Florida Gators Football: White Helmet History
Cursed or tradition? White helmets have a long history for the Florida Gators
The Florida Gators have been one of the most successful football programs in the country the past 50 years with 3 National Championships and 8 SEC Championships under its belt. Arguably the most recognizable brand in college football, Florida’s orange helmets with the script “Gators” has become an iconic helmet that symbolizes excellence in the game. However, for much of the Gators’ history, white helmets were the main look for the program. In fact, Florida legend Steve Spurrier even won the school’s first Heisman trophy in 1966 in a white helmet.
However, after orange helmets were introduced in 1969, white helmets did not re-appear permanently until 2015. Since that time, fans of Gators have deemed them as “cursed” due to their 5–6 record with crushing losses against UT and UGA and calls have strengthened to shelve them completely. White helmets are an integral part in the history and tradition of the Florida Gators, and with brands evolving, recruits visiting, and fans supporting, they are posed to stay for a long time. Lets take a look at the white helmet history for the fighting Gators:
1950’s: The birth of the white helmet
Florida debuted white helmets for the first time in program history against the Citadel in 1951. After wearing blue helmets in their first game against Wyoming in Jacksonville, FL, the Gators broke out white helmets in their home opener for a 27–7 victory.
Florida would go on to alternate between blue and white helmets during the 1951 season, wearing white helmets 5 total times.
After opening the 1955 season against Mississippi State with the previous white helmets, head coach Bob Woodruff added blue numbers to the helmet for the next game against Georgia Tech.
Florida would keep this helmet design until the 1962 season.
The 1960s: Beginning of the brand
The 1960s were arguably the most formidable years for the Gators: Steve Spurrier’s legacy began and the outward branding of “UF” began.
In 1962, Florida added helmet stickers, much like current day Ohio State. These stickers appeared on the front of the helmets as stars and were given out to players for their performance on the field. The helmet design also changed to (what appears to be) orange numbers but kept the single orange stripe.
The 1962 Gator Bowl vs Penn State saw one of the most controversial helmets in all of college football history. Florida took the field in white helmets with the “Battle Flag” on the side of the helmet.
“UF was 6–4 and PSU was 9–1. PSU felt that playing Florida was a slap in the face. Since PSU felt that way, Florida put Battle Flags on the side of the helmet to pump the team up.” — Nationalchamps.net.
Florida would go on to win 17–7.
After a 3 year hiatus where blue helmets became the standard helmet for the Gators, the 1966 season featured the most famous white helmets in Florida history: Spurrier’s block F with a blue/orange/blue stripe. This same helmet design was replicated in the 2006 throwback uniforms.
Florida would finish the 1966 season 9–2 and Spurrier walked away with the Heisman trophy.
The 1967 season was one of the most complicated uniform seasons for the Gators. The season featured 3 different helmets:
- Orange stripe, football F
- Blue/Orange/Blue stripe, football F
- Blue/Orange/Blue stripe, blue numbers
The 1968 season was the first appearance of the interlocking UF logo on Florida’s helmets, which were later worn on orange helmets.
2000’s: One-off uniforms bring back white helmets
The 2000’s not only featured 2 National Championships for the Gators in 2006 and 2008, but it was also a formidable time in uniform history across college football. Uniform changes were more common and alternate uniforms became a popular trend by the end of the decade.
After a 38 year hiatus, white helmets finally returned to the field for the Gators in the form of 1966 throwbacks for the 2006 game vs Alabama.
The throwback uniforms were worn in celebration of Florida’s 100th season of football.
Florida would take the victory over Alabama 28–13.
In Tebow’s final game in The Swamp, Florida debuted white helmets with a new look for the 2009 Nike Pro Combat “Finish the Mission” uniforms.
“Nike designers immersed themselves in Gators’ history and lore to bring inspiration cues to the look and direction of the uniforms” — FloridaGators.com
Florida cruised to a 37–10 victory.
2009 SEC Championship Game
After Florida’s beatdown on Florida State in the final home game of the 2009 season, players voted to wear the helmet again in the 2009 SEC Championship game against Alabama. The Gators took the field in all white for the first time in over 40 years.
#1 Florida was upset by #2 Alabama 32–13. After the upset, Urban Meyer banned the helmets and they would never see the field again.
Riley Cooper would say the next week “It didn’t work out for us, so I don’t think we’ll wear those again. I’m not wearing mine [ever] again”.
White helmets seemed all but gone. That is, until 2015.
2015: The reintroduction of the white helmet
When Jim McElwain was hired as Florida’s new head coach in 2015 after the failed Muschamp era, fans hopes were high as his offensive mind was expected to bring the Gators back to prominence. However, Coach McElwain was going to bring more to the Gators than just a new offense.
Late one night, McElwain posted this image on Twitter ahead of homecoming against Vanderbilt:
Many fans speculated the Gators would be getting new helmets, with (incorrect) rumors that there was a possibility of black helmets.
