CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois helmets that fans have become accustomed to seeing are no more.
The orange helmets with white facemasks and Illinois underlined in italicized white lettering — helmets the program started wearing in 1989, Jeff George’s final season with the Illini and last worn during the 2012 season opener against Western Michigan — are not in the team’s wardrobe plans anymore.
A new orange helmet with a navy blue Block I and navy blue facemasks will replace the other helmets, Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said.
The new helmets are the primary team helmets for Illinois during the 2013 season.
Illinois unveiled new helmets last year with a matte navy blue look that sported an orange Block I in the middle and navy blue facemasks. Those helmets will become the team’s secondary helmets during the 2013 season.
The school is undergoing a rebranding initiative with Nike that should have the football team in new attire for the 2014 season, with an announcement about that project set for spring 2014, Brown said. No other major uniform changes are in the works for the 2013 season. Illinois featured nine different uniform combinations in 2012 when the helmet, jersey top and pants are put together.
Updated uniforms and helmets, along with many varieties, are a common trend that has touched nearly every college football program recently. Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh thinks incoming recruits are paying attention to what schools do regarding uniforms more than they have in the past.
“It’s become less of a tradition look now and more of a flashy look,” he said. “The more you have, the more it helps. I’m a little bit surprised. The shift has changed to ‘How can we be different?’ rather than ‘How can we embrace our tradition?’ ”
Tight end Evan Wilson has seen and worn the different jerseys Illinois has used since he arrived at Illinois prior to the 2010 season.
The senior is all for the new helmets, even if Illinois might only use them for one season.
“I like them,” Wilson said. “I like change. I’m all about a little diversity. A little variety doesn’t hurt anybody.”