green compression with an updated version of MSU's 'S' logo. While the jersey numbers revert to a more traditional font, the university mark is updated to match the 'S' logo font. Thick white stripes grace both the helmet, pants and socks and help unify this uniform.

The Big Game - UM vs OSU

Michigan: As a BigTen alumnus, it's very hard for me to conceive Michigan wearing anything but their normal helmets, blue jerseys and maze pants at The Big House. I actually liked the fauxback they wore against Notre Dame, but I didn't want to re-tread the ground Adidas already walked. Instead, I made minor changes to the current home uni and left one of the best lids in all of sports untouched.

The jersey gets an 'M' logo sewn onto the shoulder as sort of a 'pride-patch'. While a player's name and number are usually the only thing to grace a Wolverine uni, I wanted the 'M' to be on there to remind the players that the glory of the game should go to Michigan.

While I added a blue belt to the pants, I removed the 'M' logo from them just to simplify the uni even more. The shoes and compression shirt are team colors but I'm not sure how much even I am digging the maze sleeves.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes are Nike Pro Combat veterans at this point. With the theme of most of their NPC unis being 'fauxback' I continue this trend with a look back to the late '60s (just on the cusp of one of their greatest eras like hopefully this will be).

While I could not find the exact specifics of the road uniform that matches this helmet, these jerseys, pants and socks probably approximate the jersey pretty well. The differing color TV numbers are a signature part of OSU's look from this era and the Northwestern stripes that adorn the helmet, jersey, pants and socks unify this set as a world class Ohio State uniform.

Well, that about wraps that up. You may have noticed the two new templates I was using. I'm proud to say that I created both of them and the one that features both the front and back of the uni has been improved even since I created these B1G concepts.

I'm currently working on doing some ACC and SEC stuff in this new template which I'll bring to you as soon as I can.

Happy tweakin'...

*With Nebraska now in the B1G, there are three Memorial Stadiums in the conference (U of I, IU and OU).

Tuesday
Sep062011

B1G Revisions

The air is cooling while the spicy sweet smell of processed meat and charcoal wafts through the air - it must be fall BigTen football season.

While my Wildcats and Hoosier are back on the gridiron, I'm back in the workshop fine-tuning the BigTen concepts I came up with a few months back.

Now, unlike my Pac-12 concepts, most of the BigTen's teams have well established uniform tradition that I don't want to mess with. Never the less, I found at least one thing to tweak on almost every uniform. So Let's get right to it:

Illinois - Home, Road, Road Alt:

A pretty serious overhaul here. I go back to much more classical striping and a reduction of the Oregon-esque innumerable amount of uni combinations. Orange pants are my go-to road pants but I like the blue pants as a secondary option.

Indiana - Home, Road, Bucket Game Alt:

This was almost how the Hoosiers looked a few years back. Now, they're back to their best Oklahoma impression (including white pants on the road if the Ball State game is any sign. Sigh.) I go back to the double stripe helmet, add double stripes to the shoulders and keep the double stripe pants (white at home, red on the road).

And I am one of the many Hoosiers who thinks that the Bucket game should feature special unis whenever possible, so I bring back my candy-striped pants for the occasion.

Iowa - Home, Road:

Here is my first use of the stripes on the compression shirt. These Steeler inspired uniforms just look better when the stripes are in full bloom. The Hawkeyes are also the first team with full length socks, but this is not a change from the norm for them, they've bean wearing socks like these for years.

Michigan - Home, Road:

No real change for the Home (although I changed the socks to blue) but the Road eliminates and superfluous yellow piping.

Michigan State - Home, Road, Home Alt, Road Alt 1, Road Alt 2:

Michigan State's current uniform set has all the accoutrement of a hastily done 'modern' uniform: Stupid font, useless stripes and colors out of the color scheme. I go back to only green and white. I do like the idea of very wide stripes on the helmets and pants so I added those (although the Home Alt gets rid of those for a more traditional look).

The Road Alts are fairly similar to the regular Road uni but the first is based off of this image and the other just uses green pants.

Minnesota - Home, Road, Home Alt, Road Alt:

Minnesota's current unis are terrible. I return the Golden Gophers to a much more traditional look and give them a unique asymmetrical sleeve stripe based on their mascot.

Nebraska - Home, Road, Home D Alt, Road D Alt:

Nebraska hardly changes, although their current sleeve stripes appear much larger than my version. And if you're gunna call the defense the Blackshirts, they might as well wear black (under)shirts.

Northwestern - Home, Road, Home Alt:

I ditch black pants, recolor the Northwestern sleeve stripes (which are now on the compression shirt) and return the logo to the shoulders. The pants are double striped and while I bring back the BFBS Home Alt, I would keep its use to a minimum.

Ohio State - Home, Road:

Basically all I did to the Buckeyes was keep the pants stripe more in line with the helmet and sleeve and replace the gray on the current road sleeve stripe with white.

