Fresno State: The Mystery Behind The Green V
By Joe Jenkins
Football uniforms can be quirky things, and with nearly every quirk there’s a sports-related story.
The iconic winged helmet of the University of Michigan was the brainchild of coach Herbert “Fritz” Crisler in 1938 so his halfbacks would have an easier time finding receivers downfield. (Halfbacks were the primary throwers in the single-wing offense way back when. Quarterbacks were blockers and runners. Tim Tebow is patiently awaiting its revival.)
In that same vein, the Buffalo Bills changed from white helmets to red in 1984 because QB Joe Ferguson was colorblind. Since the rest of the AFC East had white helmets at the time, Ferguson faced the exact problem Crisler had hoped to solve with the winged helmets.
If you look hard enough, there are teams that wear permanent memorials every time they play. The Chicago Bears wear GSH on their left sleeve to remember George S. Halas, who somehow doesn’t have a statue erected anywhere even though he’s largely responsible for creating the NFL. The Cleveland Browns sport an “AL” on their sleeves to honor Al Lerner, the man who brought the franchise back to life in 1999.
When Fresno State takes the field, it’s hard to miss the big, green block “V” on the back of the helmet. Go ahead, rack your brain for the reference. That “V” isn’t there so Derek Carr knows his target isn’t looking at him and it isn’t there to honor a prominent coach or athletic director from the past.
You can forget about any campy “V for victory” or connections to the fight song “Fight Varsity,” too.
The “V” is meant to represent the school’s connection to the San Joaquin Valley and the green represents the importance that agriculture has both in the valley and at the school.
If that doesn’t sound exciting, consider this: FSU is currently operating the first university-based winery through its agricultural sciences school. Not to perpetuate a stereotype here, but can you name many college kids that wouldn’t want to get down on a little vino? Neither can I.
All kidding aside, the San Joaquin Valley produces a great deal of money through agricultural exports, and half of the country’s research and development in water technology is spent within 100 miles of the FSU campus, so yes, farming and agriculture are very big deals to the university and the surrounding area. So much so that they made sure to recognize it every time the football team takes the field.
Next time, we’ll discuss the Cincinnati Bengals, and their stubborn 32-year run with the tiger-striped helmet.