FARGO – North Dakota State will not be going the way of the University of Oregon in terms of football fashion anytime soon, but the Bison did take a jump on Monday into the alternate helmet craze. NDSU unveiled a green helmet it will wear Saturday against Western Illinois.
The matte finish has the traditional Bison logo in yellow, with the top featuring a strip of yellow wheat spikes matching those in the university seal. It also ties into the school’s agricultural heritage with the WIU game being designated as the annual Harvest Bowl.
The project is being entirely externally funded by a group of 50 alumni and program supporters. NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen said each helmet carries a cost of between $200 and $325, so using the high-end figure with the approximately 100 players on the roster, the cost this week is over $32,000.
McFeely blog: What's the big deal with the alternate look?
“We made sure there’s enough money to recondition them for the next five years,” said Larsen, meaning there is no final set cost yet, “so there’s no new cost to NDSU.”
Although unique to Bison fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, the alternative helmet is not an isolated topic on the recruiting trail.
Bison head coach Chris Klieman said he hears questions on NDSU’s look all the time from high school prospects.
“The biggest thing is I look at the schools we’re competing against in recruiting and they change things a lot,” he said. “That doesn’t make it right, but that’s what they do and this is an opportunity for us to have a different look.”
NDSU has worn gold helmets since the early 1960s when the program started its run of success. The plan is to wear an alternate helmet once or twice a season, said Larsen.
“We wanted to try it this year with the Harvest Bowl with the wheat theme,” he said. “It opens the door to a different look, a different feel. Recruiting at the Division I level is an arm’s race. It’s not just facilities and it’s not just who you play, but a lot of it is what you wear. Those are the questions that you get so I think we’ll continue to do a lot of the things that we currently do and if we have to tweak things a little bit to give you an edge, then we have to look to do those things.”
Larsen said discussions of the helmet first started about a year ago, but he said it first had to get a favorable review from former players and selected alums. Klieman said he also visited with former players on the subject, saying “they understood as well.”
It’s the second wardrobe adjustment for NDSU, which unveiled its gold alternative jerseys in 2011.
“When I came here in 2011, nobody thought we would wear a gold jersey,” Klieman said. “I think it’s pretty cool. With so much social media and all of that stuff out there, in recruiting, we’re hoping it’s something that benefits us. Everybody has an alternate something.”
The green helmet will be worn with the gold jerseys and green pants on Saturday. Klieman said his players like the look and, in fact, seems to be giving them an extra shot of excitement late in the season.
“It’s late in the season and it’s good to give them something other than a candy bar reward for a tackle for a loss,” he said.