Michigan State

1973-75 Michigan State Spartan “Cauliflower” Helmet
(Game Worn)


Football logos that were used during the “Golden” era of football exuded tremendous character. Some may have appeared too small while others might be considered too large. Many were overly simplistic and some were too detailed. The beauty of these wonderful old designs could be found in their imperfections and their indifference to the conventional design axioms as dictated by the prestigious Madison Ave. advertising / commercial design agencies. Sadly, these professional design “experts” with all their boardroom wisdom, and total absence of on-field experience, have now taken over the responsibility of developing the corporate type logos that are used for modern era helmets designs.

Why do we cherish and pay tribute to these crusty old logos while the “effective” modern designs go virtually unnoticed or are taken for granted?  The answer is simple – character:

We can still visualize the old coaching staff creating their team’s logo on a napkin while enjoying a few “cold ones” after practice. “Make that stripe a little thicker” orders the confident assistant coach or “why don’t we use the shape of a football?” asks the more humble equipment manager. “OK, let’s finalize this thing – we have got a lot of film to look at” dictates the head coach. And a beautiful symbol of future history is completed.

Perhaps the logo reflected a special source of inspiration or achievement known only to the team. It could be a stubborn goat, stars, upward arrows, slogans (sometimes in Chinese), or an unofficial team mascot.

The design could have originated from a drawing by a local sportswriter, a contest held among students, a player on the team or just a local industry icon.

This month’s featured helmet, the rare oversized 1973-75 Michigan State Spartan model, fully captures the flavor of those glorious helmets designed in the good old days.

In 1965 MSU’s legendary coach Duffy Daugherty and renowned athletic director Bert Smith conducted a campus wide contest to create a helmet logo for the team. Their project resulted in a handsome but somewhat conventional looking “Spartan” head helmet logo. It was the first time that Michigan State exhibited a logo on their helmets and they went on to win a national championship that year. The team featured “superstars” such as Bubba Smith, George Webster, Anthony Conti, Clinton Jones, Gene Washington and Mike Dissinger. Duffy retained that same helmet logo until he retired after the 1972 season (the logo was slightly tweaked in 1967 by changing from a white to a black border to improve its visualization). Although the Spartans were considered one of the major powers in college football in the 1960s they were in decline by the time Duffy retired.

Denny Stoltz was hired to replace Duffy in 1973 with the hopes of restoring the team to its previous glory years. One of the first things Denny did was to update the Spartan uniforms and create a new image for the floundering team. One of the great things about college football during its “Golden” period was that when a new coach was hired he was usually allowed to create his own new team uniform design. No athletic department committees needed to be formed, there was no director of licensing that needed to be consulted, Nike or Addis were not around to force their artwork on the team, it was just left up to the new head coach and perhaps a perfunctory approval from the school’s athletic director. When Denny discovered that one of his promising receivers, Michael Hurd, was an art major he asked him to design a new “Spartan” head helmet logo for the team. Denny loved the unusual looking, oversized design that Mike created and quickly implemented it. Because of its size and knobby appearance the logo affectionately became know as the “cauliflower” logo. Complimentary looking oversized player numerals (2.5 inches tall) were added on the rear of the helmet. The following year they switched from conventional gray to Kelly green facemasks and became one of the first football teams in the nation, professional or otherwise, to have the standard plastisol coated facemasks actually fabricated in team colors. Unfortunately the new coach and uniform design did not improve upon the team’s recent year’s sub par performance on the field and both Denny Stoltz and this rare and most interesting MSU helmet logo were replaced after the 1975 season.

This virtually unblemished Macgregor, clear shell, model “MH-100” 1973-75 Michigan State Spartan featured helmet is a stunning representation of that immediate post Duffy Daugherty era. The helmet was originally acquired directly from the team and is still in amazing pristine condition more than thirty years later. The famous thick leather Macgregor internal padding is still soft and pliable. The historic Kelly green plastisol coated Schutt facemask is complimented by still intact original color coordinated attachment clips. Michael Hurd’s wonderful oversized “Spartan” head design is well preserved under the sparkling clear helmet shell. The correct oversize style player numerals have been added to complete this priceless keepsake.

The next time a modern era football team decides to change their team logo it would be refreshing to have this very helmet placed in the middle of the long boardroom table at the major design studio where an overly educated staff (who never crossed the end zone) discuss the “development path” for this million dollar project. We have a strong feeling that the market tested modern era logo that they create could never compete with the perfectly imperfect, character filled designs that were completed during the “Golden” era of football.

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