by Phil Hecken and Jim Vilk
Once again, Jim Vilk has joined me to take us through a look at what is not necessarily an obscure sport (it is, after all, college football), but a division of NC2A football that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of play, at least on TV or the UW boards. Division II football may not get the headlines like Penn State, USC, Florida or Notre Dame, but they still play football at these schools. It’s really great, they’ve got uniforms and everything.
“You say college football begins this weekend. I say, where have you been? You’re a week late to the party.”
Join us, at least for this article, in a world where things are not as they seem – where Cleveland is in Mississippi, where Pittsburg has no “h” and is in Kansas, where California and Indiana are in Pennsylvania, where the season starts in August and ends in December. This is the world of Division II football.
Why Division II? Well, for one thing, we’ve all seen, heard or discussed the uniforms of the major schools by now, or we will very soon. Today, we’d like to show you how the schools on the proverbial “other side of the tracks” dress their players. Also, we’d like to showcase a little slice of college football that still has that old college feel to it – smaller, intimate venues, players that mostly play for the love of the game (although a number of D-II players have gone on to have prosperous careers in professional football), a name that still rolls off the tongue, as opposed to “Football Bowl Subdivision” and “Football Championship Subdivision.” Jim’s still calling them “Division I-A” and “Division I-AA.” Jim still likes that it’s called “Division II,” although it wouldn’t surprise him if the eggheads in the NC2A eventually call it the “Football Championship Subdivision Second Stratum,” or something equally goofy.
Anyway, since the D-II season started last week, Jim has some current pictures of some teams. With the others he was able to find shots from last season. Apparently the smaller schools don’t make as big of a deal on their web sites when tweaking their unis, but we’ll make do. We decided not to rank them by looks, although we will comment upon them. Rather, Jim is just going to show you the top ten teams in the American Football Coaches Association preseason poll. He’ll comment on the unis a bit, I’ll comment after that, but mostly we leave the judging up to you. Here we go…
1. Grand Valley State: This school in Allendale, Michigan boasts a team that is riding a 43-game regular-season unbeaten streak. The Lakers lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Minnesota-Duluth last season, but they won it all in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. They’ve gone for the bruiser look with basic black and blue uniforms.
JV: I like the color combo enough that the plain black pants on the home and away unis don’t bother me. I also don’t mind the jersey side stripe that goes from the armpits to the waist. The helmet logo being obscured by the ends of the chinstraps, though, is a problem for me. That’s a common occurrence these days, but they seem to be the worst offenders on this list. Overall, I like the look.
PH: I will concede I know nothing of the official colors of any of these schools, so I can’t rail against this uniform from the standpoint of it being BFBS. And I will agree with Jim that black and royal can be a decent combination. This uniform though, is typical of what I personally dislike about many of today’s unis: unnecessary jersey piping and striping. And an all-black combo? Um, no. Ditch the monochrome look or at least add some striping on the pants, please.
2. Northwest Missouri State: Although the Bearcats have won titles in 1998 and 1999, they have been runners-up in the last four championship games. While they might be trying to get leaner and meaner this year, they can’t get much greener. They opened on the road with green helmets, plain green pants and white jerseys. Last year they had all-green and all-white unis with contrasting side stripes and green helmets. The side stripes were too much – on the whites they started at mid-shoulder, went under the armpits and faded out above the knees. On the greens, there was one stripe that started at the base of a shoulder, went below the armpit, snaked underneath the rear jersey number and went up to the base of the other shoulder.
JV: If I had to choose between the two I’d take the green unis, probably because I liked the number font so much on those. Keep trying, Bearcats. You may finally bring another title to Maryville this year, but your uniforms fall a little short of championship caliber.
PH: Oh no…just, no. Were these guys one of the “models” for the Jaguars new look? God I hate that “stripe” that runs around the back of the jersey. And what’s with the truncated pants stripe on last year’s white pants? Ugh. Too bad too that they ascribe to the monochrome look — I really like the green and white as colors, but for the love of God, don’t wear the all green. In fact, don’t wear green pants at all, but if you do, you need stripage somewhere.
JV: I’d design a different helmet logo, but it’s not that bad. The road unis, on the other hand … where did the black extended armpit come from, anyway? The Bulldogs seem a little schizophrenic with their classic and trendy looks, but overall they’re winners.
