Vanderbilt will roll into 2015 with more than just the traditional star-V on their helmets. The Commodores' new kits will emphasize the "Anchor Down" motto by putting the school's famed anchor of gold on the back of at least two sets of helmets this fall and replacing the sometimes-used center stripes with a chain. Commodore Defensive Quality Control Coach Rod Chance tweeted out a picture of the new hats on Wednesday night, sparking a quick maelstrom of reactions:
Derek Mason must be happy to have found a way to convey the "anchor down" message without being penalized for wearing improper jerseys. While most of the negative reaction came from trolling Tennessee detritus, at least one member of the national media spoke out against the big anchors. New York Times bestseller Jeffery Pearlman took to Twitter to bash the Commodores' new helmets.
What, exactly, was Vanderbilt thinking with its new helmets? Terrible. pic.twitter.com/yN8i49Q9Zs
— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) August 6, 2015
I, respectfully, disagree:
In a world where Oregon can roll out a locker room of EPA disasters and bring five-star recruits to campus, the big logo and anchor combination should be good enough to lure a few more three-star players to Nashville. Nothing on this helmet is a departure from Commodore tradition; the Star-V is bigger, sure, and the anchor is making it's first significant appearance on the Vanderbilt uniform, but both are key pieces of this team's identity. More than anything, that anchor is the key identifier to a Brand New Vandy. It's a step forward for a program that is still tied to the thrashings of the past rather than three bowl-eligible seasons in the past four years.
Aesthetically, I do have a problem with the black helmets. There's so little contrast between the logo, the chain, and the anchor that nothing stands out. A limited white drop shadow could help this logo really pop - like it does on the white helmet. There, you can see a gold undercurrent separating the the Commodores' anchor from the helmet. For whatever reason, that depth isn't present on the matte black helmet, where a black shadow blends directly into a helmet with the same color. If Vandy is going for the all-black Death Star look in 2015, that's fine - but there's still plenty of room in a light-swallowing outfit for the contrast that will allow the highlights of the uniform to actually stand out.
So while these helmets aren't a home run, they're a solid extra-base hit for a program that needs an infusion of excitement to lure prospects after last year's 3-9 season. Vanderbilt isn't yet at the stage where they're throwing fluorescent anchors and Cornelius heads on their shoulder pads, so they're still years behind the cutting edge of awful design when it comes to college football uniforms. The classic colors - black, white, and gold - are still intact. Simple symbolism is still there in the form of established icons. It's bigger, flashier, and proper for an NCAA landscape that continues to evolve towards uniforms that are pried from 1990s cartoons rather than tried and true designs.
Overall, the new look is a solid "B." It's not a complete overhaul, but anything flashier would have been a conspicuous move from a staff that would be blamed for trying to deflect attention away from their team with shiny new uniforms. It retains Vanderbilt's tradition while giving recruits something to Tweet about and raises the school's profile in early August. That's a win - even if you think the big anchors are an eyesore.