Columbia Football Sports

The Columbia football team should wear Columbia blue uniforms, 2018 edition

I almost didn’t have it in me this year.

After three full seasons without the Columbia football team wearing Columbia blue uniforms — the color named after the school — and me writing two separate screeds attempting to convince the team to change course, it seemed about time for me to accept the futility of my quest.

Despite wearing the obviously wrong colors of royal blue and “anthracite” (a word that describes coal but here means a putrid shade of dark gray), it would be tough to argue with the results last season. Miraculously, Columbia put together its best season in over two decades, finishing at 8-2 — good for second place in the Ivy League. The come-from-behind, overtime victory against Penn on Homecoming was easily the greatest moment of my admittedly pathetic career as a Columbia sports fan.

These accomplishments are marred only slightly by the fact that they were accomplished wearing the wrong colors.

All of that, though, changed last Saturday, when Columbia announced what color they’d be wearing to take on Georgetown.


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Picture taken from Columbia Football’s Twitter feed



Gray is not an official color of Columbia University! As I observed in 2016, there is no such color as Columbia Gray. (Shout out to my friend Gray, who I met at Columbia!)

So, if you’re keeping track at home, the Lions now have four primary uniforms available to them. One is white, one is royal blue, and two are different shades of gray. At this rate, by 2036 the football uniforms will be… don’t make me say it…

i’m sorry i’m trying to remove it

I genuinely don’t understand the infatuation with gray.

The Columbia athletic department, in conversation with their graphic designer.

These uniforms aren’t awful by themselves — I love the way the COLUMBIA BLUE numbers catch the eye, splashes of brilliant color standing out from their drab surroundings. But when you pair gray jerseys with a white helmet, it just looks like you put white jerseys through a bad washer cycle. (Just ask the New England Patriots, who used to have an awful gray alternate of their own. I wonder what the connection is there.)

And now, a break for some guest rants

By now, you all know what I think about the Columbia uniforms. But I am, of course, not the only fan of the football team.


I reached out to some other longtime fans of the football team to get their take on the uniform travesty. Their responses have been lightly edited so that this piece is not 8,000 words long.

Jonathan Jager

I looked at some pictures and they appear to have navy blue uniforms and light grey uniforms? Where did this come from? The school publishes a magazine called “The Blue and White.” The cheerleaders have some chant about “blue” and “white.” The official university design guidelines say the school colors are “blue” and “white”. Why are the uniforms navy and grey? At least the numbers are light blue… Is this what progress looks like in 2018?

Also, the jersey design is so uninspired. They look like generic “football” uniforms you’d find in a costume warehouse in Hollywood–recognizable enough that we know they’re football players, but not specific enough to distract us whatever Shondaland-equse melodrama is happening in the foreground. Did the uniform design crew forget they had a job, and then just choose some “cool” font in MS Word at the last minute and call it a day? The team is finally having some success and the Athletics department still can’t bother to do their jobs and design a uniform.

Sara Weaver

Tried to see the new uniforms. Went to Google.

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 12.27.19 PM

Sam Tydings

Columbia Blue. Pantone 290. B9D9EB. Call it what you will, it is the color that defines our university. Go out to any football game this fall and you’ll see countless students, alumni, and fans wearing Columbia blue shirts, jackets, and beanies, but you won’t see the players on the field wearing it for some reason. The team has four uniforms, yet none of them show off the color that represents our community.

Now that the team is less of an embarrassment compared to my time at the school (end of Wilson, beginning of Mangurian eras), it would be wonderful if the team returned to a color scheme that is easily identifiable with the school’s so that an era of success can be tied to the light blue that makes us unique.

I am not a crackpot.

What does the Columbia football team have to say about this?

It seemed only fair, too, that I give Columbia a chance to explain themselves. Frankly, at this point I’m insanely curious what the thought process is behind each year’s uniforms.

I reached out to Columbia Athletics a week before this post was published, asking for comment. This is something I’ve done before as a writer for After sending a follow-up email, the staff person asked which outlet I was writing for. Passing up the opportunity to use a hilarious joke publication name, like Ivy League Athletics Uniforms Quarterly or Light Blue Aficiondado, I told him that I would be publishing this on my own web site.

At that point, I was told that Columbia Athletics had no comment on the uniform colors.

Now, obviously I can understand why a PR flack might not want to talk to me. My last two posts have been very critical of the football program, and hypercaution has always been the standard stance of the athletic department.

But if there’s a good reason why you’re doing something, you should stand behind that idea. You should be willing to talk about it with anyone, and maybe you’ll change their mind. (After all, Penn’s football team participated in a whole thing with the Daily Pennsylvanian about their new uniforms just yesterday.)

