Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

Before we examine the 2015 decal (which we started in Phase I here) we need to look back at the evolution of the Michigan Football helmet decals. 

1969-1974 Version #1 – When Bo introduced the helmet stickers at Michigan in 1969 (Version 1), they were solid, maize-colored, crudely shaped footballs. These were used through the 1974 season.  Here’s Don Moorhead’s helmet as featured on


1975-1982  Version #2 – The decal shape became more oval and the snarling wolverine head was added.   There was now a left-facing version, and a right-facing version.  Here is a good look at them from one of Jim Dack’s helmets (find more info on Jim’s collection at

Photo Sep 13, 8 34 56 AM

The other distinction with this version was that the wolverine image was actually clear, thus allowing the blue helmet paint to make the wolverine appear blue:

Because the design was made 40 years ago, there was no high-end computer program like Photoshop that was used to create the snarling Wolverine head graphic.  It was probably created using Line Art.  Notice the level of detail on the hair, teeth and nose of the wolverine. The more you zoom in, the more detail you will see.

1983-1984  No Helmet Stickers.  The mystery of this two-year stretch discussed here.

1985-1994 Version 3 – After a two year absence, the decals returned in 1985 (Version 3) with a few modifications.


The shape was now more spheroid in nature. The snarling wolverine is no longer a clear image – it is distinctly colored blue.  The wolverine head was centered in the decal laces were now added to the top of the shape giving it more of a football feel, and the color was a little brighter yellow.  Before Saturday, we hadn’t seen decals on the Michigan helmets since the Wolverines defeated Colorado State in the 1994 Holiday Bowl.

2015- – Version 4 – So we learned on Labor Day that the decals would be returning.  Here’s another look:

decal Upon further review, a few things are apparent:

  • Size – The overall size is the same as the Version 3 (1985) decal with one distinction- the wolverine logo is actually slightly smaller, 1/16” (from blue tip edge to blue tip edge).
  • Color – It clearly has a darker tone of maize and blue color to it so that it matches the 2015 uniform, including the helmet wings and stripes.
  • Design – Overall design is basically the same as Version 3, with the laces and wolverine head are the same as Version 3, but now there is blue trim to it.

When looking closer at the image, I noticed a few things that were different from the 1985 decal, specifically with the quality of the wolverine:

  • (1) Teeth – there is less white area in teeth of this year’s decal.
  • (2) Nose – there is less white area on the nose, as well.
  • (3) Hair – the hair length around the neck and back of head has now been “smoothed.”
  • (4) Outline – the blue trim becomes jagged when zooming in on the decal.

I think all these differences are the result of scanning the 1985 version vs. scanning the 1975 version.   So, here’s the deal: the 1975 version was the original, and the 1985 decal was created from a scan of the 1975 decal.  When it came time to create the 2015 decal, hardly any of the 1975 stickers were in good enough condition to re-scan, so the only option was to scan a 1985 decal.  What you ended up with was a scan of a scan to make the 2015 version.  When you do that, there is a loss of image quality and that is why the hair appears to be smoothed, and there is less (white) detail in the nose, teeth and elsewhere.

Is anyone going to notice this from their seats in Michigan Stadium?  No.
Will I? Yes.
Am I ok with it?  Yep.  I’m thrilled that the helmet stickers are back!

Just maybe next time a tweak is being considered for the decals, maybe Dr. Sap can be consulted?

– – – – – –

More from Oregon State game here:


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12. September 2015 · Comments Off on Decalanalysis: Phase I · Categories: 2015 · Tags:


Rest assured I’ve forwarded several pics of the helmet stickers to Dr. Sap and we’ll have his full analysis later.  For now, a few observations on the 2015 helmet stickers.

First off, they appear to match the size and design of the 1985-1994 version of the helmet stickers (click here for your primer on U-M decal history) with a few exceptions: 

A few things stick out (note the 2015 photo above was taken from the field so it’s a tad distorted):

Michigan Helmet Stickers Comparison

(1) The tone of maize on the 2015 version thankfully generally matches the move to a darker maize on the uniform.

(2) There is a blue border around the oval in the 2015 version

(3) There is a bit of clear trim around the outside of the new decal.

I won’t get into it in this post, but the wolverine in the 2015 sticker has less detail – clearly.  I know Dr. Sap will have some thoughts on this.  Latest Uniform Timeline here.

Update:  Good question from MGoShoe

Q: Orientation different?  Or, do they point in different directions based on helmet side?

