College football today in a world of change. From new conferences to new uniforms to new stadiums, everything seems to be changing.
But college football is great in part due to its traditions. College football is rife with traditions to the point that no other sport even comes close. Part of the tradition of college football—the helmets—are unique to each program, and are jealously guarded by those who put them on each Saturday.
Some colleges relish in coming out with a new helmet every couple of seasons. Some have multiple helmets for each season.
But some stay true to their heritage, resist selling out to various uniform companies, and stick with what works; they stick with tradition.
Here is our homage to those teams, and our list of 50 college football helmets that should never be changed.
We begin our countdown with Cincinnati.
Black helmets always look slick, and with a relatively simple white and red logo, there's not too much to complain about here.
The “C” logo cleverly incorporates a claw, and it's great when a team with a dark helmet has a dark face mask to go along with it—rather than opting for white or some other bright color.
This helmet is really brought together by the great KSU logo.
The purple logo on a silver background really stands out, and Kansas State isn't shy about hiding its logo on these helmets.
Another great logo adorning the side of a helmet is Nevada. The logo is pretty awesome, and the helmet is made even better by Nevada's use of a slightly-brighter-than-navy blue.
The Lobos have a nice-looking helmet that incorporates their cool logo on a blank helmet, with a dark red face mask.
What more could you want? Okay, maybe a few wins, too...
California has an understated script “Cal” on the sides of the helmet, and the simple, unassuming style is one of the best things about the Bears' program. After all, wins have been few and far between as of late, and other Pac-12 schools are much more prominent on the football stage.
Still, there's nothing to complain about with this classy style from Berkeley.
There's something a little odd about logos that incorporate a single large letter surrounded by smaller letters. But Arkansas State's logo makes the best of it with a great color scheme.
It's probably not worth pouring a lot of money into logo design when you're an also-ran Sun Belt team in the middle of SEC country.
The dark blue background, red stripe, and the colloquial name of the university in white-outlined red script. You can't get much more traditional than that.
Mississippi's football helmet is pretty simplistic, but when the Rebels come out onto the field, there's no mistaking Ole Miss.
In the history of Utah State helmets, the current version probably isn't one people think of as the best.
But the Aggies have a helmet that has some understated simplicity while still being either easily recognizable, or easy to figure out for those with half a brain.
There's only one state that begins in a “U,” and the inclusion of the word “State” in the “U” should be simple enough for most folk.
The South Carolina helmet is a nice design, but the gamecock in the center of the “C” is a very complex logo to have included.
Additionally, South Carolina fans love to call their team “Carolina,” although there are many, many teams that could make that claim, not the least of which is North Carolina.
Now that we've mentioned it, why don't South Carolina and North Carolina play each other more often? The last meeting was in 2007, and before that, 1991.
These two teams are so close, yet have only played 55 times, and only seven times since 1980.
The US Air Force Academy has a helmet that doesn't incorporate their logo, or any reference to the institution, but it's still instantly recognizable as the helmet of the Falcons.
The incorporation of a bolt of lightening on the helmet in a great shade of blue that instantly makes one think of the blue sky screams “Air Force,” and with Air Force stepping up the quality of their football, we should be seeing a lot more of this helmet.
SMU has a football helmet that is virtually unchanged over the past couple of decades (with the exception of logo size changes).
The galloping mustang logo is clearly the focal point of this helmet, and the red logo on a white background is simplistic elegance at its best.
We've seen the entire uniform of Texas Tech updated in the past few years, and the current look really is sleek and classy.
The double “T” logo is a nice touch, and the black helmets with black and red “T's” really adds to the appearance of a sleek program built to win.
There are enough interlocking letter logos in college football to make a person sick.
But Indiana has a old-school look that just screams tradition.
Too bad that tradition has nothing to do with winning football games these days.
Syracuse is one of a handful of helmets on our list that include a single letter, but unlike many of the others, this colored letter outlined in white is on a colored background.
Look at it this way. It could have the little cuddly grinning orange mascot thing on the helmet.
The Utes were one of the few NCAA programs that were allowed to keep their American Indian moniker, and the logo on the helmet takes full advantage of it, while keeping the reference understated.