I remain open to understanding Columbia’s thinking on the matter. Instead, Columbia quite inadvertently proved my point.

They won’t defend the uniform colors.

Because they can’t.

Columbia Football Sports

The Columbia football team should wear Columbia blue uniforms, 2017 edition

One of the primary perks of obtaining a bachelor’s degree is the right to complain wildly about the decisions, big or small, that your alma mater makes long after you’ve graduated.

With great power, as we all know, comes great responsibility. So it is with a great sense of responsibility that I now, for the second year in a row, write a screed about the travesty that is the Columbia football team’s home uniform.

I wrote most of this down last year, and this post repeats and re-alleges each and every allegation from last year’s blog post as if fully set forth herein. If necessary, I will write a post on this issue at the start of football season every year until the Sun finally expands to swallow this Earth once and for all.

The short summary of the problem, for those of you who are bored already, is as follows:

  • Columbia University has a color named after it, Columbia Blue. It’s a pleasant shade of light blue (Pantone 290, to be precise, or the marginally darker Pantone 292 when used by the athletic department) and is the official color of the university.
  • For many years, Columbia’s derelict football team wore Columbia Blue uniforms for their home games.
  • This was the only bright spot for the football team, which has managed to be so bad for so long that even the Washington Generals are curious how Columbia has pulled it off.
  • In 2015, Columbia, finally taking decisive action after 55 years of incompetence and increasingly improbable methods of failure, hired a legendary football coach and changed their home uniforms to be “anthracite” in color.

Let’s stop here to ponder “anthracite.” Anthracite, as my friend Jonathan Jager informed me last year, is “a type of coal found primarily in northeastern Pennsylvania.” So, for starters, “anthracite” isn’t even a geographically appropriate color for the Columbia Lions, who are located in Manhattan, New York City, New York State. (You would think that New Yorkers, not known for their curiosity about any part of America outside the five boroughs, would’ve raised more of a stink about this.)

On top of that — and I really cannot stress this point enough — anthracite is a grey color, not a blue one. This would be like if Brown University, which also has a color named after it (“Brown”) wore green uniforms at home, because green is more manly and rough and whatever kind of bullshit you want to throw out there than brown is.

(In case it’s unclear, my annoyance with the new uniforms is 70% because they only changed colors because some marketing guru somewhere thought grey anthracite uniforms would make the team look tough, and 30% because there’s a perfectly good color called Columbia blue already out there.)

After slogging through 2015 with uniforms that had, essentially, no blue at all in them, the Lions took a baby step forward with their 2016 alternate uniforms, which you can see here. Wow!

columbia football 2 These were better, because (1) they reduced the wretched anthracite tops to only one appearance all season, (2) they actually had some of the color blue in it, and (3) parts of the uniform were Columbia blue! The sleeves and the numbers were restored to the official color of the university. For this bone, apparently, I should be thankful.

However. Let’s look at this helpful graphic on Wikipedia called “shades of blue.” Because it’s on Wikipedia, these are (of course) the only official shades of blue in existence.


Look at the picture of the alternates. Now back here. What color blue are these alternates? They’re certainly not Columbia blue! I would say it’s either Egyptian blue or “International Klein Blue” (which, according to Wikipedia, is the official color of the Blue Man Group). But, again, the point is that they’re not Columbia blue.

It’s not like the Lions have been world-beaters in any of these uniforms. But it does seem like adding more Columbia blue helps! Since changing uniforms in 2015, they’re 3-7 when wearing white (on the road), 1-3 when in Egyptian blue, and 1-5 in the horrifying anthracite abominations. So — when at home, at least — more Columbia blue helps the team win. Clearly the only solution is to make the uniforms Columbia blue again and the Lions will finally win more than four games in a season.

(Screeds tend to run out of energy toward the end; mine is no exception. It’s exhausting to spend 700 words explaining why this vey obviously wrong thing is wrong. Time for the big finale.)

Peter Pilling and Al Bagnoli, please. You’ve done a lot in 2.5 years in charge of the Columbia Athletics program, from building a beautiful inflatable bubble over Baker Field to making our players no longer insanely racist on social media. You can fix this, too.

It’s so simple.

Call Nike. (They clearly make light blue football uniforms.)

Tell them you want Columbia blue uniforms for the Columbia football team.



Columbia Football Sports

The Columbia football team should wear Columbia blue uniforms

As any longtime reader will know, this blog is pretty much exclusively limited to topics that are so myopic that they are only interesting to me.