PH: Now you’re thinkin’ with your dipstick, Jimmy. THIS is a uniform (excluding that roadie with the pit stripes and jersey panels) I really like (the maroon over white). Unfortunately, it’s the lone exception in a sea of “new and hip/trendy templates” we’ve seen and will see more of below. Nice to see Nike making a classic uniform — you may say it’s boring, but I say it’s just right. I’ll agree with Jim that maybe the helmet logo could use a tweak or two, but I’m not gonna complain. Replicate that look for the white jersey and this one is pure win.
4. Delta State: There’s no championship curse in Cleveland. Well, not in Cleveland, Mississippi, anyway. The Statesmen won the 2000 national title and they’re hoping to contend for another one this year. Uni-wise, there’s not a lot to talk about here – they’re pretty basic with green helmets, an all-green look at home and an all-white uni with green side stripes on the road.
JV: Classy and understated like the official mascot. The unofficial mascot, the Fighting Okra, is another story. That’s one mean veggie standing next to Mr. Statesman.
PH: Well, I have basically the same problems with Delta State as I did with NW Mo. State. Monochrome, particularly in dark colors, just is NOT a good look. The white roadie is much better, although, there we go with the side panels again. Lose those and that all white look is nice! Since Russell makes (or made) these unis, I can’t even go blaming the swoosh or three stripes for the side panel madness — it seems everyone is in on it. And while I will concede that if the side panel is the only “new school” element on the uniform, it’s certainly something I can live with, if not accept. Great helmet for Delta too. But what’s up with the Fighting Okra? Do they really need two mascots?
5. Abilene Christian: The Wildcats from Abilene, Texas are the first of two consecutive purple teams, so those with an aversion to said color can skip ahead to number 7. ACU ran into a little trouble with the NCAA and had to vacate their wins from the 2007 season. This makes the school’s first official playoff victory last season’s 93-68 drubbing of West Texas A&M. The following week the Wildcats were eliminated by eventual runner-up Northwest Missouri State.
JV: I like their look, but there’s one oddity I’ve never seen. The little stripe that runs from the collar to the pits is fine, but then it expands into a diamond shape on the side of the jersey. You can see it on the purple and white unis. Normally, I don’t like pants stripes that don’t go all the way up the legs, but these stripes that start at the knee and fade out at the upper thigh don’t look too bad. The sleeves have the same interlocking ACU logo from the helmet. You can see these on this shot of the all-white unis. As far as newer designs go, this is one I can handle. Good job.
PH: And yet, as far as newer designs go, this is the sort of stuff I detest. But hey, I guess I shouldn’t get my pants in a bundle, they are Div II — and the unis scream that loud and clear. I have no problems with the color purple (so long as they don’t ever do this). Unfortunately, the very problem I have with the Vikings’ uniforms is the same problem I have with these — the superfluous piping and non-linear striping. I guess this is the hip new direction of uniform design. May it soon go the way of the dodo.
6. North Alabama: Quick, name a Divison II football coach … We’re waiting … Actually, it’s not as hard as you think. Terry Bowden has left the TV studio and returned to the coaching ranks for the first time since 1998. The former Auburn Tiger coach is now leading a different group of cats. The Lions, from Florence, Alabama, are hoping Bowden takes them all the way to … Florence, Alabama. The D-II championship has been played at UNA’s Braly Municipal Stadium since 1986, and the Lions won titles there in 1993, 1994 and 1995. They are the only team to win three straight D-II championships. Last year they made it to the semifinals, losing to Northwest Missouri State.
JV: North Alabama looks a lot like Abilene Christian, but slightly better in my opinion. They have the same funky diamond thing on the side, shown in this shot of the purple jerseys, but the TV numbers are on the sleeves. I like the old-school look of sleeve numbers, so home or away, I really like this uniform.
PH: I know we’re seeing a pattern amongst these schools, so I’ll try not to hate on every single design that features the piping and striping, but this may be the worst of the bunch. Monochrome purple, for at least one combination, pushes them to the bottom. Even old school numbers (why bother) can’t save this mess. The white get up is actually good looking in comparison — and that’s not saying much. They suffer, as do many Div II schools, from what Ricko and I term “one too many bumpersticker syndrome.” Fail.
7. Pittsburg State: No, Toto, we’re not in Pennsylvania; we’re in Kansas. No “h” at the end of this burg. Holy Dan Marino! Is that a script Pitt we see?! It is! At least someone respects a cool helmet logo, even if it’s not the exact same script. The Gorillas (they’re the only school to use this nickname) have one D-II title, coming in the 1991 season.
JV: I like the ketchup and mustard look, even though Pitt State tweaked this year’s home unis to look like the previous two schools. Last year’s home and away unis were a classically cool sight to behold. Red helmets, yellow pants, red or white jerseys, TV numbers on the sleeves – it all worked for me. I’d rather they kept that look, but this year’s aren’t terrible. Just keep that script, Pitt State.