Then, on November 7, 2015, Florida revealed new white helmets featuring the traditional script Gators on one side with the slant F from the Nike Pro Combat uniforms on the opposite side. Also new was tapered orange and blue stripes down the middle.
Florida would go on to squeak out a 9–7 win over Vanderbilt.
Coach McElwain explained the white helmets after the game:
“Some of our players asked about a white helmet and, of course, I looked around the building and there are pictures of white helmets everywhere, so I just through we had them and found out we didn’t. I think there is some true symbolism in those helmets. For me, especially on a homecoming game, it was an opportunity to link the present — with the ‘Gators’ script on one side — and unite it with the past with the ‘Block F’ on the other side.”
“The was really the driving force behind it and our guys appreciated it because some of them were recruited here thinking they were going to wear a white helmet sometimes.”
After the game, Florida’s white helmets became the talk of the nation as recruits flocked to them on visits:
Ahead of the 2016 season, there was a rumor/opinion (outlined by u/risto116 on Reddit) that McElwain wanted the white helmets to be permanent.
Even the official 2016 schedule poster featured the W/B/W combination, leading some to think white helmets would be worn more.
Entering the 2016 season, Florida was now 1–1 in white helmets leaving some fans unsure. But the Gators took everyone by surprise by revealing an all-white combination with the new white helmets for the Tennessee game. It was the first time the Gators wore all white since 2009.
However, Florida’s 11 game win streak vs Tennessee was broke as they gave up 31 unanswered points to lose 38–28.
The Gators opened the 2017 season vs Michigan in “Color Rush” uniforms. Florida wore blue jerseys, blue pants, blue accessories, and the white helmet in a 33–17 loss.
Contrary to what many reported, this wasn’t a new combination for the Gators as they previously wore the uniform against South Carolina in 2016.
The Gators would go on to wear white helmets 2 more times during the 2017 season, both at home:
- UAB 36–17, Win
- FSU 38–22, Loss
2018–2019: The Mullen era begins
Florida had not played at its standard since the 2000’s, so out goes McElwain and in comes Dan Mullen. Early on, Mullen made 1 thing clear; the Gators would be returning to a more traditional look alongside their move to Jordan Brand.
It wasn’t clear the white helmets would make their return.
At this point, fans wanted each side of the white helmet to match. As recruits began visiting Florida, many chose the white helmet for their photoshoot, and leaded the new-look white helmet;
On July 28, 2018, it was confirmed script Gators would appear on both sides.
As Florida entered a huge matchup with Georgia, the Gators officially revealed the new look white helmets with script Gators on both sides and the slant F on the bumper.
The Gators took the field in all-white Jordan uniforms, but lost 36–17.
At this point, the Gators were 3–5 in white helmets since their re-introduction in 2015 including bad losses to UT, FSU, Michigan, and Georgia. Fans officially labeled the white helmet as “cursed.”
But as appealing to 17–18yr old recruits becomes more and more critical, the white helmets stayed. WAY more often that not, white helmets were the helmet of choice during visits.
When news broke in summer 2019 that the 1960s throwback jerseys were returning, fans knew the famous white throwback helmets were also on the table.
Florida revealed 1960’s era throwbacks (fauxbacks) for their game against Auburn featuring the 15th different white helmet in program history:
- Orange stripe
- Circle F
- CFB 150th anniversary logo on the bumper.
Florida would win 24–13.
The Gators would wear their standard white helmets later in the 2019 season against Vanderbilt in the white/blue/white combination, not seen since the 2017 season.
Florida would win handily 56–0.
2020 — Present: The Master Stripe era
The one issue with the Gators white helmets since their reintroduction was the tapered orange and blue stripes. For 4 years, the stripe didn’t match the classic master stripe pattern on the uniforms of orange/blue/white/blue/orange. Calls for the master stripe were far and wide, including this mockup in April 2020 which showed what the white helmet would look like with the master stripe.
In 2020, that all changed with the reveal of new white helmets with the master stripe and all-white uniforms ahead of Florida’s game with Vanderbilt.
The master stripe featured a chrome/metallic finish, consistent with the shiny chrome finish on the script Gators decal.
The consistent striping across the whole uniform made for a beautiful sight:
The Gators revealed their 16th different white helmet in program history ahead of their game against USF. The game is set to take place on 9/11/2021, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. To commemorate that day, the helmet features an American flag script Gators decal.
Florida’s white helmet was also updated in 2021, going from a chrome helmet stripe with white in the middle to a regular finish helmet stripe with a transparent middle stripe. See below for the old white helmet and the new white helmet:
The Gators will wear all-white for the 2nd season in a row, a first since the white helmet returned in 2015.
The Gators currently hold a 97–60–7 record in white helmets all-time, representing a significant part of Gators history. While they may leave a somewhat sour taste now, white helmets deserve recognition as a fundamental piece of tradition for the Florida Gators.
NOTE: This article is being constantly updated and refreshed with the latest uniforms, research, and data. Last updated 9/10/2021
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