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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State helmets feature ‘Wazzu’ nickname for first time

Oct. 27, 2022 Updated Thu., Oct. 27, 2022 at 8:46 p.m.

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward prepares to take the field for warmups sporting WSU’s new "Wazzu" helmet before a Pac-12 game against the Utah Utes on Thursday at Gesa Field in Pullman.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward prepares to take the field for warmups sporting WSU’s new "Wazzu" helmet before a Pac-12 game against the Utah Utes on Thursday at Gesa Field in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Washington State’s football team is embracing a moniker that has long been used by fans as an unofficial school nickname.

The Cougs on Thursday debuted new helmet decals, featuring “Wazzu” in script lettering on the sides of the crimson lids. It’s believed to be the first time in program history that WSU’s uniforms will incorporate the term “Wazzu.” 

Throughout the week, WSU’s media department had been teasing some sort of surprise regarding the Cougs’ uniforms for their Pac-12 matchup against Utah. On Thursday morning, WSU revealed its new-look helmets via social media. The reception from fans was overwhelmingly positive, though some traditionalists weren’t impressed.

WSU’s helmets are usually decorated with the growling Cougar logo, which is widely recognized as one of the most creative designs in college football. The team used a “Cougars” script logo on gray and crimson helmets in decades past.

Former school president V. Lane Rawlins called for WSU to ditch the “Wazzu” nickname in 2002 “on the grounds it is vaguely derogatory and plays to the perception that WSU is a place where booze trumps books,” according to an Associated Press article. But the Cougar faithful had already latched on to the moniker, which they have used for over half a century as a term of endearment. 

Now, “Wazzu” is more of an official nickname than an informal one. First-year Cougs coach Jake Dickert leaned into it this offseason, coining a catch-all tagline for his rebuilt program: “New Wazzu.” The Cougs’ coaching staff broke out gray hoodies with the “Wazzu” logo across the chest.

The Utes’ helmets honored fallen teammates Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, featuring hand-painted portraits of the players. Jordan, a star running back, died in December 2020 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that was ruled accidental. Lowe was killed on Sept. 26, 2021, in a shooting in Salt Lake City just hours after the Utes defeated Washington State.

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