OT: Michigan Helmets or Alabama Helmets?!?!

Submitted by GoBlue21 on June 17th, 2011 at 9:47 AM

I read this on Adam Rittenberg's Big Ten Blog and decided to post it.  Nothing ground breaking but is this even debatable???


Tyler from Durham, N.C., writes: In a recent blog about Michigan's throwback unis for the Notre Dame game, you said that the numbers on the helmets were a nice touch because "Alabama's helmets are classic; it's good to see Michigan go this route." Huh? Are you saying the famed winged helmets designed by Frits Chrysler, which have been time and again confirmed as the best looking (and most classic) in college football, aren't as "classic" as Alabama's? Please, Adam, don't embarrass yourself like this. Retract the Alabama statement and you can put this all behind you as if you never said a thing. I'm just looking out for you, buddy.

Adam Rittenberg: A little oversensitive, are we? Michigan's helmets are great. They're the best helmets in the Big Ten. I've mentioned that on multiple occasions. The numbers are simply a nice one-time feature, and they reminded me of Alabama's headgear. Both helmets are iconic, and in no way was I knocking Michigan.


Good for Tyler from Durham by the way....Go Blue!


Mr Mackey

June 17th, 2011 at 9:50 AM ^

Well, they're both classic. I mean, obviously we all think Michigan's is better. It's the best helmet in football. But Bama's is pretty cool, and it's definitely a classy look.

I don't think he's saying that Alabama's is better. He's saying they're both great and full of tradition, which they are.

King Douche Ornery

June 17th, 2011 at 9:50 AM ^

This is just another example of the irrational sensitivity of college football fans in general and Michigan fans in particular.

I would guess if you're from Alabama or went there, you probably think Alabama has the besxt uni's. For some reason, Michigan fans cannot grasp that other people think...differently.


June 17th, 2011 at 9:52 AM ^

I think Michigan should take the best of all the iconic helmets in the country - the wings, the Alabama numbers, the Texas Longhorn symbol, the golden color of Notre Dame's helmets, and the single blue stripe from Penn State - and turn them into one giant all-star game helmet.  Then there would be no argument that Michigan's helmets are the best.


June 17th, 2011 at 9:54 AM ^

so that boosters know which helmets to slip the cash into in the locker room.  Anything added to Michigan's helmets automatically looks "classic" by association.

Keep up the good work Rittenberg.  You're always on top of the story.

M Fanfare

June 17th, 2011 at 12:06 PM ^

Nothing galls me more than when self-professed Michigan fans write Crisler's last name as Chrysler or refer to "Chrysler" Arena like it's a corporate sponsership. And this guy even takes it a step further by misspelling Fritz.

The man's name was Herbert Orin Crisler, and he earned the nickname "Fritz" from his coach at Chicago, the great Amos Alonzo Stagg. One day in practice, Crisler repeatedly messed up and Stagg started calling him Fritz after the great violinist Fritz Kreisler because Kreisler was a master of his craft and Crisler was not. I guess that was the 1919 version of calling him a girl's name.


June 17th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

Nothing galls me more than uppity Michigan fans that think if you don't know every last piece of historical trivia about the Wolverines you are a loathsome creature. And then when they take it a step further by smugly trying to show their superior fandom by arrogantly informing the unwashed masses of said historical trivia.

The Barwis Effect

June 17th, 2011 at 9:19 PM ^

Fritz Crisler is more than just some obscure "piece of historical trivia".  Dude invented two-platoon football and introduced the winged-helmet design to U-M, not to mention there's a rather prominent building on campus named after him.  I hate uppity Michigan fans as much as the next guy, but spelling Crisler's name wrong is flat-out inexcusable. 


June 17th, 2011 at 9:59 AM ^

With the "They're the best helmets in the Big Ten." comment, it really doesn't do much justice for the winged helmet.  He should have said "they're one of the best helmets, IN THE COUNTRY". Compairing them to only 11 other helmest (including Nebraska), is a slap in the face to best helmets in college football IMO...


