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Decoding Michigan’s Merit Decals Ahead of Tonight’s National Championship Game

If you’re watching tonight’s CFP national championship game between Michigan and Washington (here’s the latest on the uniform matchup), you’ll probably see lots of close-ups of Michigan’s helmets, which are studded with a season’s worth of merit decals (or pride stickers, or whatever you want to call them). Michigan has been wearing these since 2015, when Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach.

The Detroit Free Press has a good article that decodes the Wolverines’ various decal designs. I don’t want to copy/paste the entire thing, but here’s a taste:

  • A sticker featuring a wolverine facing left with a number on it denotes a win. It is by far the most common type of sticker on the helmets. The number represents the win in program history, which surpassed 1,000 this season.
  • A sticker reading “EUTM” means “An Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind.” Named after Jim Harbaugh’s book, it goes to deserving players. Harbaugh specifically called out Kris Jenkins when he unveiled the sticker over the summer, but it went to other leaders on the team as well, including Blake Corum.
  • Stickers that read TED signify players who were “there every day.” It goes to players who were in every spring and fall practice.

There’s more, so I encourage you to read the entire Free Press article. That article in turn links out to this blog page, which is also worth checking out.

Enjoy the game tonight!

(My thanks to Phil for alerting me to the Free Press article.)

Comments (12)

    There are a couple schools for whom I think the pride stickers not only work, but are an integral part of their look (think of all the Buckeye leaves on THE). I love how they start the season with blank helmets, then add them with each win (and ONLY with each win).

    Never liked it when UM started it.

    First of all, their main rival if FAMOUS for this, so you’d think they’d want to differentiate themselves from OSU.

    Secondly, and perhaps most importantly — and anyone who watches the game tonight will notice — I don’t like it aesthetically.

    The Fritz Crisler design looks great, but the maize stickers visually affect how the helmets look at distance. It muddles the look, and in some cases, with some highly decorated players, almost turns the helmets gold.


    Picture seeing that at distance. The helmet looks maize with some blue splotches. Not ideal, IMO.


    OSU’s works not only because they were one of the first (the first?) schools to do it, but also because they have a solid gray (silver) helmet with only stripes and no logo or design, and the buckeye leaves, (1) mostly blend in, and (2) progressively encompass more and more of the helmet during a successful season. It’s their *thing* and it works.


    Not so much with UM.

    Agreed on all counts. With a special shout out to the squad in Doonesbury.

    Also TED is already a thing.

    And good players move around every season, so this is a real obvious way to show off the 5th year senior guard who’s playing college ball for the “right reasons.”

    As much as I hate to say anything even remotely positive about THE Ohio State University, another reason why it works is because the stickers are all the same and they’re all in a line. Michigan’s mish-mash of TED, area codes, etc just looks a mess.

    I will add that the decals on Michigan’s helmets aren’t even applied uniformly. Some have decals plastered across the back, covering the base of the wings, while other helmets only have them on the blue sections. And similar to my feelings on Stanford’s helmet stickers, all in all, it’s simply a convoluted mess. Pick a logo/design OR use helmet stickers. Not both.

    The helmet decals are an accumulation of the player’s entire Michigan career, not just one season

    I’ve never cared for the helmet decals because it clutters up the wings. I believe they used to have them back in the late 70s-early 80s and it drove me nuts then too. Same goes for Ohio State. It’s really odd to see an OSU helmet without the buckeye decals. In fact, I’d love to see a Buckeyes helmet with no decals and the block O on the sides.

    I guess it must have been around for years, but did anyone ever explain why Jim Harbaugh’s coaches cap/hat has a skinny (or thin) M? Thanks.

    I wanted to attach a Kohl’s link to one that they sold (but is sold out) but I did not want my comment to be potentially removed.

    The skinny M has been the standard for the Michigan baseball team for decades, and has been available on merchandise for years. I think Harbaugh just likes the way it looks on him more than the Block M

    My sense is it’s Harbaugh’s nod to Bo.

    The baseball team used to wear something like it, that’s what they had when I attended. They switched to the thicker “Block M” when Michigan moved to Adidas in 2008. Unfortunately, when they switched back to Nike they kept the logo.

    Not a fan of too many helmet stickers: they clutter the design of any helmet. They should be pins on a varsity jacket.

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