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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

About Michigan's Helmet

In IC's post about the Best College Football Helmets, some folks have claimed that Michigan "stole" their famous winged helmet design from Princeton. So let's review the facts behind Michigan's helmet according to the Bentley Historical Library...

In 1938, Michigan hired Herbert O. "Fritz" Crisler from Princeton to replace Harry Kipke as head football coach. In 1937, his final year at Princeton, Crisler switched the Tigers to a "winged helmet design" that was not "Princeton's" but simply the FH5 model helmet that the Spalding Sporting Goods Company first advertised in the 1937 edition the Official Intercollegiate Football Guide (shown here).

According to the Bentley Library, "Spalding marketed a number of helmet models that featured the "wing" design. The wing provided additional protective padding and helped bind the earpieces to the crown. The FH5 model was the only one featuring three straps running from front-to-back. One model featured a single strap running front-to-back and another running side-to-side. Other models had a one-piece crown. Michigan's FH5 model came only in black and tan while those with a one-piece crown could be ordered in any school colors for an additional fee."

When he arrived in Michigan in '38, Crisler introduced the new Spalding helmets and changes to the Michgian uniform to inspire his team and mark the beginning of a new era (since the Wolverines had gone four years without a winning season). Crisler's innovation that first year at Michigan was to paint the helmet maize and blue. His hope was that the Wolverine QB might be able to better see his receivers.

At the time, a number of schools used Spalding's "winged" helmet design. But as leather helmets gave way to other materials, those schools changed their design while Michigan kept it and simply painted the distinctive "winged" look on the new helmet materials.


Anonymous said...

So Princeton had it a year earlier, they still win.

Yost said...

Good to see you understood the article, Anon.

But I get it, it's not a swipe at Michigan unless you leave the comment you left.

Ben said...

People like anon that should be sterilized.

Wangs said...

How the f did we steal it from Princeton if the manufactuerer gets credit for the design?

I know how we can settle it - let's schedule Princeton next season. (Um, Yost, does Princeton have men's sports?)

Anonymous said...

The manufacturer does not get credit for the design. If you actually read the article from Bentley, you will see that Princeton adopted the helmet in 1935, Spalding introduced the style in its 1937 catalog, and Michigan adopted it in 1938.

That being said, Michigan is known for the design (and probably should be) because Princeton actually abandoned the style in 1938, re-adopting it again 60 years later in 1998.