1975 - Present
The "most recent" change in the helmet design occurred back in 1975 and did not involve any changes in the navy blue shell, the beautiful and immediately recognizable wing-and-stripe design done in maize or the addition of any logos or decals. Simply, when face masks became available in various colors, Michigan decided to exchange their standard gray masks for a navy blue model that further accented the brilliance of the overall helmet design. This is "the look" that Michigan has maintained to the present day when they take the field. When they took the field in 1975, they did so with an almost shocking forty-one victories in their previous forty-five games! The '75 season would result in a bowl appearance loss against Oklahoma, but despite their Big 10 record of 7-1, two consecutive early season ties and a loss to Ohio State left them with a
disappointing 8-2-2 record. Injuries forced the play of a number of true freshmen, including lefty QB Rick Leach. He had some offensive help with HB Gordon Bell (future NY Giant and Cardinal) and versatile Rob Lytle who motored for 1040 yards from the fullback spot. Young Russell Davis and Harlan Huckleby provided the relief. Bill Dufek and Mike Kenn were the O-Line horses. Kenn would later go on to star at OT for the Falcons from 1978 through 1993. Don Dufek again was an All American and played efficiently at DB for the Seahawks for seven years. 1976 provided Big Blue fans with a return to the "normalcy" of a ten-win season. The regular season loss came against an inspired Purdue team, 16-14 but they otherwise put big numbers up with Rick Leach running the show again, throwing often to Jim Smith who would have a productive career with the Steelers. RB Rob Lytle contributed 1469 yards in the vaunted option attack before moving on to the Broncos with Russ Davis and Huckleby again the secondary rushers. The offensive line was the primary force all season with Bill Dufek and Mike Kenn manning the OT posts, Mark Donohue at guard, and Walt Downing at the pivot. Donahue was an All American, the others first or second team All Big Ten. The season ended with a Rose Bowl loss to a loaded USC squad, 14-6, and the bowl's offensive performance received some criticism but Bo's option attack truly was potent. The '76 team more or less warmed-up the Michigan fans for the 1977 season, and for the tenth straight year, Schembechler's team, with new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Don Nehlen, fresh from Bowling Green and soon to depart for the head job at West Virginia, had a top ten ranking and put up big offensive numbers, 4364 total yards and 353 points scored. Lefty Rick Leach entered the season having started every game for two years. A baseball star too, he was the Detroit Tigers first draft pick and played in the Major Leagues for ten years. Davis and Huckleby were the rushers. '76 line standouts Donahue (Bengals) and Downing (six years with the 49'ers) both made All American teams. The defense augmented the offense and finished fourth in the NCAA standings. Soph LB Ron Simpkins set a new school record for number of tackles. DE Curtis Greer and DB Dwight Hicks were the standouts. Only a 16-0 upset at Minnesota sullied the 10-1 season record until they suffered yet another Rose Bowl loss, this time 27-20 against Washington. As the suspension helmet era was ending in 1978, Michigan made it three Rose Bowls in a row (and three losses, this one to USC 17-10) and three consecutive 10-2 records, Michigan State the spoiler this time. Again the offense was high-powered, 4649 yards and 372 points, and again, QB Leach was "the guy" entering the season as the all time school record holder in numerous offensive categories and doing everything well before packing his bags for Major League baseball. Harlan Huckleby who later had a "nice" six year stint with the Packers and Russell Davis who was a Steeler back-up for four years were the primary runners with frosh "Butch" Woolfolk in reserve. TE Doug Marsh stepped up to an All Big 10 season. Defensively, DT Curtis Greer (Cardinals), LB Ron Simpkins (seven years with Bengals), and DB Dwight Hicks who later joined the famed "Ronnie Lott-led" defensive backfield of the Super Bowl San Francisco team were the bell cows.
As changes in helmet construction were introduced, Michigan held
to tradition, maintaining their navy and maize wing-and-stripe design that has
become synonymous with the Wolverines and Bo Schembechler continued his winning
ways until his retirement after the 1995 season, continuing to challenge for Big
Ten and National titles, sending numerous players to pro football, and
establishing Michigan as a true dynasty.
If interested in any of these Michigan helmets please click on the photos below.