We've reached a slick, sleek age of design in college athletics. Helmets are shiny. Uniforms are trim. But what about the eras that came before? Did their designs have something to say?

Of course! The athletic departments of yesteryear took risks and did great things. Things like these 21 absolutely tremendous, offbeat retro logos:

Alabama | 1952-1958 

SportsLogos.net
Not sure what the Alabama elephant is doing holding an ice cream cone/champagne glass/whatever it is, but my attention has been grabbed.

Bentley | 1988-2012

SportsLogos.net
This is a falcon holding a lightning bolt. What else could you want?

Boise State | 1974-2001

SportsLogos.net

The two-toned outline of the state, combined with the very 70s font, gives this logo a satisfyingly retro look.

Bowdoin | Era Unknown

Bowdoin University
How do you root against a team this cute? This is just a tremendous use of your school's mascot being a polar bear.

The modern Bowdoin polar bear (still very good) is much more stately and realistic, in the Coca-Cola polar bear vein, but I think Bowdoin really nailed this older logo by opting for the cuddly route. 

California Irvine | 1984-1990

UC Irvine
I say that while the Anteater is not a fearsome animal, it is absolutely a cool one. It is also absolutely better as a cartoon.

Columbia | 1936-1956

SportsLogos.net
Definitely a fan of this early-20th century lion hitting defenders with the Heisman pose. It’s a no-brainer.

Delaware | 1960s-70s

SportsLogos.net
This is an extremely angry hen! His name is Fightin’ Dick. His beak seems to have been scratched, but he’s not quitting. Good attitude.

Drexel |  Era Unknown

Not the original Drexel Dragon, but one of the first. A fuming dragon wearing school-branded apparel is definitely a good mascot. This logo existed before the dragon even had a name! (It's Mario.)

Evergreen State | Current Era

Evergreen State University
Speedy the Geoduck gets a bad rap. Some people call him weird. I think he’s pretty great, mainly because he’s very weird.

Plus, I learned about a new creature (the geoduck) thanks to Speedy. Good job, Evergreen. 

Grambling | 1956-1964

SportsLogos.net
This tiger is absolutely thrilled to attend Grambling State. I am absolutely thrilled for this tiger.

Hawaii | Era Unknown

Hero Sports
This logo is gorgeous in that uncluttered, bright, blocky retro way. Way to embrace the Rainbow, Hawaii.

Jacksonville | Until 1995

SportsLogos.net
The combination of the colors (a bygone era’s color palette, but in a good way) and the dolphin interacting with the letters makes this a winner.

Mary Baldwin College | Era Unknown

CarterGaddis.com
This is actually the logo that kickstarted this entire story. It's a fighting squirrel!

...

It's a fighting squirrel!

Maryland | 1970-1996

SportsLogos.net
Here, we have the most pleasant turtle in all the land.

Miami | 1949-1965

SportsLogos.net
I am not sure why this Ibis is so grumpy. I am sure that the colors, font, and layout of this logo are perfect.

North Carolina Wilmington | 1986-1991

SportsLogos.net
“Welcome to Wilmington. We have Seahawks that are extremely green and wear hats. Let’s play some sports!”

Northwestern | 1967-1977

SportsLogos.net
Another logo that dates itself in a good way. The leather helmet, the strangely oblong football, and a call to action: Watch the Wildcats! Do it!

Rice | 1950-1961

SportsLogos.net
This owl has three (3) articles of clothing, and its eyes are so endearingly large that you have to root for Rice at least once each calendar year. It’s a rule.

UCLA | 1964-1995

SportsLogos.net
The Bruins are known these days for their script, which is great. I think this extremely cool bear might actually be even better.

UConn | 1982-1995

SportsLogos.net
A very good dog with a very good font makes a very good logo.

Washington | 1919-1921

Univ. of Wash. Libraries
History lesson: Washington used to be called the Sun Dodgers, because it rains in Seattle. The school’s mascot was a chivalrous young boy offering you an umbrella. I love it.

Adam Hermann has written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia magazine, SB Nation, and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NCAA or its member institutions.