When Don Nehlen came to WVU in 1980, it marked a new era for Mountaineer Football. West Virginia moved from its outdated downtown field to shiny new digs on the Evansdale campus, and also got a uniform makeover. That included the now iconic gold on blue helmet, which remained the standard for almost 30 years.
In 2010, WVU played in its first differing helmet in three decades, wearing the coal-themed Pro Combat uniforms. The debut was excellent, as the Mountaineers smacked Pitt (which was wearing steel-themed togs) by the score of 35-10. A follow-up appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl wasn't as successful, and those dark gray, coal dusted lids were never worn again. WVU made the unfortunate decision to sell them off, so they'd have to be remade in order to show up again.
That one change set the stage for a number of alternate looks. WVU added a white and a gold model in 2013, and with differing facemask colors and striping, showed up in several different looks over the course of 2013, 2014 and 2015. Included were a trio of throwbacks, featuring a football and the letters "WVU" on top of the state outline. It was that logo that caused Nehlen to begin the process that resulted in the creation of the flying WVU, as he termed that Mountaineer logo from the 1970s "an indistinguishable blob". For those liking the throwback movement, however, it was a nice blast from the past.
Traditionalists who aren't in favor of such frequent changes point back to the long uninterrupted string of the gold on blue hats, but they rarely mention that in the two decades prior to 1980, WVU had at least nine different versions, according to our friends at The Helmet Project. While some are minor variations of each other, West Virginia showed that it was actually ahead of the game in terms of changing its looks around.
There's one other helmet that made an appearance that isn't included on The Helmet Project's list. The Mountaineers unveiled all gray uniforms in 2012, and topped it with a twist on the 1980 classic design and the Pro Combat series. It was used just twice, and like many others apparently disappeared into the furthers recesses of the equipment room.
Now WVU has added another special helmet to the roster, and combined with the potential of different facemask colors, could field a huge number of different combinations over the next few seasons. Whether that's good or bad, of course, depends on the personal tastes of the viewer.