October 2014 - McCormick Place

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by Bernard McCormick Nov 2014 Also on Digital Edition

At this time of year, when football season is more than half over and many of the players on all levels have yet to be indicted, it is traditional for us to rate the uniforms and fight songs of the teams. Normally, we vote for the best uniforms, mostly on the college level, but this year there have been so many uniform changes, most of them nauseating, that the spirit of public service dictates that we rank the most awful uniforms.

Keep in mind that by tradition we favor tradition, so such teams as Notre Dame, Penn State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Southern California and Harvard have an unfair advantage. They know what they look like and, like the Marine Corps, take great pride in their traditional look, and never change it, unless there is a lot of money involved. So forget them for the moment and let us focus on schools that have such bad taste that they should give up football, and in fact close their doors for good.

Starting close to home, the University of Miami gave away 10 points last month when they came out looking like clowns against a Georgia Tech team that wore a novelty uniform for what they call “white day.” The uniform was white, gently accented with gold, the Papal colors. By tradition, we oppose such novelty uniforms, but this one looked elegant.

Miami, in contrast, gave fans stomach cramps with awful green helmets and bilious green pants. The helmets lose the impact of Miami’s “U” logo, one of the most distinctive and recognizable symbols in football. It goes back to the early 1970s before the Hurricanes became a national power. But that logo, orange and green, demands a white background. Green against green just doesn’t work.

How could a team that won national championships wearing white helmets, where the logo stood out majestically, and usually white pants with orange jerseys, have fallen so far in taste? Especially when Coach Al Golden came out of Penn State, which prides itself on a classically conservative look, with hardly a stripe to be found on its blue and white livery. You would think a Nittany Lion would resign before letting his team dress like buffoons.

Notre Dame appalled its alumni (even the TV guys mentioned it) with novelty uniforms against Purdue. But they came back, reportedly at the insistence of the Pope himself, to their storied unadorned blue and gold uniforms to go 5-0. They were helped when Syracuse gave them 10 points by coming out in putrid ash and Prussian gray uniforms. That a team, which once featured Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little with orange helmets and blue jerseys, could lose its sense of history is a failing matched only by a dozen other teams that have given up classic uniforms to look like drunks on Halloween.

Washington, which used to dress pretty well, is catching up with neighbor Oregon in making its players look like demons from the lower regions, but neither compares to Maryland, which has taken one of the most attractive state flags and desecrated 
it by sprawling it all over steroidic uniforms.

The only thing for Maryland to do at this stage is give up football and design a new state flag.

Editors just reminded us that we forgot to mention Auburn University and Ohio State as two schools with classy uniforms that don’t change from year to year, or minute to minute.

On the other hand, we just saw that UCLA, which actually invented the shoulder stripes widely copied around the world, has introduced a disgusting black uniform, and all but abandoned the shoulder stripes that have kept that school in business. John Wooden himself has asked the school to indict the wardrobe manager.

Let us abandon this depressing subject, and move on to fight songs.

Fortunately, great fight songwriters come along only once in a century, so you don’t have much to change. The only additions are an occasional theft of a tune written for a different purpose, as when Texas A&M appropriated the stirring theme from the film “Patton.”

Years back, when he was coaching the Tampa Bay Bucs, we asked John McKay if he liked fight songs.

“Notre Dame has the best,” he said with authority.

This is a man who had a good record against Notre Dame when he was the coach at the University of Southern California.

We suggested “Fight On For USC,” Michigan’s stirring “Hail To The Victors,” “Fight On Brave Army Team” and Georgia Tech’s “Ramblin’ Wreck” as worthy of consideration.

“No, Mac,” he said, “when you lead USC into South Bend and Notre Dame’s fight song inspires your team, that’s a great fight song.”