University of Minnesota

Gophers 1954-55
(Authentic Reproduction)




Once Wes Fesler resigned there was a groundswell to return native son Bud Wilkinson to the University. Of course, with Oklahoma the dominant team in the nation, almost every college president and athletic director would have loved to have the former Minnesota athlete as their head coach but he made it clear he was not leaving Oklahoma. At that point, the influential program supporters pushed the administration to hire someone with a Big Ten background. Instead, they received word that their new coach would be what was to them “a foreigner”, Murray Warmath, a former product of General Bob Neyland’s system at Tennessee, and All SEC end and guard. Warmath had served as a trusted assistant at Mississippi State before entering the Navy, and returned to civilian life as an assistant coach at his alma mater before joining the staff of Earl “Red” Blaik at West Point. He served a short though victorious two years as the head coach at Mississippi State and then accepted the Minnesota job, coincidental because Minnesota had tried to hire him in ‘51. The former Class President of Tennessee’s student body, Warmath was bright and knew how to “go along to get along” and thus was ready for a bit of media complaint when he installed Army’s Split-T Offense, something considered to be rather exotic in the state of Minnesota. Still living under the influence of the Bierman years and his success, many were not quite ready for split backs and motion prior to the snap, thus there was mistrust of the new coach, his staff, and his system before the first game was even played. Warmath also arrived at Minnesota during a period that coincided with a move to de-emphasize football at the school so he had much going against him as he took the reins of the program. He immediately upgraded the uniforms and included a white helmet with a one-inch Green Bay gold center stripe flanked by three-quarter-inch maroon stripes. 


When Minnesota had tried to hire Warmath in '51 the extreme cold weather and the limited number of available scholarships discouraged him but he believed he could put a winning combination together. The introduction of the Split-T got a boost when Warmath discovered that holdover Gino Cappelletti was a natural in running it. He and All American HB Bob McNamara led the Gophers to a surprising 7-2 record where the 22-20 win over Iowa and McNamara's performance (209 total yards in the first half alone) are still talked about with awe. “Big Mac” would play in the CFL and with the Denver Broncos in the AFL’s first two seasons. Cappelletti would make his mark after the formation of the AFL, becoming one of the first greats of the Boston Patriots and the entire league, a superb clutch receiver and great placekicker. He was a versatile performer as a kick and punt return man and filled in as a DB when needed. He retired as the AFL's all-time leading scorer and his Pats' scoring record stood until 2005 when it was finally topped by Adam Vinatieri. Soph tackle Bob Hobert was the stalwart in the line. 1955 was a learning year for many young players and the 3-6 mark was highlighted by a near-miss, 14-13, against number-one ranked Michigan and a 25-19 win over a Jon Arnett-led USC team, the latter in snow and sleet.

If interested in any of these Minnesota helmets please click on the photos below.