Penn State - Home, Road:

I return the trim the collar and sleeve, other than that, you can't improve on perfection.

Purdue - Home, Road, Road Alt:

Purdue's new uni's stink and I go back to a more traditional look for the fools from West Lafayette. The numbers on the Home and Road Alt are gold, which I think is a really nice look.

Wisconsin - Home, Road:

Almost no change here, the only thing I do with them is insist that they never wear red pants. At Home there's just too much red and with the Road, it makes them look even more like Nebraska (something they don't need any help doing).

Those are my new BigTen concepts. I know most are pretty traditional but hopefully people will like them.

Until next time.

Sunday
Aug212011

Pac-ing It In

Football season is tantalizingly close. With high hopes for the new season come all new looks for your favorite teams - players, coaches and (of course) uniforms.

In this spirit, I've decided to get back to my roots and start coming up with some new football uni concepts. Now, since I've started doing concepts, I've gotten many requests from people out West asking me to take a crack at the Pac-12 the same way I did the BigTen a few months back.

Well, I couldn't think of a better way to get back into the swing of all things football than to tweak on of the nations' finest conferences. So, without further adieu, I give you my take on the the Pac-12:

Arizona - Home, Road, Red Alt, Blue Alt:

While I'm sorta known as a stripe-classicist, I love the fading stripe of Zona's. Granted, I wouldn't want it on every team (or even many) but it reminds me of a mirage in a desert and I think it works very nicely for the Wildcats. I kept the fading stripes on the pants and helmet and added them to the compression sleeves. I also reduced the role of the red jersey because I think ASU should be the red Arizona state school (that's also why there's no red pants). Oh, and no blue helmet, one UA helmet is enough.

Arizona State - Home, Road, Home Alt:

I created a few ASU unis a while back but looking back on them, I don't actually like my own designs too much. While my new designs draw from the new Sun Devils uniforms Nike came up with, I still like the classic look of the old Sparty-helmeted unis. I do like the gradient number font a lot, so much so I added it to the Alternate's pants. To me, that just screams 'heat'.

California - Home, Road, Yellow Alt, All Blue Alt, Yellow Alt Two:

Here is my first real departure from the norm. With two-tone numbers, a modern font and a variation of Georgia's shoulder stripes, these new Cal uniforms are anything but your daddy's Cal uniforms. I kept the classic lid and colors but that's about all that didn't change.

Colorado - Home, Road:

Back to a more classical look (but only briefly, look who's up next...). No stripes. Just numbers and the word 'Colorado' in bold italics font. No black pants. No gold alternate. Just how it should be.

Oregon - Regular Home, Road; White Pants Home, Road; White and Green Home, Road; Green Helmet Alt; Yellow Alt:

Listen, everyone needs an Oregon. For every Alabama, there has to be an Oregon. I did limit the Ducks, however. My rule: You can only wear green, white or yellow. Even with those restrictions, I gave them three helmets, five jerseys and three pairs of pants. That's 45 possible combinations. I narrowed that down to the combos I think look best. I actually like the Oregon Wings and the design of the current jerseys and helmets don't bother me, what does bother me is all the out of scheme colors. I faux-back to the days of yellow helmets and pants and Kelly green jerseys with the modern accoutrements.

As for the all yellow uni? Ducks are yellow.

Oregon State - Home, Road, Home Alt, All Black Alt:

The Beavers may have started the whole, "stripes on the compression shirt," fad, but they looked so good, I decided to bring that look along with modern numbers and logos. To differentiate OSU even more, I made orange the Home uni and left the black jersey as the alternate. I downplay the cartoon beaver logo and this is the only Pac-12 design in which I use full length socks. This could become an iconic look for the Beavers.

Stanford - Home, Road:

The Cardinal (sic) have flirted with black recently. I stop that shit.

Washington - Home, Road, Road Alt:

With the Huskies, I removed any black or modern stripes. Instead, I put the Huskies' alternate logo on the shoulders and their TV numbers on the compression sleeves. I also gave them a unique and thin number font and gold pants as the go-to road pants.

Washington State - Home, Road:

The Cougars recently announced new unis and I was rather unimpressed. Instead I take some elements from those unis and add them to WSU's tradition of alternating Home and Road helmets.

UCLA - Home, Road:

There shouldn't be much to change to UCLA but adidas has made this untrue. Instead I return the UCLA stripes to a reasonable length (though they still could be longer) and remove all dark blue from the stripes (though I keep it around the numbers).

USC - Home, Road:

No Change. Perfection.

Utah - Home, Road:

To be honest, I kinda phoned this one in. It's basically what they wear these days (though slightly different) but it was the last set I was doing and I have no idea about Utah's history, what a 'Ute' is or where to go with their unis. So I made them the only solid red team in the Pac-12.

Well, that's my take, feel free to leave yours in the comments. Until next time...