By Phil Hecken, with Rick Pearson, Larry Bodnovich & Jim Vilk
College football has screwed with traditional rivalries, screwed with the Conferences, screwed with the bowls, screwed with the scheduling…screwed with the uniforms…the latter being at least as egregious as all of the former. But the one thing the NCAA still gets right is the traditional end to the regular season — the Army/Navy Game.
It’s not the oldest rivalry, it’s not the greatest rivalry…this year, it’s not even much of a “game” (if records are any indication). There will be no Bowl games for either team — all that’s left to play for is pride. But there may not be a better way to end a regular season than with the Army-Navy game. And whatever your feelings are with regard to the United States Armed Forces, whatever your feelings may be towards college football uniforms — many of the young men who will play in today’s game will shortly be leaving and embarking on a journey which will forever change their lives. For one day, and for two teams, I have no problem with them wearing “combat” uniforms, even if those happen to be designed by the swoosh. They’ll be trading those football uniforms for real ones soon enough. More power to them.
But for 60 minutes on the field (and possibly a couple of stupid overtimes, if the game ends tied)…they, and we, should focus on the football. And throughout the years, both teams have taken this game pretty seriously, sometimes even breaking out some pretty outlandish uniforms, just for the game.
Today, I’m joined by Rick Pearson, Larry Bodnovich, and Jim Vilk, each of whom I asked to write a little something about the uniforms of this rivalry game throughout the years. Ricko brings decades of memories, Larry brings us his tremendous photo library…and Jim, well, Jim brings us a 5 & 1. And when they’re done, I’ll take a look at what the two teams will be wearing this time around (here’s a hint: it rhymes with Moe Bombat)…and they’re actually both pretty good unis. But first…Rick, Larry & Jim.
The game kicks off today at 2:30 ET, on CBS. I hope you’ll all be watching.
Off the top of my head…
By Rick Pearson
I figured I’d go with “What comes to mind when I think of the Army-Navy game?” A free association exercise.
First of all, my Army-Navy experience matches the TV era, which began roughly at the time of the Korean War. That meant just about every adult male either was in, or had been in, the Armed Forces. In turn, that meant most households were either solidly pro-Navy, pro-Army (the Air Force has only recently become a separate entity, previously being the Army Air Corps) or divided, based on the relevant military experience. So the game was huge. Far, far moreso than it is today.
Next (and these are in no particular order of significance)…
—Names can be fascinating. Lyrical, dramatic, rhythmic. Or just unusual in combination with another. I remember one year a couple of the individual statistical leaders in college football were…Kingsley Fink and Rosey Leaks. Whoa, macho! Kingsley Fink was Army’s QB; Roosevelt Leaks Texas’ big dog RB.
—The teams initiating (in my experience, anyway) one-off specials. Navy adding BEAT ARMY to shoulders and orange helmets for backs and ends in ‘61. Army wearing white shoes and a BEAT NAVY patch on the right sleeve in ‘62. Navy with BEAT ARMY in Chinese and a Jolly Roger decal on helmets, also in ’62, or the following year having BEAT ARMY stacked on the front of the helmet.
—Because of the military commitment involved, very few players from Army or Navy have gone on to distinguished careers in pro football. A few did give it a try, though. I’m not saying these are the only ones, just the ones that come readily to my mind. 1946 Heisman winner Glenn Davis of Army, “Mr. Outside” to Doc Blanchard’s “Mr. Inside” (the ’45 Heisman winner) took a shot at it with the Los Angeles Rams. Such a big name was he that his debut drew a heckuva crowd…for an intrasquad game, yet. Navy’s Joe Bellino (Heisman ’60) had a brief career with the Boston Patriots. Navy’s Phil McConkey scored a Super Bowl TD for the Giants, and Napoleon McCallum (another great name, btw) did okay for the Raiders for awhile. But the standard bearer is, of course, ’63 Heisman winner Roger Staubach. Again, not saying I didn’t miss some. The point is, the list is short.
–And, because I’m always fascinated by the crossover between sports and entertainment, here are a couple largely overlooked tidbits…
1. Davis and Blanchard starred in a movie about…themselves.
2. The back story of a long-running TV character included his being the Midshipmen quarterback in an Army-Navy game. “I went 18-for-27 and the Secretary of the Navy presented me the Game Ball,” he recalled in the episode that opened with this.