The classic look of solid red with no helmet stripe, combined with a red, white, and black logo gives this helmet a nice, classic look.
This is another classic-look helmet that doesn't need a ton of explanation.
Stanford's inclusion of pride stickers has really added to the Cardinal's helmet, and with the way Stanford has been playing recently, most people know the Cardinal when they see them.
In Colorado's helmet, you can see pretty much everything there is to see about the university. There are the initials, “CU,” the Buffalo logo, and the school's colors.
And it's all done in a way that doesn't make the helmet look too busy.
The Arizona Wildcats have a pretty decent-looking helmet. The logo, which subtly includes three “A's” in red, white, and blue, is nicely placed on a blue helmet. Arizona also has a white helmet.
Eliminating the stripes, or moving to a single stripe rather than a double stripe might help the helmet's standing on this list, but at least they went with the white face mask.
You have to respect a program that sticks with tradition, no matter what.
The creamsickle-orange “T” on the side of the helmet is huge, and it's font is a little dated, but it's instantly recognizable as the logo of the University of Tennessee.
Who else bu the Volunteers would proudly wear such a helmet?
The interlocking “WV” logo has become a staple of college football, and the simple design of the Mountaineers' helmet is complemented by the uncomplicated West Virginia attitude.
Washington State has a great logo on a classic-looking helmet.
Now if only they could get their football team to win some games, things might start looking up for the Cougars.
The logo incorporated WSU into a stylized cougar. Creative, to say the least. Beyond the logo, there's nothing else. Nothing to take the eye off the wonderful logo.
If there's one thing Boise State is known for, it's the color blue.
The helmet is no exception. A deep shade of blue with no stripe is used, and the orange and white logo is proudly displayed on the side.
Now, if only the MWC would stop whining about the blue turf, and allow Boise to wear their traditional blue uniforms, Boise State could get back to who they really are.
Let's hope Boise State doesn't sell out further and agree to get rid of their blue helmets, too.
TCU has a great team, a great color scheme, a great logo, and consequently great helmets.
Whoever decided on the Horned Frogs as a mascot certainly had taken their originality pill that morning. The shade of purple chosen is one of the first things one notices, and you can't help but smile when you see a bunch of tough, strong college football players running out onto the field in a uniform that is that purple.
The ticked off looking frog on the side of the helmets completes the look.
One side note: the inclusion of a rose in the frog's mouth on the helmet for the 2011 Rose Bowl can be summed up in two words: Epic awesomeness.
The swept VT logo has a 1980's feel to it without looking badly outdated. The color scheme for the helmet is nicely done as well: a burgundy base with white lettering outlined in orange. The colors add to that '80's feel without looking like it's straight from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Texas A&M has a nice overall helmet design, with simple white lettering on a crimson background.
While Texas A&M's logo is quite large on the helmet, the logo itself isn't particularly bad—but when people abbreviate Texas A&M as “aTm,” that just looks stupid. Now, every time we see the Texas A&M logo, we're reminded of the lazy (and wholly incorrect) “aTm” shorthand—after all, the A and the M should be capitalized, right?
Hawai'i really has a nice helmet that incorporates their Warriors spirit and their Polynesian heritage.
Hawai'i gets bonus points because the logo these days is infinitely better than during the days of the Hawai'i Rainbows.
The matching face mask is a nice touch, too.
Another classic look for a classic football program.
The Boilermakers have changed their helmet design a few times, but the modern italicized black “P” on the gold helmet gives the whole uniform a traditional and classy look.
There aren't too many sports teams that would select a swine as the mascot, but the Arkansas Razorbacks are one of them.
And it seems to be working well, too. The current helmet employs a simple red background, and smacks the Hogs' logo on the side in white. No muss, no fuss. The addition of a few small pride stickers to the back of the helmet give it that distinct “college” feel.
For a program that first started in 1997, the USF Bulls have come a long way in a very short time.
Without much tradition to build upon, the Bulls have quickly cemented their logo in the minds of many college football fans with their quality play in the Big East, having made a bowl game every season since joining the conference in 2005.
With as many college teams as there are with the nickname “Tigers,” you'd think more programs would have gone the route of Clemson. But none have.
Clemson has its own unique take on the Tigers, with an orange helmet and plain, white paw print on the sides.
