University Of Utah

1968-73R Utes
(Authentic Reproduction)




Utah’s new head coach would be Bill Meek, a coaching veteran who was an outstanding blocking back under Tennessee’s famed General Robert Neyland. He coached at Fort Benning while serving in the military, assisted at Maryland, and became one of the nation’s youngest head coaches at Kansas State in 1951. Meek moved to the University of Houston and in two seasons won the conference Coach Of The Year Award and the Missouri Valley Conference championship. He took on the head job at SMU where he coached Don Meredith, [see HELMET HUT ] and moved to the NFL as an assistant and personnel director, followed by two years of coordinating the offense at West Point. He then became Utah’s head coach.  As he had done at SMU Meek introduced two new helmet designs for the ’68 season that would mark his full six year tenure in Salt Lake City. The Utes wore a white helmet with red flanking stripes at home and reversed the look on the road with a red shell sporting white flanking stripes. Meek’s inaugural year resulted in an emphasis on recruiting high school seniors rather than JC transfers but resulted in a 3-7 mark in part due to the offense which was limited to the 1006 reception yards tallied by All Conference Louis “Speedy” Thomas and his sixty catches and jack-of-all-trades Ray Groth who just fell short of the conference lead with 1512 total yards. Thomas played for the Bengals and Saints in a six season pro career. Lightweight defensive end Gary Kerl did not make it after being a Cardinal draft choice but put in a year in the CFL while All Conference Norm McBride on the other side of the defensive line lasted two seasons with the Dolphins.  ’69 saw forty freshmen brought to varsity camp from what was considered a terrific group and the 8-2 final record brought Meek Conference Coach Of The Year honors. Success came from team effort, better depth, and with few gaudy statistics. Dave Smith, a Packer draft choice led the ground game behind tackle Gordon Jolley while tight end Dale Nosworthy proved to be a reliable target and All WAC choice. Team leader Ray Groth did not match his quarterback statistics of the previous year but ran the team efficiently, was drafted as a receiver by the Cardinals but instead coached high school football for more than two decades. All Conference performers linebacker Larry Stone, with his ninety-two tackles and DB Norm Thompson handled the defensive chores. Meek allowed for the similarities in the helmet colors of both New Mexico and Arizona to the Utes own red and decided to put his team in their usual home white helmets for those two away games. 1970 brought a 6-4 mark with good talent so there was some disappointment among team followers. Kicker and punter Marv Bateman stood out as the nation’s leading punter, his average boosted by a seventy-two yard skyscraper! Billy Hunter rushed for 484 yards which got him drafted by the Bills but tackle Gordon Jolley, like Bateman, Hunter and tight end Dale Nosworthy, an All WAC pick lasted six years with the Lions and was a member of the Seahawks inaugural squad. His son stood out at BYU and also had a pro career. Nosworthy, a former Parade All American later became a successful restaurateur in Idaho. Cardinals first round draft pick All American Norm Thompson, filled out their defensive backfield through ’76 and then became the NFL’s first free agent to sign with another team, playing a final three seasons with the Colts. 1971 brought more regression with its 3-8 record. Marv Bateman made his second All American honor again leading the nation in punting as he had in ’70. The at times inconsistent offense was led by quarterbacks Gordon “Scooter” Longmire and Don Van Galder, the latter lighting up New Mexico for over 350 yards and four TDs. Fred Graves moved out to wide receiver from his more familiar running back post to lead the team with forty-five receptions and has had a lengthy career as an assistant coach at both the collegiate and pro levels. Meek dressed his Utes in their usual home field white helmets for the final game of the season at Houston.

It isn’t often that a punter/placekicker is the stand-out player for a college team but Utah Hall Of Fame member Marv Bateman was the star of a disappointing 1971 squad and its only All Conference member. Bateman in fact was All American for two seasons, leading the nation in punting and setting an NCAA record mark of 48.07 yards per punt in his senior year. An excellent placekicker, Bateman doubled up and totaled 118 PAT and field goal points in his Utah career. He had a professional career that spanned nine seasons with four teams and despite injury his first season with the Cowboys, was named to the NFL All Rookie squad.

Hopes were high for a rebound year in ’72 and the Utes did improve to 6-5 although they lost to both Utah State and BYU as their major rivals. The 16-7 BYU upset was especially painful because for the second consecutive year, losing to an underdog opponent cost them the conference championship. The 6-5 mark also seemed to mark the mediocrity of Utah’s program under Meek, summarized by good recruiting, solid expectations, and middle-of-the-road results. Quarterback Don Van Galder, despite injury propelled his 6’2”, 175 pound frame to the All WAC and Conference MVP honors passing for 1155 yards and fifteen touchdowns. Defensive back Steve Marshall moved in to bolster the position in his absence. Gene Belczyk handled the rush game with 777 yards while the receivers were led by Willie Armstead and Lance Robbins. Steve Odom, 9.5 track star was a potent return man and garnered some “All” honors with his additional thirty receptions, fourth ranking in the nation for receiving touchdowns and fifth in yards per catch. Guard Bob Peterson led the way up front and was drafted by the Saints. Despite a number of high scoring games, defensive standouts Bob Prichett and Bob Fratto were All WAC on the D-line while linebacker Elliot Hagood led the team with 124 tackles, totaling 305 for his three varsity seasons. Fans were uplifted by the 82-6 victory over UTEP in the second game of the 1973 season but the team would settle back into their usual tepid record under Meek, upsetting sixth-ranked Arizona State but losing to BYU and then Hawaii in their “extra” end-of-the-season game and finishing 7-5. The material was there for more with All WAC offensive linemen Chuck Johanson and Bill Powers in front of quarterback Van Galder who completed his career with a solid 2012 passing yards. He put a year in with Portland of the World Football League. Van Galder also had reliable receivers in Lance Robbins who later became a dentist for the Northwestern University Athletic Department and Willie Armstead. The big gun on offense was receiver and return man Odom whose thirty-eight receptions provided 723 yards and he earned All American honors with his kick returning abilities. His all-purpose yardage total stood at Utah for decades and he enjoyed five seasons with the Packers and a sixth pro year divided between Green Bay and the Giants. Three year starter and All Conference Steve Marshall finished with seven interceptions and later coached high school football. Tackle Ron Rydalch was the conference Defensive Player Of The Year, signed with Houston of the WFL and then played with the Chicago Bears for six seasons while line mate Gary Keller earned a Vikings draft pick with his eighty-six tackles. At season’s end Coach Meek was gone, not technically fired but gone nonetheless with the University claiming they could not provide funds for a salary increase or improved facilities which Meek had insisted upon.

If interested in any of these Utah helmets please click on the photos below.