Thanks Rick. And now, on to Larry:
Remembering Army & Navy
By Larry Bodnovich
When I was younger I was not a huge Buckeye fan until maybe the mid 1960′s. As a younger teen I kind of liked Navy because my dad served in the Navy in WW2 and my neighbor buddy’s brother was at Annapolis for a while. You can see me in a Navy shirt that he got for me.
I have vague memories of when Joe Bellino was on Navy and remember watching some of the early 1960 games on TV. To this day I still root for Navy.
I have always liked the Army uni look from years ago. The black and gold especially. Although many know I am not a huge fan of plain unis. Army has looked good to me in I liked the older gold helmet with single black stripe.
That is one of the better looking Army Navy games. That is also maybe my favorite Navy uniform. From about 1965.
Also like this Navy uni from the early 1960′s. This was from 1965
Earlier years this Army one may be my overall favorite though. Army vs navy from 1930.
Or as seen in this great colorized pic by I think it was George. Man I love that Army uni.
In the Life Archives, most of the Army/Navy photos ones are from 1954.
The Roger Staubach ones have some good color pics of Navy.
But Larry isn’t done. He has a bunch of colorizations he’d like to share with us:
That is from 1929. I just did this one recently.
That is from 1963. I did it long ago.
Another early attempt.
1931 from Football Illustrated so not good quality. Again one my early attempts.
The actual color pic from 1938 with Navy in dark pants and gold jerseys.
And of course, no contribution from Larry would be complete without one of his famous, patented photo albums.
And now, six things from Jim Vilk…
Jim Vilk’s All Army/Navy 5 & 1
And what college football post would be complete without a full 5 & 1 rundown? (Don’t answer that)
But we’ve got one anyway, and here it is, a post that’s been like 121 years in the making … the one and only “All Army vs. Navy 5 & 1″…
There are exceptions, of course (and hooo, boy, are you going to see some of those in this list), but if you’re like me, when you think Army/Navy you think of one team in a dark jersey, one team in a white jersey and lots of gold. From the cheap seats, you can tell Army by the stripe on the helmet; otherwise it could look a *tiny* bit like an intrasquad scrimmage. Will that look win the day, or will something non-traditional top the list? Let’s see…
5. 2010 — I like the Red For Marines’ Sake, and all the unit patches each player wears.
4. 1944 — Another blue helmet for Navy…this time with a gold stripe.
3. 1970 — One of my first sports-related memories is watching this game, so color me sentimental.
And the bad one: 1890 — Well, at least the hats were nice…
I was for sure expecting one of the prior year’s Pro Combat’s to make the bad one. Kudos to you for finding something worse.
And just in case you haven’t seen enough A/N unis…Jim thought you’d appreciate this wonderful page.
Army vs. Navy, 2011
OK, so now that you’ve seen that great stuff from Ricko, Larry & Jimmer, it’s time to take a look at what they’ve worn recently, and what they’ll be wearing today. The whole “pro combat” thing actually started a few years ago, before it was even called pro combat, back in 2008. That was a fairly new concept (special unis), even for Army/Navy, even for swooshie. It may have even been the impetus for Nike’s
single handed attempt to ruin college football uniforms future “pro combat” line it launched (by name, anyway) in 2009.
Nike didn’t introduce any “new” uniforms for the 2009 game, but Navy reprised their 2008 look, only this time wearing a navy top instead of white. In 2010, Army got new unis, and turned a few heads when they went full head-to-toe camo for a game against VMI. Wow. We uni watchers were wondering what both teams might have in store for last year’s game, but surprisingly (or perhaps not), Army wore their standard uni while Navy went back to their 2008 look, again. In 2008, both teams uniforms were a bit of a surprise, but this year — we know. And here it is:
Gotta say, I like ‘em. I love Army’s helmet, (though I could do without the huge, thick stripe down the middle), and the number font and comp sleeves are great — bet not a lot of guys actually wear that look, but we’ll see. I’m not a fan of the faux combat boot look generated by the socks & shoes. I get where they’re going — but I don’t like it. Navy’s helmet is just as good, but they too have that big thick stripe … I do like the ‘battleship number’ font (about the only time I’ll accept drop shadow), and while not generally a fan of navy monochrome, on Navy it seems fitting. I did like the shoulder boards, which depicted the wings of the Blue Angel plane, and the replica Marine Corps Elegant Dress Pants with the fold and red officer blood stripe running down each pant leg they’ve worn in the past, but this is pretty nice too. Grades? A solid “B+/B” for Army, and a “B” for Navy.
