I was reading over at mvictors.com that today is the 70th anniversary of the winged helmet that was introduced to the University of Michigan by their legendary coach Herbert O. “Fritz” Crisler, whom Crisler Arena is named after. Here is the story….
Michigan’s football helmet is surely one of the most instantly recognizable icons in college sports. The famous “winged” design dates from 1938 when Coach Herbert O. “Fritz” Crisler arrived from Princeton to begin a new era in Michigan football. Even as the design and composition of helmets evolved from stitched cowhide to high-tech, molded plastic, the winged design has remained the pre-eminent symbol of Michigan football. Other Michigan athletic teams have adopted the winged design for their own headgear as well.
The distinctive helmet would also have practical advantages on the field. Crisler figured the helmet would help his quarterbacks find receivers downfield. “There was a tendency to use different colored helmets just for receivers in those days, but I always thought that would be as helpful for the defense as for the offense,” Crisler recalled.
In any event, the new helmet made a successful debut in the 1938 season opener against Michigan State. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 14-0 behind two touchdown runs by sophomore Paul Kromer to gain their first win over Michigan State in four years.
Those famous helmets has helped Michigan land many football recruits and has remained one of the distinctive features of the University of Michigan athletic program with many of the other sports teams taking on the winged helmet design. Along with the Big House it is a proud tradition in Ann Arbor.
There is only one other university in Division 1 football that wears the winged helmet and that is the University of Delaware Fighting Blue Hens.
A big thank you to Fritz Crisler for bringing a great uniqueness to the University of Michigan along with the forward pass.