PH: Falling into the “just one more bumper sticker” syndrome, yet another team has succumbed to this rampant design crutch. Not that the condiment unis were any great shakes last year, this year, they’re … worse. I wouldn’t say they were “classically cool” as Jim did, but they were at least, somewhat quasi-football looking. Now, just another computer generated template brought to life in 3-D with the colors changed. When ONE team has this sort of look, it’s unique and refreshing. When they ALL have it, particularly when it’s not a particularly good design element — it makes them all look bad. Can I say anything nice about the unis? Yes, I like the helmet.
8. California University of Pennsylvania: No, dude, we’re not on the left coast. We’re about an hour south of Pittsburgh, PA. Jim doesn’t know if anyone’s done a study, but he’s willing to venture Pennsylvania has more cities and towns named after other states than anyone else. Oklahoma, Wyoming and Indiana (which has a D-II school playing in the same conference as California) come to mind off the top of his head. Jim saw California play last season against Slippery Rock. He had been wanting to see the school that accepted him (“but I turned down to stay closer to home and my job”) play against the school Dave Diles used to mention all the time on the old ABC college football scoreboard show. Jim had a good time, too, which kind of fueled his interest in Division II football. The Vulcans have made it to the semifinals the last two seasons, losing to the eventual champions each time. This year they opened the season with a rare loss – perhaps becasue they came out wearing these new unis?
JV: I can live with the all-black look with red trim, but the wide collar-to-sleeve red stripes just don’t look as good as last year’s more conventional red-white-and-black shoulder stripes. I like shoulder stripes almost as much as I like sleeve numbers, so imagine my chagrin. Oh well, life goes on, but here’s a final look back at last year, with the old away jersey. I won’t miss the number font on that one. If they would have gone with block numbers, or the kind that Northwest Missouri used, it would have been one of my favorites.
PH: It’s hard not to like a team named the Vulcans. But this was before I saw these unis. Again, I don’t know if they’re just BFBS, but its another disaster. Dropping the decent looking shoulder loops (at least I think they’ve done that) in favor of the random red and white side panels turned a somewhat nice looking uniform (and a nice jersey, so long as it was paired with something other than black pants) into typical “forward looking design” crap. The old unis had drop shadow numbers while the new numbers have a red outline. At least they got that going for them.
9. Carson-Newman: The Eagles came oh, so close to having Jim’s favorite unis on this list. Unlike many of you, he’s sure, he only has two problems with this orange and blue feast of mix and match possibilities.
JV: I don’t like the curved pants stripe that starts at the waist and tails off at mid-thigh, and I don’t like the number font. This picture better shows the numbers, which look as if they have thorns sticking out of them. Some of you may say, “Golly, Jim, that sure is a busy looking uniform.” I say, fix the numbers and the pants stripe and this is a classicly loud thing of beauty. Maybe it wouldn’t work with other colors, but it works with these colors for me. I also like that the folks in Jefferson City, Tennessee get to see a different eagle logo on their school’s helmets, unlike so many other Eagles teams.
PH: I guess they have a pretty good uniform budget, seeing as they have more uniform combos than any college team not from Oregon. Jeebus. I actually don’t mind teams who can wear a couple different jersey and pants combos, but this isn’t one of them. Colors are fine, helmet is nice. But those godawful wide stripes, in various shapes and sizes, are too much. This one has so much possiblity, but in an effort to incorporate a different pattern, style or color into every inch of every jersey, it just doesn’t work. Really, if they could tone down the color shifts and splotches, these unis have great possibilities. Unfortunately, “one more bumper sticker” is in full force.
JV: Yeah, I know, they also looked like a certain NFL team with the fans who booed Santa Claus. Former Buffalo Bills receiver Don Beebe went to school here, so that is Chadron’s claim to fame. Their unis, on the other hand, are a little too plain and forgettable for me. Change the number font.
PH: Oy. More monochrome darks, more truncated pants striping, more panels. I guess that’s par for the course for Div. II. Actually, I kinda liked their old helmet design — the one that looks like the current Eagles (of Philadelphia NFL lineage) helmet. Even the new helmet, while maybe original, is a downgrade. The all white road uniform that Jim showed wasn’t too bad, but where they add too much to the uni by adding panels and junk, they take away too much by wearing plain white socks. Hello? There’s your chance for a bold color statement, instead of making even your roadie look like a ballet outfit.