Now…let the game begin.
50 Years Ago…This Weekend
Back again with Rick Pearson who is here to bring us his look at the featured ABC television college football matchup from 50 years ago. As always, Rick documented the game via his “kid cards”. Here’s Rick to tell us about it.
Dec. 9, 1961…The GOTHAM BOWL (Baylor “at” Utah State)
Great mooglie-ooglie, the Gotham Bowl!!! With Army-Navy playing last week, the Bowl season already was upon us. …Think “meaningless” bowl games are something new? Imagine how America was looking forward to seeing Utah State in the only college game on TV this weekend…Organizers had attempted a first Gotham Bowl in 1960, but nobody showed up. …A number of teams were invited, and politely refused the opportunity to play in New York in December (the lack of palm trees likely a contributing factor). …Anyway, for 1961 Baylor and Utah State DID agree to visit, and the first ever (insert fanfare) Gotham Bowl was played…at the Polo Grounds. …A search of the Internet turned up zero photos from the game (little help here, LarryB?), but supposedly 15,000 folks were on hand, which means the game possibly outdrew the Titans of New York at the venerable old venue…The unis? Both teams broke out cold weather stirrups (striped) to wear under their crews (just as now, very few teams regularly wore high socks), with Baylor sporting the overall look that for so long has been their trademark. …Interesting and relatively unique decorative knit trim on sleeve ends and at neck, though. …The players? Ronnie Bull went on to a decent career with the Chicago Bears as their feature back until Gale Sayers came along. …Bill Dahme didn’t play pro football. …The Aggies’ Father Murphy did, though.
Thanks Rick. Can’t imagine why there wouldn’t be a lot of coverage of this game, 50 years ago. But we have your documentation to prove it, and we’re all the better for it.
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
And so, lets begin:
Couple old ones that have been kicking around in my other e-mail account today. We start with Jeremy Zeiders, who sent this in soon after Michigan State went pro combat. He thought they should go full Sparta. You never go full Sparta:
Nike says they went back to ancient Sparta for inspiration in designing Michigan State’s Pro Combat uniforms. I say they didn’t go far enough. Nike has has no conscience with regard to introducing off-the-wall design elements, so is my concept really that far-fetched? Probably, but as a Michigan fan I’ll welcome any opportunity to take a dig at Michigan State.
I’ve attached my version of the Spartan Pro Combat uniform. I also wrote a Nike-esque press release to go along with it. You can see the press release here.
Next up is Marc Douglas, who had sent this to Paul, who forwarded it to me. Here are your Dallas Cowboys:
I am tweaking the Dallas Cowboys today. As you know, and you have written about, the Cowboys have very many odd nuances about their design. I love the Primary Helmet. That rivals any helmet ever in the NFL. That being said, It bothers me that there are different color blues threw-out the uniform. The blue away jersey arm striping with the star is very 90′s and needs to go away. The tweak today takes care of that problem, along with some double-piping that you will see in some photos. I have taken the Thanksgiving/1960′s Helmet and made it the primary helmet, and totally revamped the Thanksgiving Uniform.
The Home Uni: We all know that Tex wanted the Cowboys to wear white so that the fans could see the away colors for all the teams coming in to Texas Stadium. With this I am putting the Home back in the color jersey . The first Picture shows the new home uni. The face mask is blue. and the piping on the Sleeves is gone. the blues are the same color.
Pic #2: the “Throwback” used by the cowboys is double pipes on the helmet. I used one…..a little penn state, but hey, whats wrong with that! also notice NOF is Dallas. As you are aware this town loves its name and state. Mavericks only use Dallas, and The future WS Champs use Txxas on both home and Road…and yeah..the stars too. So why not the Cowboys..all my “new” jerseys have that Dallas word-mark
Pic#3: this is the “away: uni…ala Texas Longhorns Storm Trooper uni. All white pants with one pipe. TV numbers are gone and replaced on the sleeve.
Pic#4: The word-mark along with the Blue star on the collar. does not look like it in this pic, but the blues are the same color. after I took this pic I noticed it looks like the back of the Mavs white jersey.
