Thursday, July 5, 2012
Grading WAC Helmets and Logos
In May, I wrote a column detailing the rise and fall of the Western Athletic Conference. Today I figure, since we won't have them to kick around much longer, now is the time to give the WAC the Slant Pattern treatment with regards to their helmets and logos, both present and historical (or at least the historical offerings of the present-day members).
Idaho has a pretty boring logo (the one on their helmets is basically this, different color scheme), which betrays their unique nickname, the Vandals, and a more creative past.
If I am to judge solely by Idaho's logos, the Vandals were sort of like the Vikings except with wings on their helmets instead of horns. As cartoonish as that was, they struck a great balance in 1979, going with a logo that both captured the "vandal" persona but is done in an interesting, abstract way. Too bad they chucked that for boringness in 1992.
Louisiana Tech's logo has been this, with only minor variations, from the beginning of time. And that's fine, it's a decent logo, although if I was a Tennessee intellectual property rights owner I'd take a long hard look at the font of that T. They finally rolled out an alternate logo in 2008. I like the alternate too, because it's hard to come up with a bulldog-face logo that's not an obvious ripoff to any of the other legions of schools known as bulldogs.
New Mexico State is next. First, a word on their nickname, the Aggies. There are four Division 1 schools with the Aggie nickname: NMSU, Texas A&M, Utah State (also in the WAC), and UC-Davis. There is zero consensus, however, what animal or mascot best exemplifies what an "Aggie" is. So NMSU uses as cowboy, A&M a collie dog, Utah State a bull, and UC-Davis a horse. I guess this is understandable, because "agricultural student" doesn't really lend itself easily to some sort of great logo or mascot. Still, I think A&M has the best idea, using the dog only sparingly for logo purposes and sticking to stylized TAM letters instead.
Back to NMSU specifically, their recent logo history is a fascinating tale of the forces of political correctness winning a battle and then losing the rematch. After years of using a "Pistol Pete" logo that was a blatant ripoff of Oklahoma State's cowboy, they came out with this bad boy back in the early 2000s. But some administrators were squeamish about the guns in the logo, a trend that goes all the way back to 1965, when the Houston Colt .45s changed their name to the Astros and more recently when the Washington Bullets became the Wizards. So the powers that be changed his weapon of choice in 2005, which naturally caused an uproar among students. In 2007, they got their wish and they reverted to the pistol-packing previous logo. Huzzah! Too bad they suck in every sport anyone cares about.
San Jose State. I often lament, when reviewing logos, when teams and colleges dispense with creative logos in favor of bland ones. In the case of SJSU, however, I am pleased to report their most recent logo is also their best. After years of unremarkable spartan heads, in 2006 they gave him muscles and a spear. Good move.
But even more crucially, in 2010 they dropped the San Jose State wordmark, at least from their football helmets, and this fell in line with Kevin Beane's rule number one of logos: if you want it to be timeless, you can't have words identifying and helping along the viewer. The logo should stand on its own (letters are okay). Well done, San Jose State!
Texas State. First, good on Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas State) for getting rid of the paw print helmet, one of the most overused images in sports. Second, from 1997 to 2002, they used a logo that looks like Tom from Tom and Jerry took a heavy combination of steroids and bath salts (and why is the A larger than every letter but the B? Go BobcAts!). Thankfully, they've gone in a more sensible direction since then.
Utah State. Now, back to the usual trend of trading in creative for boring. Scroll down to Utah State on this page. They used the shape of the state in 1964-67, always a nice touch. Throughout the '70s, they put bull horns on the letters, to be followed by more interesting helmets, if a bit much, in the early '90s. Then in 1995 someone said, "No! These are too interesting! Just put a blue U on there with the word "state" in the inside right portion of it!" Now, going into this year, they decided even that was too interesting and has unveiled their most boring logo yet. Needless to say, they came up with a secondary logo at the same time which is vastly superior and I bet will never be used.
Texas-San Antonio. UTSA has only been in existence since 1969 and their athletic program is younger than that, so not much of a history to go on here. Their logo as well as their football helmet decal is this, which is alright, but for some reason I hate the orange and navy blue combination popularized by the Denver Broncos. I like those colors fine by themselves or in tandem with other colors, but, for some reason, not that. UTSA's logo before the present one was this, by far the most hilarious logo in WAC history. I mean, sure, we've all seen a roadrunner pulling on a track uniform on the side of the road, but this one apparently had the foresight to cut a hole in the butt of his shorts to allow his beautiful plumage to breathe free. A single teardrop rolls down my cheek. Run like the wind, roadrunner!