Way back in 2005, I wrote an ESPN column that included this note from reader Jim Holt:
In the 1960s, when the Washington Huskies wore plain gold helmets, players who graded out to some absurdly high level on defense would be awarded a purple helmet for the next game. So you’d have most of the team wearing gold, but one or two guys a game on defense would be outfitted in purple.
I’d never seen photos or video of this phenomenon until yesterday, when reader Chris Rocco pointed me toward some video footage from the 1970 Stanford/Washington game, which is embedded above. To see the mismatched helmets, skip ahead to the 28:45 mark (or just click here). Great find!
As many of you probably know, this isn’t the only example of a college football team wearing mismatched helmets. That same ESPN column from 2005 included this quote from reader Chris Andringa:
In the mid-1980s, Iowa State head coach Jim Criner instituted an “award helmet,” instead of merit decals. ISU’s helmet at the time was a yellow shell with a red stripe and logo; the award helmet was a red shell with yellow stripe and logo:
In a 1983 newspaper article, Criner said, “By providing a different-colored helmet, you won’t see running backs and wide receivers with 10,000 decals on their helmets and some ol’ offensive and defensive linemen, who do the majority of the work, with nothing on their helmets.” According to the 1985 ISU football media guide, “Yes, using two different-colored helmets is legal. The players simply are required to wear matching jerseys.” Of course, this made scouting easy for the opponent — just find the guys in red helmets and key on them.
Judging by that photo, it looks like there were more players with the red award helmets than with the standard yellow helmets!
And of course my ESPN column just two days ago included a link to this photo of Alabama wearing mismatched helmets:
Are there other examples of teams with mismatched helmet shells? I feel like there are, but my memory banks are coming up empty. Anyone..?
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