NORFOLK, Va. – Ricky Rahne had been named Old Dominion’s football coach only weeks earlier 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 ODU’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, 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.
Carolyn Crutchfield, executive senior associate athletic director, and Jaime Hunt, vice-president of university communications, agreed. Rahne then worked with Joshua Marlow, assistant athletic director for equipment, to get the logo and retro face masks on the helmets.
And when the logo was unveiled on Aug. 9, the internet voiced its approval.
Retro ODU t-shirts at the ODU Bookstore earlier this week.
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.
“OK . . . that is a pretty dope helmet,” Tweeted @ThunderCast_Pod, a Marshall fans podcast on the social media outlet now known as X.
It has generated 286,000 impressions on one college football X site — @redditcfb
ODU will wear also Hudson Blue uniforms, a color worn by Monarch teams in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, and the retro helmets when the Monarchs take on Texas A&M University-Commerce for homecoming on Sept. 23.
If you don’t want to wait a month, the ODU Bookstore has racetrack logo mini helmets on sale now, for $34.99 each. And you’d better hurry. There is a limited supply.
Rahne said he first saw the logo at Chartway Arena during an ODU basketball game. His family was in State College, Pennsylvania as his two boys finished school. ODU had recently hired him away from Penn State.
“I went to a lot of men’s and women’s basketball games,” he said. “What else was I gonna do, right?
“When my wife (Jen Rahne) first saw it, she was like, ‘yes, that’s really cool.'”
The logo was designed by a pretty cool guy. Robert McCullough, an arts professor who founded ODU’s graphics arts major, designed it in 1973, along with three other prototypes. The Board of Visitors adopted it as ODU’s official logo in June of 1974.
Robert McCullough and his daughter, Rachel.
McCullough passed away in 2009, but his art lives on virtually at www.robertmccullough.net, as does a scholarship named in his honor.
His art changed over the years, but throughout, his online portfolio displays the characteristics of what artists do best – make you think by using humor, satire and bold statements about society.
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 the art department “had a very close knit group of instructors” who worked hard to promote arts at ODU.
“I met Robert at ODU and married him,” she said. “We had a baby. I met Robert in a part of his life when he was ready to settle down. He was quite active in the arts community and the design business.”
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, and they say a lot.
“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.
Harriet McCullough with daughters Karen (left) and Rachel (center).
“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.”
Robert and Harriet began a graphic arts company together and she continues to work as a graphic artist. She owns her own company now called Harriet Designs.
She 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.
McCullough was in poor health when he began an exercise and diet routine later in life in hopes of seeing his daughter graduate. Alas, he died from an embolism before his daughter, Rachel Emily McCullough, graduated from William & Mary. She has since earned a master’s degree from ODU and is working on a doctorate.
McCullough was also close to his step daughter, Karen Danielle Gummo, whom he considered as much a part of his family as Rachel.
Robert Wojtowicz, Ph.D., vice provost and dean of the graduate school at ODU, 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.”