Want to keep pace in the Pac-12? Debut a new football helmet.
The Arizona Wildcats were the latest to unveil a new look, as athletic director Greg Byrne announced Wednesday that copper helmets will be thrown into the mix at times, adding to the team’s inventory of blue and white helmets.
It’s a sign of the times.
Half of the Pac-12 teams wore new or special helmets last season, all the better for marketing and merchandise sales. And with the exception of the school in Eugene, Ore. — which could win while wearing the minimalist Penn State look — the new helmets did nothing to improve the results on the field.
It all starts, naturally, with Nike-infused Oregon, which does these things best and brightest.
The Ducks wore several helmets last season, none more spectacular than the one in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, with what the school called a mirrored “LiquidMetal black finish never before seen on the field.” Wings were featured on the sides, with the Oregon “O” moving to the center on the back of the helmet.
Arizona State had the most dramatic “permanent” change, adding colors and changing the logo.
The school minimized the Sparky logo (placing a small version on the back) and featured its new pitchfork on the sides. The Sun Devils wore white, black, maroon and gold versions. They were wearing black helmets when losing at home at Arizona; coach Dennis Erickson was fired not long after that.
(I’m reminded how former UA player/assistant coach Heath Bray always calls ASU’s colors “mustard and rust” while referring to Arizona’s red and blue as the “colors of our country.” We could soon see a rivalry matchup, instead, of black vs. copper.)
Cal, which typically uses deep blue helmets, went with a white look at Oregon on Oct. 6. The Bears’ white-on-white-on-white uniform combination was called a “Stormtrooper” look … and Cal fared just about as well as those guys, losing 43-15.
It was believed to be the first time Cal wore white helmets; the Bears also donned those lids at UCLA later in the season. They lost 31-14.
Colorado broke out special gear last season for its Friday night “Blackout” home game against USC, wearing black helmets for the second time in school history. The Buffs lost 42-17. The black helmets got another chance at UCLA … and Colorado was routed 45-6.
Another “bad luck” helmet: Washington put on white lids for the second time in its history for its Alamo Bowl appearance against Baylor and Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Bears won 67-56 and just scored again.
And then there was Washington State, which changed its uniforms last spring and wore a darker gray home helmet, featuring gray, not crimson, facemasks. Coach Paul Wulff got to enjoy those for one season before being fired.