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BERKELEY -- Wednesday was also the first time California head football coach Sonny Dykes got to see tailback Brendan Bigelow in full pads, since he sat out the spring practice schedule, and boy, did he look good, sporting California's new white uniforms, introduced in a Memorial Stadium press conference.
"This is actually the very first time," Dykes laughed. "Other than on film, yeah."
With the fanfare over, the flash bulbs spent, the back-slapping subsided, now, it's time to break down the University of California's new brand identity even further, beyond those pads, so here are a few quick-hit impressions.
Let's start with a few clarifications. Despite the fact that the uniforms were presented in monochrome looks -- all gray, all gold, all white and all blue -- Dykes said that the Bears will keep a somewhat traditional look.
"I like ‘em," Dykes said. "I thought they did a really good job of designing them. I think it's cool. I like the font. The players like it. I'm not a huge uniform guy, but I do like the traditional look. I think it satisfies everything. The players like something that's really cutting edge, and fans and alumni like something a little more traditional, so I think there's a good meet in the middle and a good combination of both in this uniform. I think they did a great job."
Dykes will have a large hand in determining the overall on-the-field look, and he's determined to make things simple.
"We'll wear basically the traditional blue uniform at home – the top – and the gold pants; That'll be our deal at home," said Dykes. "On the road, we'll probably wear a combination between the white and the gray."
Owing perhaps to his baseball background, Dykes said that Cal will sport the all-grays on the road much of the time, but that we would see other mixing and matching at times.
"If we do a gold-out game, then we'll wear the gold, but it'll be blue tops and gold pants at home, like it always has been," Dykes said. "We had some photos of the guys earlier today, and you really couldn't tell the difference between the white and the gray. It's a pretty subtle difference in the uniform, but I do think the gray makes sense. It helps the blue and the gold pop and it kind of stands out, so that part of it's fine."
Next up: The helmets.
First thought: The matte look is en vogue now, so I'm not going to fight against style, but these look pretty solid. The Cal baseball team has already moved from polished helmets to a flat look, and frankly, it's not a bad look.
The deep Navy blue is a shift from previous iterations in that, on the helmets, it looks nearly black, which jibes with traditional Bears uniforms of the past.
"I thought the helmets looked good, and the colors looked good," Dykes said. "I think the players need to respect the tradition of Cal, and the traditional look, and I think that's something that they think is good, because it does that. There's also something new and something a little bit different, as well."
The flat finish only makes the gold pop more, and that's always a good thing.
"I like the helmets," Dykes said. "I just prefer that look. I think it's a better look. I like the traditional look ... The helmet, I thought was a big deal. I thought getting feedback from people, and really our players, as well, having the simple helmet, I think, was the thing that I was in favor of ... I think it makes the ‘Cal' stand out on the helmet, which I think is good. From a uniform perspective, what you want to stick out is the logo and the brand. It makes sense."
Gone is the bear claw slash across the top (a long-overdue subtraction), and across the back is scrawled GOLDEN BEARS across the neck bumper, a place that has been neglected for the entirety of Cal's football history.
The football team saw the uniforms on Tuesday night, and the reactions were universally positive.
"I think they like it," Dykes said. "I think they like the fact that it's simple, and I think a big part of college athletics is having a uniform that people can recognize and relate to Cal. I think what they're doing today makes a lot of sense from a branding standpoint. I saw the different logos and didn't realize there were that many, so I think that they've been really thoughtful in their approach of what they've decided to do. I think it really fits all of the sports programs."
The next item on the checklist: The new Golden Bear secondary mark.
Let's face it: Oski should be neither cute and cuddly nor old and -- let's face it -- kind of creepy. At this point, Oski is your drunk uncle who gets a little too handsy at family gatherings, and that should never be put on a uniform. This bear is fierce, roaring, and strong. It's definitely a solid upgrade, although the mascot himself will not be undergoing any change any time soon, according to a Cal spokesman.
The new mark allows some cool little details on the uniform, but they're not overly flashy. They're subtle, and give the uniform some unique character.
"That's my first time seeing something like that," Dykes said of the sublimated details. "I think it's a cool look. The thing NIKE does such a great job of is the little, small details."
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