It's Tuesday, which means we are just two days (!) away from the opening night of the 2010 college football season (with a full slate of 18 games), and just four days from the first Saturday. Another year of rivalries, tailgates and BCS controversies is upon us, meaning it is time to make room for Chris, Krik, Corso and Desmond on Saturday mornings, put together your best recipes and hang those posters of shirtless, oiled-up teenagers. Wait, what was that last one?
The Wall Street Journal has picked up on a new trend: college football team photos becoming less about sitting on the bleachers in their uniforms, ("Like your father used to!") and more about stripping off their shirts, oiling up and standing around a $120,000 orange Lamborghini Gallardo (see: Volunteers, Tennessee).
As the WSJ so eloquently puts it, the start of the '10 season also represents "the last window for teams to take their preseason beefcake photos."
They're officially called "conditioning photos" by the schools and are "printed in small quantities and given to players to hand out to friends and family as evidence of their progress in physical training." But obviously, the more ridiculous ones find their way online (like Duke's "Iron Dukes" poster, and Georgia Tech's shot with "Transformer" cars, both from last year). But it's Tennessee, apparently, that deserves the credit for starting this baby oil movement.
Tennessee's late strength coach John Stucky, who ran the program from 1994 to 2002 and mentored some 30 strength coaches working now at schools across the country, found it to be a great way to motivate college-aged men, his colleagues say (only players who met certain goals got spots). The school's star alums agree. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning says that when he played for Tennessee in the mid '90s, a spot in the front row was a "pride thing," and he and his teammates would arrive to the weight room as early as they could on photo day to do enough lifts and push-ups to make their muscles bulge. "There was a lot of baby oil involved," recalls Mr. Manning. "It helps with muscle definition."
As you might expect, some schools and athletic departments are trying to distance themselves from this practice. Georgia Tech's assistant athletic director, Dean Buchan, is worried about "sending the wrong message to fans"; USC stopped it altogether for the past few years, for fear of violating rules (but the Trojans did take a "topless photo" this season, though are unsure if they'll print it); even Virginia Tech, where its players were fully clothed, had their own second-guessing, with the athletic-department photography coordinator saying that this picture was "not in our best interest."
Now, please allow Chuck Stiggins, executive director of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, to put this all in perspective: "As long as it's just their shirts that are off, it's probably a good thing."