Friday, August 18, 2006

New Look, New Team, New Attitude?

For the second time in 4 years, Columbia is redesigning its helmets and uniforms. Here's what the helmet will look like: Helmets. And this is a sketch of the new uniforms: Uniforms.

I'm not exactly loving the new helmet. It is an improvement over the last one which had a logo that was too small to see from the stands or even the sidelines. I actually wish they reverse things and make the helmet blue with a big white "C." I also wish they would switch back to the old "pouncing lion" decal Columbia used in the 1970's. (For a detailed look at all the Ivy helmets over the years, check out the "Helmet Project" Website here: Historic Helmets). Of course, if Columbia went back to that Lion logo, they probably would be sued by the Detroit Lions for copyright infringement. CU would have a good case, sighting the fact that they had used the logo before, but I'm not a lawyer either, so don't listen to me.

The uniforms are basically a Columbia version of the uniforms Dartmouth rolled out last season. I'm willing to bet they were designed by the same person. It's a style being used by a number of Division I-A programs as well. I think they are an improvement over the old ones, but I'll have to wait until I see them on the field.

At first, the Columbia Website said the white uniforms would be the home jerseys while the blue unis would be the road jerseys. I have to think that was a mistake, as that would probably cause mass confusion in the league as Columbia's visiting teams would have to remember to bring home jerseys whenever they visit Wien Stadium. Now the site says "one uniform is white and the other is light blue." So, I think the light blue one will end up being the home look and the white one will be the road uniform... just the way everyone's been doing it in college football for 100 years or more.

The New Look Reverse Jinx?

There's something funny about teams that change their looks, they very often have a great season the first year with that new look. In the NFL, the 1997 Denver Broncos are the most extreme example, winning the Super Bowl just after ditching the old orange uniforms and helmets. The 1997 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a breakthrough year with the new look that season, as did the 1981 Cincinnati Bengals. Going back to an old look was also beneficial for the 1998 N.Y. Jets and the 2000 N.Y. Giants.

As usual, for Columbia, what works for other teams hasn't quite worked out so well for them. But there have been some happy exceptions. The 1971 team was the first to don the pouncing Lion helmet logo and that squad went 6-3 and finished second in the Ivies after eight straight losing seasons. The 2003 team changed uniforms and helmets and posted its best season in five years, before crashing and burning in 2004 and 2005. I'm grasping at straws, but I like the idea of changing the look once in awhile in hopes of shaking things up on the field.

The rest of the Ivy League has mixed results when going to new looks. Going in alphabetical order, let's start with Brown. Brown has changed its helmet logo more often than any other team over the last 15 years or so. But the switch to a silver helmet with the school crest as a logo in 1994 was an omen for the Bears 7-3 season and second place finish in the Ivies, (it was also Brown's first winning season since 1987).

Cornell's switch to a red helmet with a white "C" in 1967 did not change their fortunes as much as the arrival of Ed Marinaro, who helped them win a share of the title in 1971. The 1977 switch to a no-decal red helmet did nothing to bring Cornell out of the cellar it also occupied in 1976. But the 1978 Cornell Big Red switched to a new helmet look with a full "Cornell" in a curved white stripe across the side and they recorded their first winning season since 1972. The 1983 switch to a more block-lettered "C" that the Big Red have used ever since did not make a splash at first as Cornell went from a poor 4-6 in 1982 to an even poorer 3-6-1 in 1983.

Dartmouth's switch to a new helmet in 1987 did nothing right away to change the flagging fortunes the team had been suffering through since sharing the Ivy title in 1981 and 1982, but three years later the Big Green shared the title with Cornell and then won the title outright in 1991. The switch back to the old look with the "D" in the front of the helmet in 1999 has been just one part of an extremely long dry spell fot Dartmouth where the Big Green have yet to record a winning season.

Harvard won its very first share of the Ivy title in 1961 after throwing more crimson onto the top of their helmets. The won another share of the title in 1974 after switching to a special helmet commemorating the 100th anniversary of its first "real" football game in 1874. (The Crimson were deriding the 1869 game played played between Rutgers and Princeton which Harvard claimed was more like soccer). Harvard jumped from 4th to yet another share of the title in 1982 after switching to the thin-block "H" in the white oval. But the current Harvard helmet, which burst onto the scene in 1994, didn't usher in success until three years later when the Crimson won the title outright in 1997.

Penn's two-tone "P" helmet didn't change their long history of bad luck in its first season of 1981, but it took off after that as the Quakers shared the title in 1982 and 1983 before winning the title outright in 1984, 1985, and 1986. Penn went from 2-8 in 1991 to 8-2 and co-Ivy champions in 1992 when they switched to the script "Penn" logo. They won another outright title in 2003 with the block lettered "Penn" logo.

Princeton's fortunes actuall changed for the worse when they went from co-champions in 1969 to middle of the pack in 1970-72 after they switched to the tiger stripe helmet in 1970. They stayed in the middle of the pack from 1975 to 1977 when they switched to the pouncing tiger and when they went with a no-decal orange helmet in 1978. The "football carrying" tiger decal of 1979-83 vaulted Princeton into a second place tie in its first year and good years in 1980 and 1981, but 1982 and 1983 were losing years in Old Nassau. Princeton went back to that no-decal orange helmet from 1984 to 1997 was a part of nine winning seasons, an outright title in 1995 and shared titles in 1989 and 1992. The switch back to the old winged helmet decal of the 1930's in 1998 has only been a part of two winning seasons since.

Yale went from last to fourth and a 6-3 record in 1963 when they switched to the "Y" logo they've basically been using ever since, with a few changes here and there. But the Elis did have winning seasons in 1973 and 1974 when they added a football in the middle of the "Y" after a losing campaign in 1972.

So there you have it. For the most part, changing looks has been good luck even for the tradition-bound Ivy League. This all probably means nothing. But it's always fun to speculate.

On a more important note, Training camp begins on August 21st... just three days away.


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