Today is College Colors Day. http://www.collegecolorsday.com/ It looks like an event cooked up to sell more NCAA-licensed merchandise. An incremental lift in t-shirt sales on this first weekend of college football. Group shots of people wearing the names of their schools in the workplace are scattered across social media. Lots of “my school can beat up your school” Friday chatter.
People like to affiliate, to belong to something, to join a brand. Around the world, we cluster around professional sports teams, especially soccer clubs. Here in America we are blessed with the bigness of collegiate sports AND our pro leagues. And here in Middle America – the towns and states without major league franchises – big college brands fill a void.
Some schools own their territory. Others, not so much. I live in Arkansas. And here in Arkansas, the school that calls itself “Arkansas” is not just the flagship university of our state. It’s our state’s brand. The red Razorback is worn proudly by the masses: people who went to the University of Arkansas, people who went somewhere else, and people who never went to college at all. We have other great schools here in the Natural State: Hendrix College, Arkansas State and Arkansas Tech, to name a few. But nobody sports those schools’ colors unless, at some point, they really went to college there.
Affiliation with a college team is easy. Nobody asks to see your diploma. There’s an old saying in Texas: “Somebody who wears a Texas A&M shirt went to A&M. Somebody who wears a Texas Longhorns shirt went to Walmart.” I said that was an old saying. The recent success of A&M and the phenomenon known as Johnny Football have turned the tables in the Lone Star State. Now being an Aggie is cool, even if you aren’t really an Aggie.
As for me, even though I walk through the valley of cardinal-clad “Hogs” fans, my colors today are purple and gold for LSU, with a touch of red and blue for SMU. Because I actually went to school at those places. Imagine that.