This particular post is probably the ultimate example of that vision, as I’m going to rant for a bit about the color of Columbia’s football uniforms.

Last year, in conjunction with the beginning of a “new era” in Columbia football, the Lions introduced a radical redesign to the traditional Columbia blue shirts that the team has worn for eons. The home uniform is a color called “anthracite,” which is a fancy word here meaning “really black-ish gray.” The road uniform is white, but the main trim color is also “anthracite” rather than Columbia blue.

This morning, I woke up to this tweet, announcing that this weekend Columbia will wear an alternate uniform for the first time.


Setting aside the misspelling of “Wien Stadium” — which, as the location where Columbia plays its football games, is a word you’d think the appropriate people would spell correctly — these new navy alternate uniforms are not horrible. In fact, they’re perfectly good alternate uniforms. They have an appropriate amount of Columbia blue (sleeves, numbers) and aren’t “anthracite.” That’s enough for me.

But that doesn’t change the overriding point. I hate this entire uniform set so much, because none of the uniforms are Columbia blue.


Which one is my favorite? I hate all of them.

In these seven uniform combinations, Columbia blue is the fourth most prominent color after white, “anthracite,” and navy. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the color Columbia blue is literally named after Columbia University. It should be one of the predominant colors that a team representing the university wears on the field.

There is no such color as “Columbia gray.” Though I do have a friend from Columbia named Gray. I suppose I could call him Columbia Gray.

There is also no such color as “Columbia navy.” There is a color called “Yale blue.” This color is basically navy blue. Columbia should not look like Yale, which is a different school, located in Connecticut.

I believe that head coach Al Bagnoli and athletic director Peter Pilling sanctioned these sacrilegious strips because they wanted to encourage a clean break with a losing past. And they’re certainly right that the Columbia football team has been very bad. In the 6.2 seasons of Columbia football I’ve had the burden to witness, the team is 10-52.

It might even have made sense to get a new uniform design. The Lions wore their last set for twenty games in 2013 and 2014, and the Lions lost all twenty of those games.

But to cut Columbia blue — the color that represents the University, the color named after the University — down to a mere accent, just because “anthracite” is more menacing or masculine or whatever stupid justification the marketing people at Nike cooked up for the athletic department, is insulting to the school, its alumni, and the entire point of the football program.

(After all, wearing Columbia blue didn’t stop the basketball team from winning the CIT.)

Frankly, I would rather the team never win another game than to continue to dress like a parody of a “serious” football team. Columbia football does not lose because they wear Columbia blue. They lose despite wearing Columbia blue.

I hope that Bagnoli and Pilling realize this and change the primary uniform in time for the 2017 season.

Columbia’s uniform history (2010-present)

It may not be worth tracing Columbia’s recent uniform history, but I’ve already done the research so I’m going to write down what I found.

Going back through the Columbia Spectator’s football archives is truly one of the saddest journeys a person can make. It’s filled with hilarious-in-retrospect sentences like “Pete Mangurian brings a wealth of experience to Columbia” and “it’s no secret that the Lions had a difficult 2013.”

As far as I can tell, the Norries Wilson Lions (2010-11) always wore monochrome at home — Columbia blue tops and Columbia blue pants — while alternating between blue and white pants on the road.

After large screaming man Pete Mangurian took over the program, the 2012 Lions stopped the monochrome look. Columbia blue tops were matched with white pants at home, and the team wore the reverse at home.

As part of Mangurian’s plan to restore the team to respectability, the Lions unveiled beautiful new uniforms before the 2013 season. For two years, the Lions wore Columbia blue tops with no crazy striping and piping paired with sleek white pants trimmed in navy accents at home, with the mirror-image white tops worn with either white or blue pants on the road. A subtle stripe added to the helmets completed the look.

This was a gorgeous, simple set of uniforms, and Columbia never won a single game wearing them. In two seasons, the team went 0-20, culminating in the resignation of athletic director M. Dianne Murphy and the dismissal of Mangurian. In three seasons, the man who said he wanted to use the “W” word — “win” — won exactly three games, finishing on a 21-game losing streak.

In 2015, Al Bagnoli broke out the current gray monstrosities, accented with navy and Columbia blue and with the word “LIONS” written on the pants for some reason. The Roar-ee Lion logo replaced the letter C on the white helmets — the only positive development of this uniform set.

Making matters worse, the team only wore gray pants, so at home the Lions looked like a team of lead pencils while on the road they looked like led pencils with a really, really sharp point. So far this year, though, the Lions did break out white pants for their road matchup against Georgetown, easily the best possible combination. And this weekend against Princeton they’ll wear navy blue for the first time, prompting this fun rant from me.