Black Sheep: Wisconsin’s Black Badger Helmet


As we saw with the Ohio Bobcats recently, college football players these days love a different look for their uniforms and helmets - especially when it involves black.

But what about players from the 1960s?

That’s when Wisconsin switched away from numbers on the side of their lids and put a Badger logo on the helmets from 1967-69. The final year that the boys from Madison sported a Badger (on a maroon background) also saw the introduction of special black lids.

The Badgers never actually wore those jet-black lids as a unit, but Helmet Hut said that in 1969 they doled them out to players who were given the Savage Award, an honor bestowed upon the game’s most aggressive player.

The web site said that the honored player was to wear that black helmet for the rest of that season’s practices and games. It was a stunning look that set an ominous tone for those who wore them.

What defensive player wouldn’t want to be the guy in the black hat?

Well, it turns out that the Badgers’ administration just wanted a winning team - black helmets or not. The tenure of coach John Coatta - who introduced the special black helmets - paralleled that of the Badger logo and maroon background. He was out after the 1969 season after compiling a 3-26-1 record in Madison, including an 0-19-1 mark over his first two seasons.

The Badger logo helmet and black helmet went with him. For the 1970 season, Wisconsin re-introduced helmets with a white background and a ‘W,’ variations of which have been used all the way to the present.

In all, we think that the Badgers made the right decision. The maroon background reminds us more of USC or Minnesota than Wisconsin, which has an enlarged fire-engine red ‘W’ on its lids nowadays. And while the Badgers logo is a good one, a sweater-wearing badger probably wasn’t the most intimating lid.

As for the black helmets? They were a unique, clean look that looked menacing. In an age where college athletes lose their minds just for receiving black jerseys (see: Ohio Bobcats), we’d like to see Wisconsin break out the black lids for a throwback game under the lights at Camp Randall some time.

And while it’s probably way too late for the Wisconsin athletic department to have the throwback uniforms and helmets ready for the colossal night game in Madison this Saturday against No. 8 Nebraska, we’re pretty sure Wisconsin fans and players would immediately start jumping around at the sight of them.

Photo courtesy of Helmet Hut

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