Thus ends our quick tour of the world of Division II football. If you survived it in one piece, perhaps we can look at the uniforms of Division III someday. As you can see, time marches on, and the old-time feel of small-college football doesn’t always have the old-time look. Hopefully you found something you liked, though. Jim did.
JV: Yes, I found things I liked (and I did go a bit easy on my comments), but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t make changes on any of these unis. Like Phil, I don’t like unnecessary piping, but that depends on what you consider unnecessary. If you eliminate the side piping with the diamond and keep it from the collar to the sleeve, I would find that a necessary piping to help break up a monochrome uni. Anyway, if you live near a D-II school, take in a game sometime. If you like football for the sake of football, you’ll enjoy it. If you have Phil’s taste in unis, I’d suggest sitting as high up in the bleachers as you can so the unis are more of a blur and less of a distraction…
PH: I wasn’t quite as pleased. I’m not opposed to new because it’s new, but this set of unis seem to be more of the same set of “bumpersticker” syndrome. More is not necessarily better, and new isn’t always good. I realize most of these uniforms are probably templates and Div. II schools no doubt don’t have the money (nor do the uni makers have the desire) to create unique looks for each team. But the prevailing trend to wear all dark at home (I don’t mind the all white on the road) is annoying, not to mention, usually an eyesore. And the unnecessary panels, stripes (thin and thick) in every which direction and seemingly without purpose or thought just rub me the wrong way. But hey, that’s just my opinion — I could be wrong.
Yesterday featured the first batch of “new Crew” uniforms. However, two readers also sent me redesigns for teams besides the Brewers. Also yesterday, I asked you graphic designers out there to send me your submissions for more teams (baseball only, for now, please), you’d like to see in a new design. If you’re interested, or you’ve already got one, gimme a shout.
Here’s a look at two uniform redesigns, sent into me while UW was on vacation:
Got an E-mail while UW was on hiatus from reader Jason Krause, who saw the call for “fixing the Brewers” but had a couple mock-ups for his hometown team, the Colorado Rockies. Although I don’t think we’ll be fielding any propositions for Rocks mocks as the 2009 season winds down, I wanted to share his efforts with you. Here’s Jason:
I based these Colorado Rockies jersey mockups off of the old school logo of the hockey Colorado Rockies before they became the New Jersey Devils. I made them a pull-over top such as the Blue Jays and the Cards from the 70’s.
I created two different home looks, as well as an alternate that pays homage to the Colorado Flag. The black jerseys are also a big hit out here, so I created a look for one of those.
Got another E-Mail, this one from reader Alex Rocklein who sent me some mockups for the New York Mets. Very interesting. Says Alex, “I attached some Mets uniform concepts. Some are outrageous, but there is considerably less black.”
Indeed, when it comes to the Mets, less black is usually much better. He has come up with three new uniform concepts: a clean new home and away set, with all the black removed (but where are the stirrups???); and two alternates. The first, featuring pinstripes (I guess we can say they’ve reduced the once venerable pins to an alt) and a royal blue top with “New York” in fancy block letters. As you know, I’m not a fan of the “alternate/softball” tops, but if the Mets could replace the black tops with this one, I’d be 100% behind it. Finally, Alex came up with another home alternate, and it is considerably more colorful. He combines a new alternate cap, featuring a blue crown and an orange bill, with a new orange alternate top (plus he has put the script “Mets” on the blue alternate). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I’d have to see the orange top in action, but I can’t help but think of this disaster when I see an orange top. But, an A+ for effort Alex.
Great job. Thanks guys!
Keep em coming!
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: Today’s scoreboard comes from reader Louis Griffel, who’s sent my way and oldie and (I hope) a goodie. All the clues are right in front you but it may still prove a challenge. As always, date, location and final score are required. Just post the answer with a link to Retrosheet or Baseball Almanac, and tell us how you went about discerning the answer. OK? Ok. Guess the Game from the Scoreboard. And if you’d like to submit a scoreboard to challenge the readers, you know what to do. Good Luck!
Got a brand spankin’ new weekend strip for you today, courtesy of the Rick. Like I said yesterday, keep your eyes peeled (never understood that expression) for an announcement of a real, honest-to-god Benchies blog, where you’ll be able to get your Benchies fix 24-7, plus I am sure a bunch of other goodies from Mr. Pearson. Until then, enjoy your Sunday Benchies.
That all for today, folks. Send me your uni mocks, stay tuned next weekend for Part II of the Brew Crew Review, have fun at your Laborious Day BBQs, backyard bashes, baseball, bags and beaches, and get ready for some football. Have a great Sunday!