Candy stripes are ubiquitous among Indiana’s 24 athletic teams.
They subtly adorn the football and many of the school’s other uniforms, and of course you know that the men’s and women’s basketball teams wear candy stripe warm-up pants.
Many likely assume that the stripes originated with the men’s basketball program. They made their first appearance with the team in 1971 when Bob Knight’s first IU squad played the program’s first season at the new Assembly Hall.
It was entirely new era for IU basketball, and so it only makes sense that Knight and his new staff came up with the idea to usher in the candy stripe transformation. Right?
It was another legendary Indiana coach who brought the stripes to Bloomington, and it was an idea born out functionality rather than fashion.
“Initially Doc Counsilman put stripes on swimsuits so he could see the rotation of the swimmer, and somehow that bled into candy stripe sweats and they were winning NCAA Titles and doing amazingly well,” current IU swimming coach Ray Looze said in a video released by the school.
The candy stripes were one of many innovations by Counsilman. He pioneered several swimming coaching and training techniques that helped to propel the Hoosiers to six national titles. One such innovation was the use of underwater filming to observe swimming stroke mechanics. The observations gained from this revolutionized the understanding of the various forces that propel swimmers. Counsilman also developed a pace clock which allowed swimmers to keep their own time during interval training.
When Knight arrived in 1971, he was looking to establish his own unique look for the team, and he turned to Counsilman, who would become a good friend.
“Bob Knight approached Doc Counsilman and said ‘Doc, would you have any problem if I used those sweats for the basketball team’ and Doc said ‘oh absolutely,'” Looze recalled.
Long time IU basketball public address announcer Chuck Crabb recalls that the specific design that Counsilman and diving coach Hobie Billingsley developed is much the same as the iconic basketball warm-up pants fans recognize today.
“They came up with a pair of trunks that had white panels on the side and then red front and back with a block IU, and that was in a sense the start of the candy stripes,” Crabb said.
The trunks and Counsilman’s many other innovations led to unprecedented success in the pool. He was hired in 1958 and in 1961 IU won its first swimming and diving Big Ten championship.
In 1968, Indiana won its first NCAA men’s swimming title and it would be the first of six in a row. The Hoosiers would also win 20 Big Ten titles in a row from 1961 to 1980.
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