The long-awaited and soon-to-be-missed rivalry game is finally here. The Cougars are looking for redemption, and the Utes are looking to repeat the past few years and hold a win over the Cougars’ heads until 2016. The BYU-Utah series will have a two-season hiatus, so three years of bragging rights are on the line.
Utah Valley will see a lot of red this weekend, but there will be plenty of blue — royal blue, that is. Brigham Young University players and Cougar fans will don royal blue at the BYU-Utah matchup Saturday as a nod to the glory days of the LaVell Edwards era.
Royal blue is thought of as the old-school, traditional color of BYU football, but the team has actually worn quite an array of colors throughout the years — even orange! Let’s take a look at the history of BYU blue.
If you go back to 1922, the first year of collegiate football competition for the Cougars, you won’t see much blue and white. You won’t see much of any color, actually, because the photos are black and white. We do know, however, that the helmets were just the color of leather: tan or brown, sometimes with white trim.
In the late 1950s, players started wearing hard-shell helmets with face masks and photographers started using color film at the games. Helmets were white, then silver, then royal blue and then navy. Until 1966, the helmets were plain with maybe a stripe or the players’ numbers.
Early BYU blue colors were a darker blue. There weren’t a lot of color schemes at the time and navy was more popular. However, BYU hasn’t always sported just blue and white.
During the 1940 and 1941 seasons, Coach Eddie Kimball decided that the quarterback couldn’t get the ball to his receivers because he couldn’t see them. Kimball decided to change the jersey: the shoulders had blue-and-white stripes and the body of the shirt was orange — yes, orange.
Whether the quarterback started passing better or the new coach just didn’t like it, the orange went away the next year in 1942, and the colors went back to white and dark blues.
From 1947 to 1954 the Cougars wore solid white helmets with a dark blue stripe. In 1955, a completely solid silver helmet replaced the white and sometimes had numbers on the side. Six years later, BYU went back to a white helmet with a big blue stripe — a quarter-inch piece of rubber painted blue believed by coaches to soften blows to the head. The white helmet didn’t stay long and was replaced in 1965 by a dark blue helmet with white numbers, which were removed a year later.
The blue got lighter over the years, all the way to a Carolina blue in the late ‘60s. The Carolina didn’t stay long though, and in the early ‘70s, the blue turned into a royal blue in the LaVell Edwards era.
Right before LaVell Edwards became head coach, an encircled, simple block “Y” (like the one on the mountain) was put on the helmets. BYU helmets continued to undergo changes like inverting the colors, getting stickers for outstanding player performance (in 1978) and changing the striping. In 1978, Edwards introduced the “Y” on the helmet now — the “Y” with one side thinner than the other.
The royal blue lasted until 1999, when the university decided to go back to the darker blue color. BYU athletics followed suit and added tan as an accent color. As part of the new colors, helmet logo and uniform, Aug. 1999 was the first time Cougars wore a non-white helmet since 1968.
In 2005, when Bronco Mendenhall became head coach, he felt like BYU football had lost its identity and wanted to return to the glory days. Mendenhall kept the darker blue color but brought back the legendary uniform from the glory days of the LaVell Edwards era that the Cougars still wear today.
Thank you to Duff Tittle, associate athletic director at Brigham Young University and BYU football history buff, for the information used in this article.