Gil Chapman early 70's
(game worn)



The Michigan Wolverine winged helmet is one of the longest standing and most revered helmet designs in the history of college football. When Bo Schembechler was hired as Michigan's head coach in 1969 he made several subtle helmet and uniform changes. Prior to the 1969 season opener he had the yellow-gold player numerals removed from the sides of the helmets. Over the next few years the team switched from Riddell suspension helmets to Macgregor model "100 MH" clear shell helmets as their preferred helmet type. Bo may have been influenced by his legendary mentor Woody Hayes at Ohio State where Bo previously served as an assistant coach. The OSU team almost exclusively used Macgregor helmets (most with padded external shells) when Bo was there. The yellow shade for the Michigan helmet wing and uniform trim were also modified during the early 1970s. Prior to Bo the yellow was a Green Bay gold hue. In the early 1970s the color was lightened to almost a lemon shade of yellow which seemed logical noting that the official school colors have always been maize (a corn or lighter yellow) and blue. Setting aside the rationale for using official school colors, the earlier combination of navy blue with the richer looking Green Bay gold trim was quite stunning and arguably should have been retained.

In the mid 1970s the Michigan athletic department along with local Ann Arbor scientists became involved in the development of a new inflatable type helmet commercially introduced as the Bike "Air Power" helmet (now sold as Schutt's "Pro Air" helmet). Macgregor quit making helmets in 1974 (the Macgregor helmet line was subsequently purchased and reintroduced in the late 1970s by Bill Kelly). In the mid 1970s Michigan began wearing the new Bike helmets almost exclusively and still use a large percentage (versus Riddell) of the Schutt "Pro Air" helmets today.
This banged up beauty pictured above is one of the aforementioned and now very rare Macgregor model "100 MH" clear shell helmets from that early 1970s period. Naturally, the game wear did not impact the helmet's legendary wing design or navy blue paint which were both applied from the inside surface of its clear plastic shell. The helmet is marked with a number "24" on the surface of the internal thick leather covered padding indicating that it was worn by Gil Chapman. He was a solid running back who was a three year letterman for the Wolverines during that period. Attached to the size 7 1/8 helmet is a Schutt model "JOP" cage facemask correctly devoid of any red or green paint dot size indicators which were introduced later in the decade.
Michigan has always maintained a tight control over its game used helmets as far as not letting them get out into the hobby or to the general public.  Michigan issues each scholarship player a new helmet when they first arrive as a Freshman and unless it breaks prematurely that helmet is used by the player during his entire career. The player is allowed to keep the helmet after he graduates. After each season Michigan sends their game worn Riddell helmets to Riddell All American for reconditioning and their Schutt helmets to an independent reconditioner. The helmets are closely tracked by the school and they demand that the reconditioners return every helmet including the ones that do not pass inspection and cannot be reconditioned. Once received, the equipment manager then will dispose of the rejected helmets himself rather than trust the reconditioners to scrap them as most other teams do. This procedure has prevented Michigan game used helmets to find their way to the collectable market via the reconditioner scrap heap. This proverbial "scrap heap" has traditionally has be a good source for collectors who are "well connected" with the right people at the reconditioning companies.
The Michigan "winged" helmet is an icon in college football. The helmet has incurred various changes over the years but still exudes an unmatched image of tradition. Relative to other teams, very few Michigan helmets have surfaced into the hobby over the years. This early 1970s Macgregor model "100 MH" clear shell Michigan helmet worn by Gill Chapman can be enjoyed for its rarity, lineage and the simple fact that it escaped that dreaded "scrap heap." A non discriminating helmet burial ground that has claimed far too many of our historic helmets over the years.