Answer: the 2015 does have both left and right facing versions of the decals. It looks like the players had discretion on how and where to arrange the stickers (or the equipment staff was inconsistent).



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Helmet Decals

So word is out that the helmet decals will return and the Legends program will be modified in some manner, starting with the patch on the jersey.  Bacs:

bacs tweet

Regarding the helmet stickers:  I’m not surprised (my spies confirmed a lot of chatter weeks ago) and you can imagine that I’m pretty jacked up and looking forward to the decal reveal. I’d prefer a replica or close variation of the Bo-era decals, but I’d go with a block M or whatever.  I know Dr. Sap has a few ideas that we’ll reveal down the road.  Heck, I’d even go with this design if it would mean cheaper tickets & Twizzler prices:Im loving it

On the Legends jerseys, I’ll start with Bacon’s tweet.  I think he’s probably right that Canham or Bo wouldn’t have been crazy about the concept, but I wonder if they would be ok with unwinding this (at least the jersey portion) after it was already unveiled. 

I need more info on what exactly happening here, but I really like the Legends program including the patch on the jersey.  Whether you like the aesthetics of the patch or not, what this concept did was bring these great players to the forefront and got people (people other than yrs truly) talking about them again.  Dave Brandon had to sell the families of those who had previously retired jersey numbers to bring them back on the field, so now what?  

Legends Program Montage(Bennie McCready & Jake Ryan | Ox Wistert | Mark Harmon)

I know that the athletic department has at least tried to reach out to certain family members of Legends recently I assume to, ahem, talk this through.

I think the biggest problem with the Legends program is that it became a burden on the coaching staff to dole out these jerseys to the “right” player and they felt obligated to include the families as much as possible.  It was probably easier to not bother.  My take, and what I’d sell to the families—just let the coach decide who gets the jersey and leave it at that.  If the designated player and the families form a relationship after that, all the better, but I wouldn’t ask the coaches to work all that out ahead of time.  To Desmond, one of the living Legends (along with Ox Wistert), I’d say the same thing – don’t worry about whether the player “earned” the right to wear #21, just let the coaches assign the number and that’s that.  It should be an honor to Desmond that his name is on any jersey on the sideline.    This bureaucratic burden was why RichRod buried the #1 jersey. 

So, before I blast away any further I’ll chill until I hear more.  My questions — Do the special Legends lockers in the stadium go away?  Does the section of the Towsley museum carved out for the Legends vanish?   Of course the biggest question – do the previously retired jerseys go back in the vault?

No matter what, looks like we’ll have some interesting tweaks to the Uniform Timeline this fall.


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14. January 2013 · Comments Off on What If Denard had Decals? · Categories: 2012 · Tags: , , , ,

image_thumb166[1] Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

Last year, we kept track of the helmet stickers every game for each player deserving these awards based on not only individual, but team accomplishments.  After the Ohio State game, Denard Robinson led all players with 42 award decals.

Ever since then I wondered what would Denard’s helmet look like if it had decals on it?  With a little PhotoShop work, wonder no more.

Below are a couple of possibilities – one with all 42 decals on one side, and another with half, or 21 on one side.

Denard Robinson with Helmet Decals Denard Robinson with Rich Rodriguez

In order to fit 42 decals on one side of the helmet, the decal size would need to be reduced, but you get the idea.  That’s what happens when you are made of Dilithium!

Think there are a lot of decals on Denard’s helmet?

Mike Hammerstein in 1985 and Desmond Howard in 1991 were two former UM players that had a ton of decals on their helmets.  #66 sported 47 decals on his helmet in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska:

Mike Hammerstein helmet Mike Hammerstein Fiesta Bowl

#21 in the 1992 Rose Bowl and against OSU in 1991:

Desmond Howard helmet Desmond Howard helmet

To me, there was nothing like seeing Michigan and Ohio State clash at the end of the season. Having both teams’ helmets filled with decals just added to the spectacle.

So I ask you, wouldn’t you rather see the winged helmet decorated with decals at the end of the season, or would you rather see the same old wings and stripes with nothing on it?

Remember, THIS IS MICHIGAN, and the decals are a tradition that Bo started back when he was at Miami (Ohio) and brought to Michigan in 1969.


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24. September 2012 · Comments Off on Dr. Sap’s Decals | Notre Dame · Categories: 2012 · Tags: , ,

Ed.  Dr. Sap is back with his decals for week 4.   I added the Editor’s pick and Fan award again this week.  Here are the picks from Week 1 and Week 2 and Week 3.

clip_image002[1]Back when Bo was coaching the Michigan Football team, he awarded decals for individual as well as TEAM accomplishments.   He also selected Champions each week.

