Purdue didn’t necessarily break the internet on Sunday when it unveiled the alternate helmet it will wear for this year’s Homecoming game against Florida Atlantic, but the Boilermakers did at least damage a side panel.
Matte black helmets feature a 1940s gold version of Purdue Pete – he was much less scary back then — affixed to a matte black helmet.
The tweet introducing the helmet also includes a rhetorical question: best retro helmet ever?
The best retro helmet of all time?
Coming soon 🔜 pic.twitter.com/9VJAX4Y4zQ
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) July 17, 2022
Since Purdue has questions, I have answers. Type of.
Purdue’s query parameters are too narrow. So rather than limit ourselves to throwback helmets, I’ve judged each of the alternate helmets worn by Big Ten teams over the past decade. And I considered the following 10 best.
But before we get to that, it’s important to note that alternate or return lids aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Michigan and Penn State sometimes put numbers on the side of their helmets, but otherwise don’t mess with their established looks.
Ohio State has been much bolder in trying alternate lids, but I find it a case of messing with perfection. At this point, none of the Buckeyes’ replacements have been better than the Real McCoys.
In general, programs with less mainstream hits in the field have stronger alternate headset games. Losing allows creativity. Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue make multiple appearances. Maryland might have had some, too, if its state flag weren’t such a locally beloved monstrosity at the heart of so many of its helmet designs.
Top 10 Big Ten Alternative Helmets
10. Indiana Bicentennial Trident
Indiana will wear this new alternate uni — as part of the university’s bicentennial celebration — on Oct. 12 against Rutgers. The helmet logo is inspired by one of the team’s first logos. pic.twitter.com/Zjq9lIiU2k
— Paul Lucas (@UniWatch) August 20, 2019
These unique helmets were worn in 2019 as a nod to Indiana University’s 200th anniversary. The “IU” trident used on these helmets copies the version seen on older structures on campus. It might be a touch you can only appreciate if you’ve been to IU and noticed these things, but I found it to be exceptionally well done.
Bonus points for a tasteful application of the Indiana state emblem in the back corner of the helmet.
9. Maryland Script Terps
Interesting note: Former Maryland S Antoine Brooks Jr. (@TwanDoee) uses the “Terps” script helmet, which has only been used once this season, in the 2020 Senior Bowl.
— Wesley Brown (@W_Brown21) January 22, 2020
It says it all, doesn’t it?
Given a choice in the matter, Terps safety Antoine Brooks decided to wear Maryland’s alternate helmet — red with “Terps” written in white print — to the 2020 Senior Bowl.
There’s big news coming for the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and the NFL season). Ohio online sports betting will officially launch on January 1, 2023. Ohio will join other Big Ten states where sports betting has been legalized, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and more .
It proves A) that Brooks is a man with impeccable fashion sense and B) he’s the best eyelids in Maryland.
And if you don’t believe either of us, ask Mr. Maryland himself.
All you have to do is give people what they want. Terps script on football helmets.
For hoops, there are a bunch of top options: the old-school turtle on the M, or the flag above the title team M.
Lots of M schools. One Terps school. It’s not tricky.
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) July 9, 2022
8. Purdue Railroad Helmets
— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) January 1, 2022
A great all-time appropriation of the mid band.
Someone said, “It’s not enough to be the Boilermakers. Put train tracks on the helmets.
So they did. And it works.
7. Indiana Chrome Candy Strips
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 18, 2014
These are obviously polarizing otherwise they wouldn’t have been retired after the 2017 season. Clearly Tom Allen doesn’t have the same fondness for the look as I do as they haven’t been worn since he took over the program. The price of (modest) success, it seems.
Personally, I like everything. The candy stripes are reminiscent of Indiana’s signature basketball warm-up pants, and I dig the way everything reflects off the chrome.
Could these be horrible primary helmets? Yes. But a few times a year, especially for a kick-off at noon? They hit on the spot.
6. Minnesota Chrome
— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) November 13, 2021
Goldmember, the villain of “Austin Powers in: Goldmember”, frequently expresses his fondness for gold.
That’s pretty much me, but with chrome swapped for gold.
This helmet takes a classic design – the Minnesota M – and inverts the colors with a shiny touch. The Gophers also attempted a version of this with a white M, but brown works much, much better.
5. New Jersey State Rutgers
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) October 6, 2018
These things pop out of the screen, making them the rare staple of the Rutgers football multiverse.
It’s a fairly simple yet lovely design – a bright scarlet outline of New Jersey on a matte black helmet. The state of New Jersey has never looked so beautiful.
Unfortunately, they were only worn once as the Scarlet Knights didn’t play as well as they dressed for their 2018 game against Illinois. Illini won 38-17 and these beauties have not been seen since.
4. Indiana 1995 throwbacks
Lock your jaw. pic.twitter.com/5jNDGUkOSA
— Indiana Football (@IndianaFootball) September 18, 2021
The 1995 Hoosiers were nothing special. In fact, they have to be pretty much the worst team to ever be commemorated with a retro helmet. The 1995 Hoosiers went 2-9 and 0-8 in the Big Ten.
But they looked damn good doing it.
So when Indiana played Cincinnati in a marquee game last season, it broke the 95s.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. Like their ancestors, the 2021 Hoosiers have only won 2 games and gone winless in Big Ten play. Maybe it’s time to put another twist on candy stripes before going back to this look, albeit superior.
As seen above, the new Purdue Pete helmets are tentatively penciled into the #3 spot until we see them in the field. There is a chance that they won’t translate and go down the list. Or they might look even better in a gaming environment and climb to the top of the leaderboards.
Mark your calendars for September 24.
2. Michigan State Script “State”
— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) September 3, 2021
Sometimes simplicity produces beauty.
Michigan State took the same concept as Indiana’s chrome stripes – a nod to the basketball program – and made it much better.
These mimic the uniforms worn by Magic Johnson and the Spartans 1979 Men’s National Basketball Championship team, and look gorgeous on top Michigan State road whites with green pants.
Michigan State wore 2 versions this past season – green masks against Northwest and white masks against Indiana. The green mask gives me the advantage.
1. Run Goldy Gopher
— Blue Gold News (@BlueGoldNews) December 29, 2021
— Golden Gophers on SR (@SRGophers) December 29, 2021
Obviously, I’m a sucker for cartoon mascots appearing on helmets.
Minnesota tried a variety of looks with Goldy Gopher on one side of the helmet, but none worked as well as what the Gophers wore against West Virginia in last year’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl. .
Most of these versions have Goldy’s giant face taking up the entire side of a helmet. I prefer the running Goldy logo with his vintage Minnesota lettered sweater. Minnesota also used the running Goldy, but on yellow helmets, which don’t look as good.
Minnesota clearly knew they had something magical to work on saving that helmet for a bowling game. Hopefully we’ll see him again. And for the sake of Gophers fans, ideally it will be in a higher caliber post-season game.