Arizona State once had some of the most-bland helmets in college football – at least, when you consider them in relation to the school’s distinct nickname.
The Sun Devils weren’t really represented on ASU’s lids until 1975, when the program attempted to bounce back from a disappointing 7-5 campaign. And it did bounce back, posting an undefeated 12-0 season, capped by a win in the Fiesta Bowl over Nebraska and a No. 2 ranking in the final AP poll.
That success was joined by the introduction of helmets that featured a sun on the side instead of player numbers. The burst of sunshine was certainly a sharp look that featured blazing rays with a maroon outline and “ASU” in the middle, a maroon stripe across the top of the lid with the numbers moved to the back.
It certainly is apropos for the team from Tempe, within the Valley of the Sun. We believe a picture truly is worth a thousand words, and the likeness of the sun on the side of the lid is naturally representative of a team from Arizona that is used to summer days with temperatures in the 100s.
In fact, it’s also representative of a team from the 1970s, with a logo looking similar to the Fiesta Bowl’s, which started in 1971. So, the change of lids was appropriate for the Sun Devils and the times.
However, it likely wasn’t done only to bring the program up to date. Arizona State was in a transition period in the tenure of Frank Kush, who is perhaps the most-iconic coach in ASU history. Kush, who coached the team from 1958-79, guided the Sun Devils to four Fiesta Bowl victories in five seasons spanning from 1971-75.
The ’75 season represented both a return to prominence on the field and a big improvement in the team’s helmets. The Sun Devils wore the golden sun version of the lids only in 1975 before changing to a maroon sun from 1976-79 – a slight upgrade.
But 1980 represented the most-popular move in ASU’s helmet history. The program introduced its beloved Sparky logo on its helmets. Sparky is the school’s mascot, which was designed by alumnus and Disney illustrator Ben Anthony in 1948.
The Sparky helmets – or a version of such – remained on the side of the helmets until 2010, when Nike redesigned the lids to include a giant pitchfork that comes on two different helmets: one yellow and one black.
In 2008, Arizona State honored its 1970s teams coached by Kush during a 31-0 rout of Washington State on homecoming weekend. They wore the helmets during the game to honor the memory of those teams.
Sure, we love Sparky and what it represents in the school’s history, but we think that the sunburst helmets – specifically, the gold one from 1975 – is a good throwback helmet as well. And both are certainly better than the “Fear the Fork” campaign Nike cooked up.
Arizona State has yet to regain the consistent level of success that it had under Kush. Maybe, it’s the helmets.
Photo courtesy of Helmet Hut