Not only were the obvious categories (offense, defense, special teams) selected, but Bo also made it a point to recognize the not so obvious ones – Scout Team Champions and Team Hustlers – each week.  


JEREMY GALLON – While he only had three receptions for 33 yards, he seemed to always be there when Michigan needed a first down. Gallon is starting to emerge as Denard’s possession receiver.


JORDAN KOVACS – Kovacs played another solid game, notching 5 solo tackles, 7 in total to lead the team in both categories as well as 1 tackle for loss. I wish this guy wasn’t a senior – I’d love to have him around for three more years.


MATT WILE – Boomed all three of his kickoffs with such efficiency that ND did not have the opportunity to return any of them – they all went for touchbacks. I’m sure Bo would have liked to have had Wile back in 1989– his kicks would have grounded Rocket Ismail, for sure.


DEVIN GARDNER – DG took some big shots during the game. Whether he was catching the ball, going up to try and make a catch, or crashing into the NBC-TV Stage, Gardner was going ALL OUT to make plays. For a guy who wasn’t thrilled about all the contact he gets playing WR, he’s taking his fair share and not letting it bother him.


WHITE SOCKS – Nice to see the white socks on the road again – they just look “it” with the white jerseys, especially pulled all the way up to the knees – CLASSIC!

socks wrists
MAIZE LACES – A few of the players, like Elliott Mealer and Desmond Morgan, wore yellow laces on their cleats.  I don’t think you have to be Billy Taylor to realize how cool they looked!


JAKE RYAN -  From my vantage point #47 was an absolute monster and if rocking flowing locks counts for anything, he was an absolute magician.


TO ANY MICHIGAN FAN.. who visited South Bend and had to sit in the end zone near the tunnel within the vicinity of those ridiculous Maiden speakers blasting out the sound of the Irish band:
  • Where’s The Party? (Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6)
  • Denard Postgame
  • Recent Historical Analysis – Notre Dame-Michigan
  • Happy Birthday to Shoelace !
  • More mail, this time including an actual piece of USPS mail.  A big thanks to everyone for all the comments, tweets, emails and real mails lately:

    An actual Helmet StickerMy jaw dropped when I open this piece of mail.  A former 80s-era player is a fan of the new Dr. Sap’s Decals segment and sent me an actual sticker from his helmet, check this out:


    He added in his note, “Funny thing I never noticed before but it appears that the “wolverine” part of the sticker is clear so the blue of the helmet visible through the sticker.”   It certainly does appear that way and that’s wild.   Note the paint on left side appears to be a bit of paint that peeled off the helmet. 

    For sticker sticklers, the decal measures 7/8” high and just about 1.5” wide.  A seller is offering sheets of Michigan football helmet decals on eBay right now (but the wolverine is blue, not clear, FWIW).

    Griese A Good Michigan Man.  As you might guess, PR firms more and more seem to be looking to blogs and social media outlets to promote their product/cause/whatever.   Since I received four emails from these guys, I surrender, and want to let you know that Brian Griese has been awarded the 2011 Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, presented each year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).  Griese won for his work with his charity Judi’s House [website].  Congrats to Griese and always great to see these guys giving back.

    Gerry Ford Signed Program.  From reader Gary:

    I have a 1934 U of M vs. Northwestern football program.  President Ford has formally signed the cover of this Program as "Gerald R. Ford" and also has informally signed his team photo as "Gerry Ford".  The Program is in extremely good condition considering its age.   Do you have any idea as to what this Program may be worth?

    First off, I’d love to see a pic (it wasn’t attached) so I asked Gary to send me one.   My initial take: While I’m not an expert in Presidential autographs, I’m guessing when you toss in that he’s got it signed both ways (as the distinguished gentleman, Gerald R. Ford, and as the familiar Gerry), and it’s on program from Ford’s senior year, man—that’s got to be worth a good $500 easily, probably more.

    Vintage Picture Pages.  From reader Tom who sent this along, a news clipping from the Detroit Times following the 69-0 win over Pitt in October 1947.  Nice tackle by Michigan’s lineman on the Panther defender trying to get to Chappuis! 


    I love that they used to do these diagrammed photos back in the day.  For those who couldn’t attend the game it must have been mother’s milk to get these type of pics in the paper on Sunday. 

    Inspiration?  Hmm, lately the Victors Club adopted a new subject line in the emails to its readers, hmmm: