Gainesville is once again the center of the college football world just one day after Florida coach Urban Meyer resigned for the second time in a year. One thing more permanent about the Gator program is the orange helmets with “Gators” plastered across it in blue script. The school’s helmet has gone unchanged for over three decades, but in our latest segment of lost uniforms, we look back at a disastrous misstep in Florida’s uniform history: The interlocking “UF” helmet of the 1970s.
During Steve Spurrier’s Heisman-winning season of 1966, the Gators unveiled a new look, going from a blue helmet with a giant “F” in a circle to a white helmet with a classy blue “F” with orange trim. When most schools achieve success in a uni, they stick with it for awhile. But not the Gators. Instead, they started ripping off their SEC counterparts.
The following year they went to numbers on the helmet like Alabama, which fell flat. A year later, they changed the helmet design again, opting for an interlocking “UF” helmet that looked eerily similar to Auburn’s look. The school then changed the look again the following year in 1969, going with an orange helmet and a white interlocking “UF.”
Finally, the Gators had a look they would stick for a decade. Unfortunately, the ’70s weren’t exactly the height of fashion.
While we love orange helmets because they are so bold, the interlocking “UF” was a complete dud. While Auburn pulls off the move nicely with letters that just fit together, the interlocking UF was like fitting a square into a round hole. Even worse? The logo was absolutely gargantuan. Take a look at Cris Collinsworth in his old Florida uni. We’re not sure which one looks more awkward.
It didn’t help that the Gators played about as well as they looked in the 1970s, as the program went on a steady decline with head coach Doug Dickey taking over the team at the turn of the decade. After a dreadful 4-7 campaign in 1978, Florida brought in coach Charley Pell from Clemson.
As most new coaches do when they take over a struggling program, Pell wanted to start fresh with a new training facility, changes to the stadium and, alas, new uniforms. Although they went winless in 1979, the Gators started their steady climb back to respectability on the field that year with an orange helmet that featured the script “Gators” across the helmet in blue and orange jerseys that were a huge upgrade. Aside from changing to blue jerseys, the Florida uniform has stayed largely unchanged over the last three decades.
With teams now changing their uniforms almost every week, Florida has dipped into its history by donning orange jerseys for this year’s game against LSU and wearing uniforms similar to the Spurrier unis a couple times, most notably during last year’s SEC Championship Game.
Thankfully, the 1970s uniforms have remained out of sight and out of mind for the Gators, as well all hope we’ve seen the end of an ill-conceived design that deserves to remain in mothballs with other 1970s fashion disasters like bell bottoms, platform shoes and trouser suits.