The helmets span from the old-fashioned look in Bob Weber’s last year as Arizona’s coach in 1972 to the multiple schemes fans see now with Kevin Sumlin as coach.
The helmets are a part of Arizona football history, signifying their era.
AllSportsTucson.com is running a bracket to discover the fan favorite of 16 helmets used by the Wildcats over the last 48 years. In this post, we will introduce the helmets and the bracket. In posts going forward, we will have reader polls with fans voting on the helmets pitted against each other.
1972 (Bob Weber head coach)
Arizona was in the WAC. Weber’s short-lived career at Arizona was coming to an end after four years as the head coach with a 16-26 record.
1973-76 (Jim Young)
After Jim Young was hired by new Arizona AD Dave Strack away from Bo Schembechler’s staff at Michigan, he changed the look of the helmets and the program. Arizona went 31-13 in his four years, including 9-2 seasons in 1974 and 1975. He went back to the Midwest to coach at Purdue in 1977.
1977-79 (Tony Mason)
Tony Mason was another Schembechler disciple who came to Arizona from Cincinnati, where he was coming off an 8-3 season in 1976. He lasted three years before resigning amid controversy over recruiting violations. He took Arizona to its first bowl in 11 years — the 1979 Fiesta Bowl against Pitt and Dan Marino. Arizona wore these helmets as it moved to the Pac-10 in 1978.
1980 (Larry Smith)
The transition from Mason to Larry Smith, another former Schembechler assistant who coached under Young at Arizona from 1973-75, brought with it a transition in helmet. The red helmet with the tall “A” lasted only a year.
1981-89 (Smith & Dick Tomey)
The block “A” helmet was introduced in 1981 when Arizona achieved it’s greatest upset, beating No. 1 USC at Los Angeles. The helmet transformed over this eight-year period going from three stripes on top of the helmet to two. Dick Tomey, hired from Hawaii in 1987, opted to keep the block “A” look.
1990-2003 (Tomey and John Mackovic)
The “academic A” was instituted by the university in 1990-91 and it was placed boldly on the helmets. This was the look for two of the best teams in Arizona history — the 10-2 “Desert Swarm” team in 1993 and the 12-1 team in 1998 that beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. The look went through the end of the Tomey era and through the struggling John Mackovic years.
2004-Present (Mike Stoops/Rich Rodriguez/Kevin Sumlin)
Mike Stoops introduced for the first time the blue helmet upon his hire as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. This look is still used today with some of the uniform schemes.
The all-white helmet and facemask look was first introduced when Arizona played Nebraska in the 2009 Holiday Bowl, a game the Wildcats were routed 33-0.
This look is synonymous with Nick Foles completing his career at Arizona in 2011.
Arizona introduced the copper helmet to mixed reviews and the team wore them only twice — against Oregon State at Arizona Stadium in 2012 and at ASU in 2013.
Red helmets made their return to Arizona for the first time in 32 years, since Smith’s first year as coach in 1980.
The silver “A” with the all-white helmet look occurred in only one game for a whiteout — against California in 2014 at Arizona Stadium. And what a game that was. That was the “Hill Mary” game in which Anu Solomon connected with Austin Hill for the game-winning reception as time expired.
The red chrome helmet has appeared annually since it was introduced in the 2015 season when Arizona hosted UCLA. Some really like the look. Others have stated they look like Christmas ornaments.
Signifying the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor the university wore these helmets and uniforms commemorating the USS Arizona in the Wildcats’ home game against Hawaii in 2016.
Arizona debuted its matte blue helmets in a home game against Utah in 2017, a game the Wildcats lost but looked good in doing so.
In Kevin Sumlin’s first season the Wildcats introduced their first red chrome facemask that was worn with a white helmet in a victory over Cal.
The bracket is next. We will be posting polls soon for fans to decide the outcomes.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.