University of Illinois

1977 - 79 Illini
(Authentic Reproduction)




Reaching into the successful Michigan program, Illinois tapped Gary Moeller as their new coach. With "bloodlines" that reached to Ohio State as a Woody Hayes captain and a Bo Schembechler defensive coordinator at Michigan, Moeller had the pedigree of a winner. Moeller tweaked the uniforms with the burnt orange helmet now adorned with a three-quarter-inch white stripe trimmed in dark navy blue on its outside edge, flanking each side of the orange center stripe of the helmet. The arched Illini logo in dark navy blue with white trim stood out nicely on each side of the headgear in part due to the contrast of navy blue facemasks. The 3-4 record going into November wasn't bad as the new system was absorbed, but going a frightful 0-4 in November and getting trashed 77-7 by the opposition in those four weeks ruined the 3-8 season tally. Although both ranked at the bottom of the conference standings, the defense was better than the offense, led by Academic All American DT Bruce Thornton and LB John Sullivan who made 202 tackles. 1978's 1-8-2 did not look like a Michigan type of record, something everyone expected when Gary Moeller was hired before the 1977 season. Led by redshirt soph QB Rick Weiss, the conservative offense was poor, scoring but 103 points for the entire season. Despite the carnage of the season, LB John Sullivan had another All Big Ten type of year and DT Bruce Thornton played well enough to sign with the Cowboys and have a three-year NFL career in Dallas and Seattle. Any expectation for improvement went out the window as QB Rich Weiss went down early and missed the entire '79 season. TB Mike Holmes became the focus of the offense, rushing for 792 yards and making Second Team All Big Ten. Kelvin Adkins and Jack Squirek were promising at LB. The 6-24-3 record that Moeller compiled in his three-years with what was seen as an ultra-conservative and poor offense had boosters and alumni howling and he was dismissed at the conclusion of the season. Moeller returned to Michigan, first as the QB coach, then defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator, and finally head coach. He later left for a successful career in the NFL as a defensive coordinator and the head coach of the Detroit Lions.   

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