10 FBS Teams That Should Make Throwback Helmets Permanent
With Pitt returning to its classic script helmet this fall (albeit with slightly different colors than before), it got us thinking: What other FBS teams should also turn back the clock and make throwback helmets permanent? Here are 10 schools that should follow Pitt’s lead.
— Written by Jim Weber, a veteran college sports journalist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Weber has written for CBS Sports Network, NBCSports.com, ESPN the Magazine and the college sports website he founded and sold, LostLettermen.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber.
Syracuse’s orange helmets sans logo worn by the likes of QBs Don McPherson, Marvin Graves and Donovan McNabb take fans back to a time when the Orange regularly won New Year’s Day bowl games and the Carrier Dome was rocking. Plus, is there anything more unoriginal than a college football helmet with a block-letter logo?
Navy’s current helmet is like Notre Dame’s but without any of the aura, elegance or real gold flakes of the Golden Domers. It’s time for the Midshipmen to go back to a lid that signifies it is the Naval Academy with this dome from the 1960 Army-Navy Game featuring an anchor decal on the side. Not only is it a beautiful and classic look, it also harkens back to a time when Navy was a college football powerhouse.
(1960 Navy helmet photo courtesy of www.helmethut.com)
8. Iowa State
In one of the worst rebrandings in recent memory, Iowa State ditched its Cy the Cardinal helmet in 2008 for a block “I” lid with “STATE” across it. Not only is the new logo fugly, Iowa State’s entire look feels like a cheap imitation of USC. While a cartoon half-bird, half-cyclone logo might not be the most intimidating; it was unique to Iowa State and had a certain charm to it.
Of Oregon’s million different helmets, the Ducks’ best look continues to be the interlocking “UO” logo the team wore before becoming Nike’s lab rat in 1999. Oregon would never go back to this look permanently because of all the marketing and recruiting success the school has had from becoming the trendsetters of college football, but one can dream.
6. Ole Miss
You can never go wrong with powder blue. Ole Miss wore gorgeous helmets with a powder background for years until the school switched to a boring navy blue hue starting in 1995. The Rebels busted out the powder blues again for last season’s Sugar Bowl blowout of Oklahoma State, reminding everyone just how perfect Ole Miss’ helmets once were.
Duke has one of the most lifeless helmets in college football. If the Blue Devils are going to stick with the “D,” they should at least include the cartoon Blue Devil inside it. Or better yet, ditch the whole helmet and go back to the white lid and diabolical-looking devil that the team wore in the late 1960s. Duke wore a modified version for last season’s Pinstripe Bowl and while not as sharp as the original, it added some much-needed flare to the Blue Devils’ sideline.
(1960s Duke helmet photo courtesy of www.helmethut.com)
Here’s another block-letter helmet that needs to go. If you’ve ever seen the movie We Are Marshall, you’ll notice the Thundering Herd had a gorgeous helmet featuring a stampeding buffalo and interlocking “MU” for the 1971 season. For some inexplicable reason, that’s the only season these helmets were ever worn. It’s well past time to right that wrong.
(1971 Marshall helmet photo courtesy of The Herald-Dispatch)
3. Michigan State
Unlike most teams on this list, Michigan State’s current helmets are actually quite sharp. But the silhouette logo just can’t compete with the snarling Spartan warrior that adorned Sparty’s helmets in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Not only is the helmet a total classic, it’s also the lid MSU wore the last time it won a national title exactly 50 years ago in 1966. That’s reason enough alone for a switch.
2. Arizona State
Was there a more beloved cartoon helmet logo than Sparky the Sun Devil? Worn by the likes of Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman when the 1996 ASU squad reached the Rose Bowl and were moments away from a national title, Nike cast Sparky to the underworld in 2011 with its ridiculous “Fear the Fork” rebranding. Now an adidas school, the Three Stripes could earn back some much-needed respectability with college fans by returning Sparky to his rightful place on the side of Arizona State’s helmet.
When Hawaii decided to wear its throwback rainbow uniforms for last year’s game against Ohio State, the Internet collectively lost its mind. The school dropped this helmet in 1999 and the rainbow part of its “Rainbow Warriors” nickname a year later in part due to homophobia. Now that the “Rainbow Warriors” nickname has been restored, Hawaii should complete returning to its roots with the boldest helmet in college football.