Wildcat Walk

Greg Byrne and Rich Rodriguez are no strangers to looking good. Photo by Wildcat Universe

There isn’t anything that fires up a college football team at practice more than unveiling new uniform items (except maybe canceling practice altogether).

The Arizona Wildcats‘ shiny new toys are literally shiny as the UA announced it will wear helmets with the increasinglypopularchromelook for the first time in this week’s very large game against UCLA.

They say when you look good you play good (and play well, even) but for the Cats the opposite has been true.

Fall 2012 was a season of newness in Tucson with a new football coach and two new helmets. The coach has turned out well but neither helmet got off to a good start. Late September of that season saw the Wildcats wearing copper headgear for the first time in program history. The Oregon State Beavers were not impressed, scoring with just over a minute left to win by a score of 38-35 at Arizona Stadium.

Three home games later the UA wore red helmets for the first time in 32 years. The Cats took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter in Rich Rodriguez’s Territorial Cup debut but ASU scored 24 straight points en route to a 41-34 Sun Devil victory.

The best (worst?) example of bad new-helmet juju was the 2009 Holiday Bowl. When Mike Stoops was plucked out of the Oklahoma / Texas rivalry he immediately switched Arizona’s helmets from white to blue. Stoops’ teams exclusively wore navy-colored hats his first six years but he wanted to reward his players after an excellent ’09 regular season in which the Wildcats beat Arizona State and USC to finish second in the Pac-12.

New stripe-free white helmets were unleashed in San Diego. Unfortunately the Cats ended up with as many points as helmet stripes in a 33-0 drubbing at the hands of Nebraksa.

In this modern era of helmet fashion, the only hue to win its debut was the color blue. Stoops’ troops beat NAU 21-3 to open the 2004 season but that wasn’t a one-off uniform gimmick like we’ll see at Arizona Stadium this Saturday.

I have no problem with new helmets and changing uniform color combinations. I wouldn’t be the uniform database guy if I did. But I do think new stuff can be distracting. If the Wildcats spend too much time looking in the mirror this week they will see a hungry bunch of Bruins gaining on them.

Enjoy the new gear, fellas, but don’t let it distract you from the large task at hand.

Winning has always been the best fashion statement.

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