Restore 44

By Kenny Van Doren, @SidelinesCuse

   

The personal and sentimental reasons behind a number might be silly to some, but an athlete’s number means more than anything. It all comes from a “look good, play good” mentality, or it comes from tradition. Players these days idolize their heroes; LeBron wears 23 because of Jordan, many MLB shortstops wear number 2 because of Jeter, etc. For Syracuse University, the number 44 was given to the starting running back for a 14 year stretch. College football legends Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little wore this number. 44 is the most historic and connected number to any college football program ever, and the Syracuse football program should bring this number back.

Tradition is what makes college football, college football. Penn State has their white out game at Happy Valley, the state of Alabama has the Iron Bowl, Mississippi the Egg Bowl, etc. Rivalries, uniforms, and numbers are exactly the kind of tradition that needs to be kept alive in college football. For the Syracuse Orange, the number 44 was first worn in 1921. Here is a list of all who wore 44:

Gifford Zimmerman, halfback, 1921

Charles Roberts, halfback, 1924

Clarence Taylor, quarterback, 1925

Don Baldwin, wide receiver, 1926

Richard Fishel, halfback, 1932

Henry Merz, quarterback, 1933

Hamilton Watt, wide receiver, 1934

Francis Mullins, halfback, 1935-36

Stanley Sanislay, wide receiver, 1937

Benjamin DeYoung, wide receiver, 1938

Francis Mazejko, guard, 1939

Richard Ransom, tackle, 1940

J. O’Brien, tackle, 1945

Robert Eberling, running back, 1952

Jim Brown, running back, 1954-56

Thomas Stephens, halfback, 1957-58

Ernie Davis, halfback, 1959-61

William Schoonover, halfback, 1962-63

Floyd Little, running back, 1964-66

Richard Panczyszyn, quarterback, 1967-69

Mandel Robinson, running back, 1977

Glen Moore, running back, 1981-82

Michael Owens, running back, 1987-89

Terry Richardson, running back, 1990-93

Rob Konrad, fullback, 1995-98

    The number is rooted in a deep history of All-Americans, NFL players, and two NFL Hall of Famers. It even has its ties to the basketball team with greats Danny Schayes, Derrick Coleman, and John Wallace wearing it. Wallace was the last to suit up in the towering 4s, even though the program retired his number earlier this year. Many fans wanted another big man to bear 44, such as the late, great Fab Melo. 

    One argument about bringing back 44 is if players can live up to the greatness that comes with the number. We may never see a Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, or Floyd Little ever again in blue and orange, but the 44 Foundation was made to honor and keep the spirit alive. Sure, they may not leave the same impact, but traditions are essential to college sports. 

44 should make its way back to the field for the Orange, and it does not even have to be the running back. Give the number to the captain of the team. Texas A&M finds a player to wear their beloved 12 each season that displays the highest level of leadership, and Syracuse should do the same. The number 44 is so sentimental to the University in many ways, so why not bring it back? Make it a number of honor and give it to the leader or hardest working player. With a number so heavily tied to some of the greatest college athletes in the 20th century, it would be an honor for any Syracuse football player to wear. Leave it up to Brown and Little, and see if they want their number to be on the backs of the future.

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The Largest Apparel Deal in CFB – and Which One Will Be Next

The largest apparel deal in CFB is not with a playoff team. In fact, it’s not even with a Top 25 team. Perhaps even more surprising, the company writing the check isn’t Nike.

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Image Courtesy 247 Sports

In May 2016, Under Armour inked a 15 year, $280 million deal with UCLA to be their official shoe and apparel sponsor. This is the largest such deal in the history of college athletics.

For Under Armour, it was just another move in the imperialist game of athletic apparel brands. While Nike has claimed most of the lucrative brands like Ohio State and Texas, Under Armour planted a flag in the second largest TV market in the country.

The largest brand Under Armour has under its belt is arguably still Notre Dame, but the addition of UCLA expands their growing foothold to the West Coast – right in the heart of Nike Territory.

For UCLA, it’s more than just money – of course, it *is* an unimaginably large amount of money. But this contract identified them as one of the most valuable brands in athletics. By market value alone, they now stand shoulder to shoulder with the Alabama’s and Michigan’s of CFB. With a coach like Chip Kelly, who carries attention with him wherever he goes even if his teams haven’t performed as of late, eyes will be on UCLA every preseason.

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This is huge for recruiting as well. A recruit going to UCLA knows media attention will be on them, as well as millions of dollars for facility improvements and equipment.

