ST. LOUIS - Tiny Lindenwood University has tackled the challenge of making its stadium unforgettable in its first year of college football.
For good or bad, the newly installed striped football field did the trick.
On the Belleville, Ill., campus that once was a high school, the school has created an online buzz over the turf's maroon and gray striping that has drawn equally alternating ridicule for its garishness and respect for the boldness. It makes the program one of the few with turf that's not traditional green.
That attention reached an apex this week, when a Yahoo! Sports columnist blogged that the 3,000-student Lindenwood campus' field installed as part of its $2.3-million makeover of the 4,200-seat stadium "is an abomination to the game."
"It looks like a flattened out barbershop pole. What happened to good ol' green?" Graham Watson wrote, pointing out that the playing surface "will surely set the Lynx apart from any other team in the entirety of college football."
To Lindenwood administrator Jerry Bladdick, that's always been the intent the moment the school's athletics director approached him last year with the idea of throwing out conformity when it came to the turf. The president of the main campus in St. Charles, Mo., signed off on the plan Bladdick said works into the school's "branding mission."
"This university doesn't aspire to be like any other university, on the academic front or the athletic front," said Bladdick, the vice president and chief administrative officer of the campus in Belleville, a town of 40,000 just east of St. Louis. "This is our way of coming into our own."
To Bladdick, the online criticism is "interesting and amusing."
"I think it's hysterical. In this day and age, people are hung up over college turf," he added, insisting the viral talk of the Lynx's new turf has drawn calls from Chicago to Seattle from prospective students applauding the daring choice. "We almost wish we would have stitched our phone number on the colored turf."
Boise State has a blue field some deride as "Smurf Turf." At Eastern Washington, the field is all red. Central Arkansas' turf has a two-toned look.
"It's different, and I'm proud of it," Julie Sydow, a 26-year-old Lindenwood graduate student, said Friday. "I say that being in a small city, it gives us a big-city flair. I like the approach that it puts us on the map."
"Yeah, it's different. But it definitely gives us something to be known for," added Lindenwood student Daniel Restrepo, a 24-year-old Bogata, Colombia, native working on a master's degree in human resources.
It's an affection not everyone shares.
"The circus called - they want their tarp back!!" one man wrote on the campus' Facebook page. "Who thought up the color scheme for your football field? It's hideous!! That thing is a headache on turf! Congratulations, the field is a long-standing object of ridicule, and I'm sure that we'll all be reading and hearing about this for quite some time."
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