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Whatever happened to substance over style? Gimmicks never produce victories

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The Oregon-ization of college football has migrated east at a pace best described as disturbingly swift.

Masters of keeping opponents off-balance with their 2,137 different helmet/uniform combinations (I might have exaggerated ... slightly), the Oregon Ducks are being copied like never before.

In 2013 alone, Indiana University showed off a veritable buffet spread of helmets. Five of them — five! — including one showcasing the state seal on one side.

Purdue got in the act with a black helmet its players wore twice during the team’s dismal 1-11 season. I’ll give the designer(s) credit for the train-track-patterned stripe, but that’s where the track stops.

Now the Boilermakers are talking about a new “selfie helmet” where the motion “P” logo is comprised of miniature photos of individuals who renewed their season ticket order.

I spent many a Saturday afternoon in Ross-Ade Stadium watching some horrid, a few outstanding and an abundance of mediocre Purdue teams during my youth. Therefore, I am qualified to offer the following:


The Boilers’ defense was one of the great dumpster fires in 2013. One visible from Neptune as Purdue allowed a total of 456 points.

No worries. The selfie helmet might soon be here.

Somewhere in an off-campus apartment in South Bend, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is having nightmares of the selfie helmet knowing the pain-inflicting impact it is about to unleash.

Purdue’s offense, meanwhile, managed a whopping 173 points.

No need to fret. The selfie helmet will fix everything.

No way does Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio experience a good night’s rest between now and Oct. 11 when his Spartans visit West Lafayette. You guessed it. Its initials are SH.

In all seriousness, here’s a concept: Field a decent team and then worry about dressing it up in cutting-edge football garb.

The need to generate marketing buzz will never cease to exist. But the product is what puts people in the seats or inspires them to find something else to do, and that product is the team.

People love pulling for a winner. Oregon wins. So does Oklahoma State, Boise State, Nebraska, West Virginia and a number of other programs that steered away from traditional helmets and/or uniforms for something flashier even if only for one or two games.

But they were successful with their old look first.

Maybe I’m too old-school to be cool, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Hoosiers’ white block ‘I’ and the Boilers’ black block ‘P’.

Just saying.

And Notre Dame, please, for the love of Knute, put the giant shamrock decals back in storage and lose the lock key.

Alabama sticks to what works — same for Florida State, Clemson, Oklahoma, LSU, Texas, Penn State, etc.

This program in 2014 is attired nearly identical to the way its players were in 1974, ’84 and ’94. What makes college football so special are the traditions.

Oregon has Nike founder Phil Knight’s money to play with, so knock yourselves out, Ducks. Storm the field for pregame wearing orange helmets with feathers of all colors (think NBC Peacock), pink jerseys, brown pants and aqua shoes.

You’re too far away for me to care.

Closer to home, Indiana and Purdue need to go substance first and then worry about style.

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