The Under Armour – UCLA deal was done 4 years ago. A lot has changed in CFB, but a lot has stayed the same too – mainly, money is still king. So, which deal will beat UCLA’s?

The first thing to think about is obviously the team itself. Better performing teams will always bring more money, but as Texas has shown, fan following and brand power matter far more. This leaves a pretty short list of teams that could be expected to make a landmark deal, and it’s pretty similar to the list of teams that have a chance of making the CFB playoff every year: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, UGA, OU, LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, Nebraska, Oregon, Florida, Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M, USC. We can immediately cross off a few – Oregon will never need a payout to stick with Nike, and Clemson and Florida State just don’t have the size of fan base or brand power to milk that large of a contract.

The second thing to look for is geography and market; this is arguably the main reason why UCLA has the largest apparel deal right now. There are no New York teams worth paying a super contract too. Chicago is tied to Notre Dame, a good candidate for the largest contract (they currently have the fifth largest, also with Under Armour). LA could be snatched up on the other end by paying out to USC.

Finally, you have to look at the companies themselves. What are Nike’s goals? They have the most money – which battles are they going to choose to fight? Nike already runs the west coast, and I don’t think they are interested in stealing Notre Dame from Under Armour. Adidas is also a major player we haven’t discussed much thus far – their cash cow is Texas A&M, who they gave the most lucrative deal in the SEC. They actually held the UCLA deal before Under Armour took it. SEC deals are huge for a brand, and a few contracts there are expiring soon.

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Taking all of this into account, it seems likely the next biggest contract will go to a team that is already a massive brand, probably to rip them away from another apparel company. It will likely be Nike, since them and Under Armour have been the biggest spenders but Under Armour has faced extreme financial difficulties recently as they stand on the line of bankruptcy. I would guess Nike might try to rip a big brand away from another company. Maybe Texas A&M away from Adidas, although they already have Texas in that region.

Who do you think will be the next shoe and apparel super deal in CFB? Let us know on Twitter @Sidelines_SN!

Super Bowl 53 Uniform Preview

It’s that time of year: College Football has wrapped up, and thus fans turn their eyes to the NFL Playoffs. This year’s games were packed with both action and controversy, but the biggest game is still left to play. The New England Patriots, perennial contender and league super villain, will be facing the surging Los Angeles Rams. Who do we think will win? That’s for another post. Let’s dive into these uniforms.

New England Patriots – Silver/White/Blues

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The Silver/White/Blue combo was introduced with the new uniform set in the late 90’s, although you could argue it was an entirely different uniform by design. The Patriots have worn this look in quite a few Super Bowls before – XXXIX, XLIX, LI, and LII – and had won every time they wore them until last year. Still, that’s a 75% winning pct. The Pats will keep the look.

Thoughts: Even with the loss, Pats have a legacy of winning in these, and there a good, crisp look (especially the dark blue, red outlined numbers against the white background). These will be just fine.

Los Angeles Rams – Dark Blue/Royal Blue/Gold

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No doubt about it – this has to be the best uniform combination in the NFL. I was so glad to see this brought back when the Rams moved to LA, and I’m glad it wasn’t just a one off appearance. Rams wearing it in the Super Bowl is a great homage to both the classic history and new traditions of the franchise in LA.

The Rams first introduced the classic blue and gold in their second season (they had first adopted the colors of the nearby Fordham Rams, when they were still in Cleveland). However, they did not add the gold horns to the helmet until 1948. Half Back and art graduate Fred Gehrke painted the horns on his helmet with permission from Coach Bob Snyder and owner Dan Reeves. People liked it so much, he painted the horns on the rest of the team’s helmets.

You may notice the current helmets are a darker color than the jerseys. This isn’t a mistake: this uniform combination is technically a throwback (even though it has been in the Rams regular rotation), and the old Rams jerseys did have a darker helmet.

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Thoughts: This bold combination is not only my favorite in the NFL, but will look fantastic against the Patriot’s white background. The uniform not only looks great, but means a lot, with this being the Rams first Super Bowl appearance since the return to LA. If only the Eagle’s had worn throwback Kelly Green’s in the Super Bowl last year.

Overall, this is a great looking Super Bowl, with a crisp silver/white top for the Patriot’s complimenting the beautiful design of the LA Rams throwbacks.

As far as a game prediction? Who knows. Hopefully it’s as good of a show as the uniforms.