Even if you didn't know the helmet was from Clemson, we bet you could identify it as belonging to the “Tigers.”
Auburn has one of the more recognizable logos in the nation, and that logo is front and center on this helmet.
Auburn goes with a white background, and a rather unusual triple stripe pattern that incorporated both orange and blue. The logo is big and proud on the side of these instantly recognizable helmets.
Go big or go home.
The Oregon helmet is (or is that helmets are) some of the most distinctive helmets that employ the a simple logo.
The dark emerald green background juxtaposed with a bright yellow Oregon “O” really makes this helmet one of the best around. If it weren't for the fact that Oregon seems to debut a new helmet every other week, the Ducks might find their helmet higher on this list.
UCLA has a unique helmet design, to be sure. The script UCLA down the side of the helmet is unique (if misleading—it's written as Ucla rather than UCLA), and the color scheme of Bruins Blue and Gold fits with the ol' timey feel of the program.
Red and yellow are two colors that should only go together if you're a hot dog vendor, or from Arizona State. For some reason, the ASU color scheme doesn't clash, and the helmet is the perfect topping to this uniform.
The Sun Devils actually have two helmet variants used. The first has the full Sun Devils logo on the side. The second has the famous ASU pitchfork coming from the rear of the helmet, facing the front. Both of these designs are great, and they're similar enough to not be too gimmicky.
There's a lot of argument about Georgia's oval “G” logo that appears on the helmets. People who hate Georgia are blinded by the fact that “it's just like Green Bay” so obviously, that must mean Georgia ripped it off.
Well, take a deep breath, relax, and try reading some history before you blame Georgia. The truth is Georgia had a block “G” on their helmet before Green Bay. The Packers had an oval “G” before Georgia. UGA redesigned their logo, and it came out similar to Green Bay's “G,” so UGA talked it over with Green Bay, and both agreed to use the similar logos. Green Bay later changed their logo, eliminating the oval “G,” but redesigned again a few years later. That new Green Bay oval “G” turned out to be much closer to the UGA “G” than the original Green Bay “G.”
Basically, you can't blame Georgia for “ripping off” the logo. If anything, you might be able to blame Green Bay.
In the end, Georgia still has a great helmet. The oval “G” and it's convoluted history aside, the helmet is bold, yet assuming. The bright red combined with the logo, and the great bone pride stickers completes a look that's unmistakable in the football world.
If you were thinking of two colors to complement each other, you probably wouldn't think orange and blue.
Yet for some reason, those two colors look great on the Florida Gators, and the helmet is no less impressive. “Gators” spelled out in blue script on the side of the orange helmet leaves little question as to who just ran you over.
When Michigan State made the move from the white block “S” on a green helmet to the spartan helmet logo, the change was refreshing and widely praised.
Then, about a year ago, Michigan State decided it was time for a change. MSU wanted to update the Spartan logo, and the athletics department announced the change, unveiling the updated helmet logo.
Michigan State is no stranger to college campus riots, and the change almost sparked another one in East Lansing.
Within a few short days, the university announced it was withdrawing the new logo, and no police cars were set ablaze.
You can understand the Spartan fans' outrage. The current MSU helmet design is absolutely great, with its not-too-common white on green combination, and uncomplicated classic style.
There's just something about black helmets.
The simple helmet design with a bright yellow logo on the side is instantly recognizable as belonging to the Hawkeyes.
When the logo was last updated, it became more fierce. The fierceness is only highlighted by the helmet's color scheme.
Absolutely everything about LSU is right on the side of the helmet. The letters “LSU.” The Tigers logo. The bright yellow and dark purple.
It's all right there, and when they enter the stadium, you know who they are and what they're about to do to you.
If you're not from the state of Ohio, chances are you absolutely hate the Ohio State Buckeyes.
And why not? The undeserved superiority complex that comes from The Ohio State University is simply mind-boggling.
But there's one thing about the program everyone has to respect: the helmet. By itself, there's nothing too remarkable about the simple design. It's classy, it's unassuming, but beyond that, there's nothing that distinguishes it from the rest of the football world.
But once the season gets going, those buckeye leaf pride stickers start showing up. By the time the season is drawing to a close, the Buckeyes have some of the greatest helmets in college football.
