College Football Analysis: Does Penn State Need a Re-Branding?


Younger college football fans may not remember a time when the Oregon Ducks were not one of the most discussed college football programs in the country, but there was a time the program was largely irrelevant in the sport. Between 1964 and 1988 the Ducks failed to go to a bowl game and had just five bowl games. The 1994 season was a bit of a dream season for the Ducks, earning a berth in the Rose Bowl to face Penn State in the final year under head coach Rich Brooks. When Mike Bellotti took over the program the following season and looked to continue building the program. Oregon continued winning games and going to bowl games but was in dire need of a face-lift.

Enter Nike.

Oregon alum and Nike co-founder Phil Knight wanted his program to have a better look and helped Nike completely re-brand their program with a new logo and new uniforms. Needless to say, Oregon has become a a much different program since the change in 2000. New, flashy uniforms became a significant recruiting tool that has often been imitated but never duplicated. Since 2000 Oregon has finished in the AP Top 10 four times and in the top three three times. Is it a coincidence, or is it a reason to strongly consider adopting a new look from head to toe?

Tim Hyland, who has long been one of my favorite college football writers, suggests that Penn State may be best suited by letting go of the past this year. While the idea will be sure to spark some debate among the Penn State community, I recommend hearing him out before you rush to judgment. For the record, I am not endorsing the adoption of new uniforms and placing a logo on the helmet and names on the jerseys or having Nike design a Pro Combat jersey. But let's go in to this open-minded.

In a way Penn State has already begun a re-branding effort of sorts. The face of the program is now Bill O'Brien, who breathes a new intensity in to the program and gives it new life from the coaching perspective as well as the recruiting side of the operations. Sometimes, all you need is a new spokesperson to change the image. It worked for J. Crew with bringing on Michelle Obama at least. Burberry completely reshaped their image by signing Emma Watson and Kate Moss. Pabst Blue Ribbon sells for $44 in China. McDonald's started selling upscale coffee products. (All of these examples and more courtesy of Business Insider)

The lesson appears to be simple. Changing who speaks on your behalf and changing the way things are done is easier said than done, but worth the commitment if executed well.

Ultimately, what it all comes down to is winning football games. Whether or not O'Brien can accomplish that remains to be seen of course, and many fas will offer a one-time free pass as long as there are signs of progress with the team. While a losing record would certainly stink for many reasons (and I am not suggesting that will happen), as long as there seems to be a good work ethic instilled in the team on offense and defense, most fans will find some level of satisfaction for the long-term stability.

Would you consider changing anything about Penn State, be it a new uniform or logo? Or would you prefer to keep the traditional look and pay homage to the simplistic history of Penn State football, the way Joe Paterno molded the program for decades.

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In Scores of Other Games...

Michigan made a few notable scheduling announcements yesterday. Appalachian State returns to the Big House to open the 2014 season, nearly seven years to the day following their historic upset of the Wolverines. Michigan will start a home-and-home with the Pac-12's Utah that season as well, and Oregon State and Colorado will each make a trip to Michigan Stadium in 2015 and 2016, respectively. No return trips are scheduled for Michigan with the Big Ten-Pac 12 scheduling agreement set to begin in 2017.

Perhaps more notable though is the hiatus in the Michigan-Notre Dame series in 2018 and 2019. Realignment strikes again?

Speaking of that Big Ten-Pac 12 scheduling agreement, it seems some in the Pac-12 are less than enthusiastic about the whole thing now that the four-team playoff model has been approved.

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