Pic#5: My Thanksgiving Uni. The blues do not look the same in this, but they are..its was a bad pic, and it game decided to rain. the Pants are silver, with no piping
PiC #6: The numbers and NOB are the same silver. no outlines for the numbers.
pic #7: please excuse the nike on the faceguard..not intentional. I personally would love to see this helmet in real life. I took the piping out to give it that old fashion look. silver facemask and chinstrap.
I love the star with no outline.
Thanks for your time. I appreciate all that you do for us. your site, and espn posts are first priority in the morning!
And we close today with my Sunday NCAA Uni Watch roundup buddy, Terry Duroncelet, who’s got some college unis for us:
Trying a couple of college football ideas this time around.
-When I saw Ohio State’s 2010 Pro Combat uniforms, I was very pleased with the result (although the grey tube socks are unflattering with the grey pants), especially when you compare 2010 to 2009 and 2011 (the scarlet wraparound crap on the ’09 and ’11 pants ruined what are otherwise great AmPac suits). I have no shame in saying that they should adopt “Scarlet Soldier 2010″ as their full-time uniform (with some tweaks, of course).
1) The first thing that they should do is remove the American flag on the sleeve and put this logo on both sleeves.
2) Keep the pewter grey pants (which have no wraparound stripes whatsoever), as they are significantly darker than the silver that they currently use (they are the “Scarlet and GREY”, right?).
3) They should mandate white crew socks with black cleats (the college look) for full time use, home and road.
4) Keep the general basis of the current silver lid (and the stripe, too), but darken the shell so that it matches the pants and actually looks grey. Don’t lose those Buckeye stickers, though!
5) Repeat Steps 1-4 for the road uni.
The result is this. That took me a good 4 1/2-5 hours to make. It was tough trying to find a pair of pants and a helmet that would cooperate with that dark of a grey, plus I had to hand paint the numbers for the road jersey, so they look really trashy. However, I did have fun putting the Buckeye leaves on the helmet. Overall? I’m really happy with the result (mainly the home uniform), and I firmly believe that this is what the Buckeyes should wear full-time. What do you guys think?
-I understand Hayden Fry’s reasoning for modeling the Hawkeyes’ uniforms after the Steelers, but I think it’s time for a change. When I saw Tim’s take on Iowa a short while back, I really liked it, and thought of something to do for them.
1) I went back to the old 1958 National Championship unis (which they wore against Ball State last year) with the stripes sublimated into the compression shirt.
2) I kept the black Tigerhawk helmet that they’ve had since 1979, and added a gold version to the mix.
3) I kept the tube sock theme for both unis, because:
-a) They’re one of the few (if not only) college teams that mandate NFL-style socks, and I want to continue that.
-b) Kinnick Stadium uses FieldTurf, which can cause rug burn (I found that out after some of the Penn State players wore single sleeves on one leg after a previous game on FieldTurf). You don’t want rug burn at home.
4) I repeated the sleeve patterns on the socks (as shown with Tim’s uni).
This is the outcome of those ideas. The Hydra (multi-helmet) Effect is actually one of the better modern things in college football uniform design today, IMO. When used for good, it has miles of potential ahead. Big thanks to Tim E. O’Brien for all of those research pics.
Hope you guys enjoy these ideas, and I’ll see you all next time.
That will definitely do it for today. Thanks to the
by Rick Pearson
Anchors Aweigh Over Hill Over Dale, or something…
And, the full-size.
OK, folks — we’re almost done. I realize this post was a little full, but that’s because I’m technically fitting two days into one — Paul’s giving me Sunday off (I have to pow wow with the ‘other’ boss for a good portion of today, and Monday I not only have a final paper but also a presentation due for Media Ethics & Law, so that will take up the remainder of my weekend). Sorry about no colorizations today — I promise I’ll run them next weekend (and I’ve already received a great bunch).
There’s one last bit of uni news — lest you think we forgot:
The Utah Jazz introduced a new alternate uniform. Paul will have more to say on that tomorrow. He also assures me there will be no makers mark on the actual jersey the team will wear.
Everyone enjoy the game today, and I’ll see you next weekend!
“Us bike geeks are every bit as nerdy as us unigeeks except for the Chris Creamer board geeks who make Trekkies look normal.” — All The Way Ray