Column: OSU uniforms combine old with new
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 04:03
When I walked into the Alumni Center to watch the so-called “ReBeaving” ceremony, I was worried.
Oregon State’s entire brand was at the hands of Nike, the multinational corporation responsible for the Day-Glo fashion show at that other school down south. I was worried what that could mean for Beaver Nation.
I had visions of robo-Beavers, jerseys busied with a variety of unnecessary insignia and an overall OSU aesthetic that wasn’t true to the old school Beaver way.
I left the Alumni Center pleasantly surprised. OSU got it right.
Although most teams were on display on Monday night, it’s the football jerseys that set the tone for the entire rebranding process.
Players’ numbers on football helmets, a Fiesta Bowl era cursive “Beavers,” and socks that read “Hip Hip Hooray.” The rebranding wanted to combine Beaver tradition with a modern and technologically advanced look to create a new visual identity that was inherently Oregon State.
They did just that.
“If you take the Terry Baker era and what that represented, especially the only Heisman trophy winner from the state of Oregon; what a powerful history that is,” said Todd Van Horne, vice president and creative director of Nike football and baseball. “You have to take that into account and bring it forward and continue to tell that story, and I think if you look at the uniform designs, you see definite nods back to that period, that era, that time.”
Oregon State athletics has always been about substance over style. The beaver itself is one of the most hard working, tenacious animals on the planet. There is a reason beavers have been chosen to represent the state of Oregon and this university. OSU produces farmers and engineers, the football team has turned walk-ons into national award winners, and the 2006 baseball team is the only team to lose two games in the College World Series and still win it.
The new OSU brand has captured that tenacious identity. Although the new Beaver logo itself looks a little too similar to the Portland State Viking for my taste, I think the overall package presented on Monday night is the exact direction Oregon State needs to go in.
A brand is defined as the name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers. At the end of the day, college athletics, and universities in general, are a business. Oregon State’s rebranding captures who the Beavers are — and identifies them as a unique entity almost to a T.
My main worry about this entire rebranding process was that OSU would move in the wrong direction. I wanted to see uniforms from the “Giant Killers” era, and the simplicity that embodied the jerseys worn by the Beavers when they won the Fiesta Bowl. I’ve lived through the “sports bra” era of jerseys, worn by those like Yvenson Bernard, and I was worried what would happen when OSU let Nike have another stab at it.
My fears were quelled when, in the grand finale of the rebrand fashion show, D.J. Alexander walked out in an all-white football uniform that would have made Dee Andros, former OSU football coach and athletic director, proud.
“The thing that [Andros] would appreciate, if he was here and he could look back, is that there are some elements from the Giant Killers that are right here in these uniforms,” said OSU football head coach Mike Riley. “I was here for the Giant Killers, I watched as a kid, and those stripes down the helmet are right on line with that.”
The best part of the new uniforms is the font. Oregon State doesn’t need some fancy font that shows off the latest and greatest in graphic design. Block letters and numbers represent that lunch pail mentality and hard work that are Beaver athletics.
Junior basketball player Roberto Nelson recognized the new basketball jerseys gave a nod to the past as well. The era when Ralph Miller was smoking cigarettes in Gill Coliseum and the times when Gary Payton was on the cover of Sports Illustrated are woven into the fabric of the new Beaver basketball uniforms.
“I like the orange ones especially, because it kind of brings back the history of Oregon State with the ‘OSU’ across the chest,” Nelson said.
The new design is about as good as it can get. You can’t please everyone, but by respecting the past and representing the future, OSU’s rebrand is a positive move.