Looking for another championship game uniform breakdown? Check out our guide on Villanova vs. Michigan, here:

Best Helmets of the CFB Season So Far:

Football is about a lot of things. Teamwork. Strength. Strategy. But one thing is more important than all: cool helmets. That’s right. It’s great when we see a flashy one handed catch, or a 99-yard kick return, but we all know the reason we tune in every Saturday is to see some dope domes, right?

Okay, maybe not, but we’re still going to make a list of our favorites anyway.

4. Florida State

Image Courtesy of @safid_deen on Twitter

Although the teams performance may not have been as spectacular, these helmets shone during the Seminole’s Monday night match up against Virginia Tech. Or, didn’t shine, because they were matte black. Huge props to the equipment crew; the garnet/black gradient on the helmet was just perfect. These lids capped off a slick black uniform that I was a huge fan of, although many FSU fans believed it cursed the team.

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3. Duke

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Image Courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Duke brought back the script helmets that have been featured against UNC and against NIU in the Quick Lane bowl. I can’t get enough of them – in fact I’d be happy if Duke switched to this look full time. After all, Duke used this look from 1978-2003. The chrome lettering looked especially great against the all blue base of the uniform.

2. Hawaii

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Image Courtesy of sbnation.com

Hurricane Lane devastated the Hawaiian islands prior to their first match up against Colorado State, leaving many without power or worse. Hawaii turned this into a rallying cry and paid homage with these beautiful island decals on a black base helmet. Not only did these lids carry significant meaning for the players and their people, but they looked incredible. Even better, Hawaii won the game in a major upset – and haven’t lost since.

1. Tulane

Image Courtesy of @uniswag on Twitter

No other equipment team stood a chance when these bad boys were released. C’mon, what’s not to love about Angry Wave? Tulane has sported similar helmets before, but this was the first with the light blue face mask which really makes the accents on Angry Wave pop. Plus, these domes went with a beautiful blue uniform for the Green Wave.

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Image Courtesy of AmericanAthleticConf on YouTube

Will anyone be able to beat Tulane’s helmet this season? Is there another team that should’ve made this list? Let us know in the comments below!

The Elephant in the Room: How Alabama got ‘Big Al’

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Image Courtesy of etsy.com

Anyone familiar with Alabama football knows that although their athletics nickname is the “Crimson Tide,” their mascot is an elephant. There’s no clear connection between crimson and elephants, nor the “Roll Tide” shout, so how did this come to be?

History

The story starts with Wallace Wade, legendary Alabama coach (as well as a legendary Duke coach, and the namesake of their football stadium). Wade’s 1930 Alabama team was like many others he had coached; menacing and tough. They were known for their strength and blocking abilities.

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Image Courtesy of pinterest.com

Following a hard-fought victory over Ole Miss, Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal used very imaginative language to describe the sheer power of the Alabama football team:

“Coach Wade started his second team that was plenty big and they went right to their knitting scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against one of the best fighting small lines that I have seen. For Ole Miss was truly battling the big boys for every inch of ground.

At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.

It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size.”

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Image Courtesy of bsnscb.com

“Elephants” wasn’t a team nickname at the time, but it soon became one. Sports writers would refer to the Alabama linemen as the “Red Elephants.” That 1930 team would go on to have an undefeated season, one of Alabama’s claimed national championships.

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Image Courtesy of pinterest.com

Alabama informally accepted the moniker. In the 1940’s the University actually kept a live elephant. This elephant would carry the homecoming queen every year. When keeping a live elephant became too expensive, Alabama began renting elephants for homecoming weekend.

Big Al

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Image Courtesy of rolltide.com

The first use of an elephant mascot suit was in 1960, when student Melford Espey Jr. began wearing elephant costume head to games. Espey would go on to become an administrator at the University of Alabama, and Coach Bear Bryant would ask him to don the elephant head for games.

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Image Courtesy of ncaa.com

In 1979, Alabama’s homecoming committee decided they wanted an official mascot suit. They met with Coach Bryant, who approved the idea, and then purchased the first Big Al suit from Disney with athletic department funds. Big Al debuted at the 1980 Sugar Bowl, in which Alabama defeated Arkansas. The actual name “Big Al’ came from a student vote. Al Brown was a popular DJ on campus at the time, and thus was voted in.

Since his formal adoption, Big Al has appeared in many forms as an alternate logo for Alabama. Many incarnations of this are shown throughout this article, with the most recent form below and at the start of this article:

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Image Courtesy of tirecovers.com

Love Big Al? Hate him? Think Aubie is better? Leave your comments below, and check out our last historical branding spotlight here!