As Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez sat down at the table for his weekly press conference, a member of the communications services staff reached below the table for a copper helmet, propping it next to Rodriguez.
OK, Coach … trying to tell us something?
“It is our first Pac-12 home game this year, so we’re going to break out the copper helmets,” Rodriguez said, referring to Saturday’s game against Oregon State (7 p.m., Arizona Stadium).
“Copper is not going to replace our school colors or anything, but I think it is a tribute to the mining industry in our state.”
There’s that, and there’s the buzz that helmets and increasingly numerous and outrageous uniform combinations create among fans and recruits. And there are merchandising opportunities.
Arizona announced this spring that it would wear copper helmets on special occasions, and it’s been a guessing game since then as to when they would actually debut.
Four players who were brought to the press conference got to see the copper lids for the first time Monday.
Senior quarterback Matt Scott had one critique — “I think they could make the ‘A’ a little bigger,” he said — but otherwise gave the new look a thumbs up.
“It’s not our usual colors, but I think they look good,” he said. “I like them.”
They will be no special uniforms to accompany the helmets, with the seniors deciding which combination of red-and-blue jerseys and pants to wear Saturday night. With a blue (nearly black) face mask on the helmet, the consensus is that blue jerseys would go best with the copper helmets.
“I don’t think the red would look that good, so we’ll go blue,” Scott said.
After the press conference, the four players posed for pictures with the copper helmet, and linebacker Jake Fischer snapped some shots with his phone.
Senior center Kyle Quinn said the copper helmets are “pretty cool” but added that, ultimately, “I don’t really care what helmet I wear.”
“With linemen, they get torn up anyway,” he said. ‘It doesn’t really matter what helmet I’m wearing.”
If nothing else, the shiny objects serve as a distraction from the memory of Saturday’s 49-0 loss to Oregon while perhaps serving as a boost for this week’s key game vs. the 18th-ranked Beavers.
And with Arizona breaking out the new helmets so early in the season, that leaves plenty of big home games to make another fashion statement this season. There has been chatter about the possibility of red helmets.
Arizona wore blue helmets for its first three games, all at home, before wearing white at Oregon. Rodriguez said gthe team will practice in their new helmets Wednesday and Thursday to get used to the fit.
“Being a history major, I know the importance of what copper is to the state and how important the mining industry is,” Quinn said. “So it’s going to be great to represent that and go out and play a great game on Saturday.”
As detailed by Javier Morales at WildAboutAzCats.net, the copper industry was instrumental in the building of Arizona Stadium for the 1929 season.
From a UA press release:
“We look forward to our fans coming out and supporting this exciting football team,” Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said. “The Copper Game will be a unique opportunity for our fans and a game against an important Pac-12 opponent where the atmosphere will play another significant role in our home field advantage.”
Limited edition Copper Game merchandise, including t-shirts, hats and mini-replica helmets, will be available for purchase starting Thurs, Sept. 27 at the UA Bookstore, McKale Center A-Store and at BearDownShop.com while supplies last. On Sat., Sept. 29, the UA Bookstore souvenir stands at Arizona Stadium and Fan Fiesta will also carry these items for purchase while supplies last.
A special Copper Game premium giveaway item will be distributed to every ZonaZoo member in attendance at Saturday’s game. The giveaways will be distributed as students enter Arizona Stadium. Gates opens for ZonaZoo students at 5 p.m. and members are encouraged to arrive in plenty of time to receive the exclusive giveaway.