In most cases, pride stickers don't make the helmet. In this case, it's definitely all about the pride stickers. And if there's one thing Ohio State is never short on, it's pride.
Florida State has had a long list of helmet reincarnations, but the current helmet is by far the best of the group.
Florida State has a great red and gold color scheme, and the incorporation of Seminole spears gives the helmet some pop.
The pride stickers—little tomahawks—really complete the look nicely.
Another classic, simple design that's instantly recognizable as belonging to a particular team.
The Oklahoma Sooners' “OU” logo is just one of a vast number of interlocking letter logos, but for some reason, OU—like Indiana—seems classic, simple, and honoring tradition rather than being a new “brand.”
When you see the block OU, you can't help but be reminded of the glory years of college football.
BYU's helmets are instantly recognizable, with the white “Y” in a blue oval on a white background.
Typically a double stripe down the spine of the helmet makes the thing look terribly outdated, but in this instance, it seems to work nicely.
Ever since the 1970's, when the current logo was first used, it's been very easy to identify a helmet used by “The U.”
The Miami Hurricanes have a logo that is almost unrivaled in college football for its simplicity, and ability to be instantly recognized. The logo itself is part of the reason why everyone knows what university you're talking about when someone says “The U.”
It's just too bad that the hubris at “The U” went so far so often as to place the entire program in jeopardy.
Perhaps a more humble Miami will be able to at least keep their football program intact.
Penn State is an iconic football program, and their understated uniforms—plain and no frills—epitomized the Nittany Lions.
The helmet is white with a single blue stripe down the spine of the helmet. No logo. No name. No numbers. Just the helmet.
This great program has fallen on hard times, mainly due to their own fault, but their helmet still reigns atop lists of great helmets.
The golden yellow Trojan on the side of the red helmet is indicative of a proud history of USC football, and the number of football greats that have put this helmet on at one time or another is staggering.
Because of it's classic design, and the sheer number of football greats that have worn it, USC's helmet gets a proud place on honor on our list.
There's probably only one use for the color “burnt orange,” and Texas has found it.
The distinctive logo that is easily one of the most recognized in college athletics adorns the side of the Texas helmet—a helmet that is classy, simple, and intimidating all at once.
Maybe the 2010 season isn't the best example, but when opponents typically see the Longhorns helmets walking their way, they know they're in for a titanic struggle against one of the winningest program in the history of college football.
The Golden Domers don't just have a giant golden dome on campus. They actually have little golden domes running around on the field. And when we say gold, we mean gold. To this day, Notre Dame mixes gold powder into the paint, and the helmets are repainted prior to each game.
The tradition at Notre Dame is unrivaled, and their simple gold helmet with no logo epitomizes that feeling.
There's an argument to be made that the Alabama Crimson Tide have the best traditional helmet that comes from the “golden age” of college football.
A red helmet, with a white stripe, and white block jersey numbers on the side. It's a helmet that first appeared over a half century ago, and Alabama's have changed little since then (other than the obvious and necessary modernizing safety features).
We hope Alabama never, ever changes this helmet—and it's probably safe to say Alabama never will, unless they're actually looking for a mass mutiny in Tuscaloosa.
Love it or hate it, you can't argue that it's not instantly recognizable as the University of Michigan's helmet. In fact, the helmet is so recognizable, its design has become synonymous with Michigan football.
The winged helmet may not have been invented at Michigan, but it was made famous in its traditional maize and blue. In fact, this roots of the helmet are connected to U-M, in a roundabout sort of way. Famed Michigan coach Fritz Crisler was the coach at Princeton before coming to Ann Arbor. Crisler introduced the helmet design to his 1935 Princeton team because he believed it helped the quarterback locate receivers down field. Princeton won the national championship that year, and the winged design was here to stay.
After arriving at Michigan in 1938, Crisler found Michigan's all black helmets lacking. Rather than giving receivers different colored helmets (which was popular at the time), Crisler borrowed his own design from Princeton, and designed the helmet in Michigan's school colors.
Princeton still uses the winged helmets, and along with Michigan, there are a total of eight NCAA programs that use the design that was made famous by the Wolverines.