June 17th, 2011 at 10:03 AM ^

I think the more valid argument against Rittenberg here is that the numbers shouldn't "remind him of Alabama's helmet", they should remind him of Michigan's 60s era helmet, WHICH IS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE.

Six Zero

June 17th, 2011 at 10:15 AM ^

The block numbers on Bama's helmet don't even look like the typical non-serif Romans used throughout the 60's.  Think Futura, or even the Steelers numeric set.  Sure, Bama wears numbers on the helmet, but that's where the similarities pretty much end.

It's almost like comparing our helmets to the Philadelphia Eagles, just because they both have 'wings...?'


June 17th, 2011 at 10:32 AM ^

I think you need to relax a little bit. Everybody thinks that Michigan's helmet is iconic, so that's fine by me. Who cares what Rittenberg may have unintentionally implied?


June 17th, 2011 at 11:19 AM ^

Is this really even a debate?  Alabam has a classic helmet, but we all know Michigan's helmet is the best in college football and probably all of sports.  The design is just epic and so original that it makes the rest pale in comparison.

Though I agree that the numbers are cool for this one time gig, I'm happy they're not leaving them permeantly.


June 17th, 2011 at 11:31 AM ^

How many high schools in the country are copying Alabama's helmet design? I don't know the answer to this question, but I can't count how many times I've seen Michigan's helment design used for a high school teams helmets. I have a friend who grew up in Wichita, KS (home of the Shockers...which is a team name win) who's high school team used the winged helment design.


In short, Michigan's is better, no contest.


June 17th, 2011 at 11:36 AM ^

Who cares about that helmet, or what anyone thinks they know about Michigan helmets. On top of everything else, The Winged Helmet is Saban free.


June 17th, 2011 at 11:43 AM ^

Well, I agree with him that the numbers are a nice one time feature.  Apparently they were used from 1959-1968 and stopped when Bo arrived...


Looking at the history of Alabama's helmets, the numbers just look bigger. 


It  looks like numbers on helmets was pretty common in college football in the 60's.  Don't know why Rittenburg just refers to Bama.


June 17th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^


Great source if accurate




1959 - 1968 1969 - c.1975 c.1976 -

Michigan has used some variation of what has come to be known as the "winged" or "Michigan" helmet design since 1938. During the era covered by this web site (1960 to present) I believe there have been only some minor changes to the shape of the "wings" and to the widths of the stripes, and perhaps some minor color changes. Very small players' uniform numerals were worn on the helmets through most of the 1960s.

An interesting history of the "Michigan helmet" design (which was actually first used at Princeton) can be found at the university's web site.



1968 - 1974 1962? - 1966;
1975 - 1986
1987 -

Dated photographs that I have received indicate that Penn State used white helmets with players' numerals on the sides during at least two periods: 1961 (and possibly earlier), and again from 1967 to 1974. It appears that between these two periods (from 1962 through 1966) the helmets were plain white with a single blue stripe. I am not certain about these dates, however, so I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can confirm them.

While the numerals were of the "block" style shown here during the last few years when they were used, at least one other style was used earlier, and I do not necessarily know that the numerals were always blue (they may have been black instead during the early years). The two styles of numerals were used simultaneously during at least some games in 1967.



1959 - 1962 1963 1964 -

The shamrock helmet logo was introduced in 1959 by Notre Dame's new head coach Joe Kuharich; it was used through the 1962 season and replaced with white numerals the following year. Ara Parseghian brought back plain gold helmets in 1964 and the team has continued to use those ever since, which make this the longest-running unchanged helmet design among the NCAA Division I-Football Bowl Subdivision colleges (Alabama has occasionally used white helmets during this period).

When was the upside-down shamrock design shown in the photo below used? If this photo is from the 1960 season then the helmet shown would be a candidate for addition to this web site, which covers the period 1960 to present. My suspicion is that this design was used in 1959 only, and perhaps only during the early part of that season.




