Ricky Rahne had been Old Dominion's football coach only weeks when he first saw a long-retired ODU logo that made him stop and take a good, long look.
Called the racetrack logo, it was adopted as the University's official logo in 1974 and adorned letterheads, T-shirts, jerseys and many other items around campus before being retired in 1986.
It's a simple yet eclectic design, with three curvy lines joined together like a racetrack that form ODU in small letters. When retro T-shirts with the logo appear in the ODU Bookstore, they sell briskly.
"Not all the retro stuff from the 1960s and 1970s is cool," Rahne said. "I mean, bell bottoms? They're not cool. And disco music? Definitely not cool.
"But that logo, it's really cool. It's simple. And it says who we are, that we are ODU."
Nearly four years after he first saw the logo at a basketball game, Rahne pitched a creative idea to ODU administrators. He suggested that it become the emblem for ODU's homecoming.
Put the logo on helmets and on T-shirts that we distribute to fans. Make it a part of all of our Homecoming promotions.
"The racetrack logo was one of the coolest brand missions we ever had. I'm glad to see it coming back for a special occasion." - Robert Wojtowicz, ODU’s vice provost and graduate school dean
Carolyn Crutchfield, executive senior associate athletic director, and Jaime Hunt, vice president of university communications and chief marketing officer, agreed. Rahne then worked with Joshua Marlow, assistant athletic director for equipment, to get the logo and retro face masks on the helmets.
The logo was unveiled in August. Within days, it attracted hundreds of thousands of impressions on social media and positive comments from ODU fans, national sports writers and even some fans of other teams.
The Monarchs will wear also Hudson Blue uniforms, a color worn by Monarch teams in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, and the retro helmets when they take on Texas A&M University-Commerce for Homecoming on Sept. 23.
The logo was designed by Robert McCullough, an arts professor who founded ODU's graphics arts major, in 1973 along with three other prototypes. The Board of Visitors adopted it as ODU's official logo in June 1974.
McCullough died in 2009, but his art lives on virtually at www.robertmccullough.net, as does a scholarship named in his honor.
He was married to Harriet McCullough, also a graphic artist who worked with her husband in ODU's art department until shortly after his death.
She said he didn't talk much about the racetrack logo, but that she found comments he wrote in 1974 that were considered by the Board of Visitors.
"This is a crucial period for higher education," he wrote. "Questions are being raised. Many segments of society are asking themselves whether their support and interest in any educational institution is justifiable. Colleges and universities now find themselves competing for the funds, energy and time of a society overburdened with such demands.
"An identifying mark will help ODU in its quest for the attention and interest of the people it communicates with. It can present a unified and dynamic image of the University to the prospective student, the University community, alumni, legislators and the community at large."
Harriet was touched to learn that Rahne thought so much of her husband's logo and that it will be a featured part of ODU's homecoming.
"That would have pleased Robert very much," she said.
Robert Wojtowicz, ODU’s vice provost and dean of the graduate school, is a friend of the McCullough family and is excited about homecoming.
"The racetrack logo was one of the coolest brand missions we ever had," he said. "I'm glad to see it coming back for a special occasion. It's a bold move by athletics that I think is really going to pay off."
Rahne said it won't be the last time ODU fans see the racetrack logo. Eventually, he said, the logo will appear on ODU uniforms.
"I think it's particularly good for Homecoming," he said, "But I think, in general, it's something I would like to do probably one game a year.
"Our players love it and I've heard nothing but great things about it from our fans."
A longer version of this story appears on the ODU athletics website.