"Small School....  Big Memories"



Small Schools Can Hold Big Memories,  Part 1


By Dr. Ken

The HELMET NEWS/REFLECTIONS column of last month resonated with many of our HELMET HUT readers. This is almost a no-brainer; individuals interested enough in football, football uniforms, and specifically football helmets and everything related to these topics, related very well with the admission that my obsession with football has for the majority of my years, determined my biological and psychological clocks. This was not too difficult to predict. One theme however, that I have found surprising through a number of years however, is the tendency for most college football fans to focus almost exclusively on major college football. Even those who played at a lower level, though they may keep tabs on their alma mater and perhaps their former conference members, rarely are rabid or ardent fans of teams, conferences, or individual players at what is now termed Division III, Division II, or the FCS levels. From 1978 through 2005 the FCS was of course, Division IAA, perhaps another confusing designation but the point is that in the 1AA/FCS division alone, there are currently 125 teams. During my collegiate years of the mid-1960’s, the NAIA institutions and certainly what is now Division II and Division III schools, and many now included in the FCS were grouped as “Small Colleges” for the purpose of their football classification.

The Vermont Catamounts of 1969 have been revived in the past few seasons with a club level team

Certainly many were not small relative to enrollment and many were in fact larger in both physical size and enrollment than their large school counterparts, what we now refer to as the FBS schools. Do our readers know that Long Island’s C.W. Post College has an enrollment that is more than double the size of Tulsa University? Yet talk in the office, at the lunch counter, and in the bar will be about the Alabamas, Floridas, Ohio States, Oregons, and Nebraskas. Great battles among Mount Union, John Carroll, and Baldwin-Wallace get nary a mention, even in Ohio.

Many professional players come from the ranks of the smaller schools and always have. It is said that with today’s advanced communication and media networks, every professional team is aware of every college player in the nation yet it seems as if the past two generations of players have come almost exclusively from the larger programs. “Draftniks” will immediately point to the first and third round players that were taken from Coastal Carolina or another “smaller school” while Hofstra alums will crow about the four or five NFL starters presently in the league but there were numerous players from what could be described as “truly” small colleges that played many seasons in the National and American Football Leagues and proved to be among the very best. There just aren’t as many in this day and age of enhanced communication and information exchange. Some of the small colleges and some of the Little All American players, as they were previously known, became huge stars and/or Pro Football Hall Of Fame members. Roosevelt Brown, Willie Lanier, Rayfield Wright, and Jim Langer come to mind but many universities and colleges can lay claim to a long tradition or a brief burst of a few years where they churned out a number of pro players or those of national recognition. Even ardent fans forget that Vermont, Yankton, and Parsons had viable teams and in the case of the latter two, at one time existed as institutes of higher learning.

What’s also forgotten is that the coaches put the same type of dedicated preparation into the work they did with their squads, including uniform design and many of the smaller schools, then and now, can boast of beautiful uniforms. Some have had unique logos or unusual color combinations. Some, like their large school brethren, are simple but tasteful. Yet its almost as if a black hole exists once the Top 25 and major conference games are analyzed at the end of a typical football weekend. For the helmet and uniform fan especially, this is a shame as there is much to be seen, much to be remembered, and much to be enjoyed.