1969 1969 c.1950s - 1971 (some games);
1983 - 1984 (some games)
*see note 1 below    
1960 -

Alabama has one of the smallest sets of different historical helmet designs for the period covered by this web site (1960 to present), and the team's current helmet design may qualify as the "oldest helmet design still in use" (at least among the Division I teams), though Notre Dame's current design would surpass it as the "oldest continuously-used helmet design" (since Alabama used different helmet designs in 1969 and has used white helmets during some games). The style of numerals worn on the helmets was somewhat different during the early 1960s.

White-shelled helmets were used by Alabama occasionally during both the 1960s, and in 1983 and 1984. According to information at the team's web site, crimson helmets were apparently first used during the modern era for a Bowl game on December 17, 1960 vs. Texas (white helmets had been used during the 1950s). Crimson helmets were then used for several years, but "at times during the 1960s, Alabama used white helmets on eligible receivers in games at night or when another team¹s helmet matched or resembled ours in color" - one report I have received indicates that this was done only for a single season (year unspecified) before an NCAA rule was instituted mandating that all players on each team use the same color helmets. There were also occasions during the late 1960s when the entire team team used white helmets. This was also the case during at least two games in 1971, vs Southern California and Houston; the Houston game was the last occasion when white helmets were used by Alabama until 1983. (Source: http://www.rolltide.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=8000&ATCLID=291762).

White helmets were again used for some games in 1983 and 1984. In 1984, white helmets were used for road games and crimson ones for home games, but this scheme was apparently not in place in 1983 - Alabama used white helmets during at least one home game (vs Mississippi State). Games at LSU, at Boston College, and at Vanderbilt in 1983 are three other known instances of the white helmets having been used in 1983.

*1 This design was apparently used during most of the 1969 season, but a report I received earlier indicating that the team had not used white helmets in 1969 has been falsified by the photograph below, which is from Alabama's 1969 game against Virginia Tech - it shows that Alabama used white helmets with the "100" logo during at least one game. The color of the football-shape is unknown (though it was in all likelihood crimson or red). I would appreciate a clear color photograph of this helmet design.

Additionally, it has been reported to me that the "100" logo was worn only on the right sides of Alabama's helmets in 1969 - the usual uniform numerals were worn on the left sides.




1957 - 1960 1961 - 1962 1963 - 1966
1969 1967 - 1968;
1970 - 1976
January 1, 1982
    *see note 1 below
September 3, 2005;
November 26, 2009
1977 -
*see note 2 below  

*1 For its appearance in the 1982 Cotton Bowl game against Alabama, Texas used a special version of the longhorn logo which included between the "horns" the words "COTTON BOWL CLASSIC" and a picture of a cotton boll.

*2 This design was used during the 2005 home game against Louisiana-Lafayette and during the 2009 game at Texas A&M.

 EDIT: Beaten to the punch.


Mr. Robot

June 17th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

and doens't know what he's talking about. Numbers were common on helmets once upon a time, and were once also on our helmets. Just because Alabama is the only one who still has them doesn't mean we took it from them.


June 17th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

Long-time reader, first time poster -

Being a lifelong Michigan fan and a graduate of the University of Alabama, I can tell you this isnt even close.  People down here in 'bama don't have pride in the Tide's helmet, nor do they even really talk about it like it's some kind of icon.  It's Michigan in a landslide.


June 17th, 2011 at 4:25 PM ^

Thats's because Alabama's aren't iconic. If you asked someone who watches college football who's helmet that was I'm sure they would know, but nobody outside of that would have a clue. There are people everywhere that don't even watch sports that know what Michigan's helmet looks like.

big gay heart

June 17th, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^

OP is a serious dingbat.

Why in the name of christ are you congratulating this Tyler from Durham character. Sounds like a whiny baby with some serious reading comprehension problems.

Rittenberg clearly didn't say Alabama's helmets were better than Michigan's. And even if he did, it's like, an opinion, man. And a perfectly acceptable one at that. There is no objective way to quantify best and certainly no "right" answer. It's a matter of taste and clearly subjective. Anyone who wishes to to assert otherwise has a small penis.

The fact that someone would take the time to write Rittenberg over this is mind-bottling and clearly indicative of an individual with some real first world problems.

Tyler from Durham, fuck you. Fight me, do it, you won't.