Ball State’s “Necessary” Neu Era

For my first blog post of the new year, my first thought was to talk about the record-breaking amount that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens took in during its opening weekend. $248 Million was pulled in thanks to Nostalgia, JJ Abrams and its Marketing. However, that will come another time…

Something very interesting happened over the holidays at the school that I called home for four years, as Ball State’s football coach Pete Lembo, only two years into a five-year extension he signed after the ’13 season, resigned to become an Assistant Head Coach/Special Team Coordinator at Maryland. A very curious move indeed, as it was only two years ago that Lembo was in line to take over a Power 5 program is he wanted after bringing Ball State multiple over .500 seasons. Lembo was rewarded for his loyalty with the aforementioned extension, but after two subpar years (5-7 and 3-9) he decided that the time was now to make a move.

Saying no to a Power 5 program in favor of an extension is one thing, but leaving a D1 Head Coaching position for an Assistantship at a program that looks like has regressed since moving to the Big Ten. Let alone to become a Special Teams Coordinator? There is always the family circumstance that is often a behind the scenes factor in these decisions and it appears to have played a part. However, a move like this seems like such a risk, especially when there is a possibility that Lembo could secure a position like this if he was fired before his extension runs out.

So what does this move mean? Is there further backstory here? Bruce Feldman’s article on FOX Sports indicates that Lembo was finally frustrated enough with the lack of Athletics Resources that the university provides (or doesn’t), that he decided to left. To me, this seems like an indication that the Ball State program is in trouble. What Power 5 assistant coach would be willing to come to a program when the HC leaves to take a Power 5 assistant job themselves? The Department, Program and Cardinal Brand need a reinvention if for anything else to find a viable coaching candidate. Which is why I propose that Ball State reach out to one of its current resources to figure out… their expiring apparel contract.

Ball State’s contract with Nike expires on January 31st, 2016 and now is the time to use this negotiative tool to introduce a New Brand for the Ball State Cardinals. We are in the time where apparel companies Nike, adidas and Under Armour are competing with each other in order to make their mark and impact to the viewing public, showing that their apparel is the best. Universities can use these apparel contracts to create eye-catching uniforms and apparel that incoming recruits and players will want to wear and show off across the campus. You only need to look at examples like Boise State’s Nike Rebrand, adidas’s creative uniforms for Texas A&M and Louisville and Under Armour’s Shamrock Series options for Notre Dame.

During the past couple of seasons, Ball State Athletics have almost been trying to play catch up with the rest of the NCAA. They first introduced a black uniform option for most sports in 2013-14 (truly believe it was because BFBS) and after having their first alternate football helmet during the ’14 season (also black), the program introduced multiple helmet options for the first time. These helmets included options like camo and pink for Military Appreciation and Breast Cancer Awareness respectively, along with white and black helmet options with player numbers on one side of the helmets. While not bad looking, the helmet options seem to have come at a time where their rival programs, the rest of Division 1 for that matter, have already hat multiple helmet/uniform options for half-a-decade.

2016 will also come at a time of transition for Ball State University as a whole. A new president has come on to the Muncie campus and has already started an overall university rebrand, with removing the “Education Redefined” tagline from all promotional materials. Under President Ferguson, the university is still trying to find its identity, along with the football program. So, why not try and merge the re-branding efforts and work to unite the university, both athletics and academics, under a single, Cardinal banner?

We only need to look at what Boise State University did from 2010-2012 with Nike, where their re-branding not only provided their athletics programs with new, sleek uniforms and logos, but also designed new word marks, scripts and brand standards that the university can call their own. The incorporate of their new Boise State script, the new lead letter “B” design and the emphasis on the Bronco head has given Boise State a brand presence that has resonated note only with the Western U.S., but throughout the entire country.


In order to define itself within the crowded Midwest and with bringing in a new head coach, Ball State needs a rebrand like this. What better way than by having the new apparel partners deliver a great new look for the Cardinals? As an alum of Ball State I have a few ideas for how this design can take place, since I am not creative enough to design this myself:

