Wildcats get new "tougher" helmets Corky Simpson Tucson Citizen Aug. 2, 2004 05:47 PM TUCSON -- They've been white for 24 years. Before that, they were red. And once upon a time they were silver. They've been leather, they've been space-age plastic, and they've even been polka-dotted with battle-star decals awarded to individuals for outstanding plays. For the upcoming season Arizona football helmets will go navy. Under new coach Mike Stoops, the blue headgear will show the "academic A" logo in red, white and blue on both sides. There will be no striping down the middle. Stoops hopes the helmet will give the Wildcats "a tougher look," although UA tailback Mike Bell said he still preferred the white one. UA helmets were leather and painted silver in the 1930s during the years of the "Blue Brigade," when the color sky-blue replaced traditional navy in jerseys and pants. And there has been an assortment of doo-dads stuck on Wildcat helmets over the years. TV numbers, in the gridiron fashion of the day, adorned the sides of the helmets in the 1960s. In the early 1970s there was a curving "snake-A" inside a football-shaped oval on the sides of the Wildcats' cardinal helmets. A short time later, under coach Jim Young, the helmets turned white with a blue "snake-A" on the sides and the Wildcats image on the front. The late Tony Mason favored red, so when he became head coach in 1977, helmets went back to cardinal and bore Tony's invention, the "movin' A" (it was an italic A), on the sides. Larry Smith replaced Mason in 1980, and a year later he changed the helmets back to white with a block-A on the sides. Smith reasoned that white would reflect heat, particulars important in preseason workouts. Durng the Dick Tomey years (1987-99) the helmets remained white. But in 1990, the block-A was replaced by the "academic A," a logo that drew public fire when the school paid a Baltimore artist $29,000 to design it.