  • Alternate Logo/Wordmark
    • I believe that like Boise State before them, we need to incorporate a redesign of the Ball State “B” logo. Whether this means an adjustment to Ball State script/wordmark as a whole, the current “basic” B is way too plain, especially for a Division 1 athletic department. High Schools have more interesting “B” logos than Ball State’s.
    • Recently, Ball State Athletics removed the “movement lines” that have been a part of the Cardinal logo since 1990, when the Cardinal was redesigned from the previous, Arizona Cardinal version. These “lines” are unique to Ball State’s Cardinal, in fact unique compared to most bird logos in the NCAA. Re-inserting these lines into the newly designed “B” logo allows the university to maintain aspects of its previous branding into the updated look.
    • This new “B” can be very versatile in the fact that it can be used across all of the school’s sports, like on baseball caps, the collars for both football and basketball and a new badge/shield for soccer.
    • Whether this means a completely updated “Ball State” wordmark, I am not sure, but it is not something we should look past proposing…

Ball_state_text_logo.jpg                              Ball-State-Cardinals-logo.jpg

  • Helmet
    • One word, WINGS.
    • I know what you are thinking… This has been done before. I realize that! In fact, please see the list and images below:
      • South Carolina – Gamecock Tail Feathers
      • Miami of Ohio – Feather-textured Helmet
      • Eastern Michigan – Eagle Wing design on Back of Helmet
      • Rice – 2013 Bowl Game; 1990 Season (Eagles)
      • Oregon – We are all aware of Oregon from 2012-2014
    • I do not believe we need a full, redesigned Cardinal at this time, like in Louisville’s case from their season opener this year. A little too detailed than what is necessary in my opinion.

south-carolina-alternative-helmets-vs-florida.jpg       miamiohhelmet2.jpg

EMU_Helmet_Decals_20131019165337_320_240.png       81a76712112699.562576f5472f7.jpg

Bc1eMn1CAAAP4-D_crop_north_crop_north.jpg      99030431_rice-owls-football-helmet-front-nameplate-decal-ebay.jpg

f12a7393b42a6ad19b0dacf7ee4856cf.jpg     Oregon-Helmet.jpg


  • Shoulder Pads
    • Again, I believe that WINGS that should be incorporated into the uniform. However, we should avoid repeating the Cardinal wings for this portion and focus more on the other important Ball State branding aspect, Beneficence.
    • The Beneficence statue has been a part of the Ball State advertising campaign ever since I can remember, appearing in everything from TV Spots, Business Cards, Email Signatures and practically anything in the Local Bookstore. Inexplicably, she has been left off any aspect of the athletics program, with not one jersey featuring some form of her.
    • This is the type of thing that is incorporating itself across uniforms around the country, with athletics honoring the campus as a whole. I like to think of Northwestern Football’s Gothic Uniforms and Duke Basketball’s Campus Gates as the main example of this.
    • I believe incorporating Beneficence’s wings into the jersey, whether a main or alternate, will bring out some campus pride. That way, students and alumni can call them out on TV and say “I know those! I know the [significance] of that.
    • Other universities have incorporated wings onto their shoulder pads as well, including:
      • Miami FL
      • Miami of Ohio (more feathers)
      • Florida Atlantic
      • Eastern Michigan (see above)
    • As a side idea, especially if we resign with Nike, incorporating the full Beneficence statue to the back of player uniforms (coming into focus when they sweat) would be a beautiful addition to those uniforms.

download.jpeg       Ball_State_University.png

Miami-Adidas-Uniforms-3.jpg    mia-13-whitehelm-1-675x380.jpg


Again, it bears repeating that I am not a designer or else I would have given this a try myself. However, as an alum of Ball State and a passionate Sports Marketing fan, I am a firm believer that if Ball State redefines itself as a brand they will become a consistent power in the Mid-American Conference. The new brand can draw in the recruits, for all sports, that wouldn’t necessarily consider becoming a Cardinal in the first place.

We now live in a time where it is not only about the academic prowess or the records of the teams themselves, but about capturing a look that entices potential recruits. These recruits/students want to be the face of the campus, known as they walk from class to class, with the goal of becoming BMOC.

Therefore, what I am asking is to see if any designers are willing come up with a concept for this potential redesign, with the football team’s branding and uniforms as the primary focus? I want to post these potential concepts on message boards like, BSU Athletics, Uni-Watch, etc… I want to see if my ideas

So what do you say? Let’s redefine what it means to be a Cardinal and a fan.


UPDATE: This was written before the hiring of Mike Neu as the new football head coach. They have already begun using the hashtag of #NeuEra, which is a great start for the athletic program. Now it is time to take the next step! A Ball State rebrand under this #NeuEra can be the beginning of bringing the team and university to the today of the MAC and its featured MACtion presentations on ESPN.


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