CEDAR RAPIDS — They have their own Twitter page. That’s how big time this thing has become.
Maquoketa Valley football coach/activities director Trevor Arnold is one of seven guys from around the country who have made it their quest to find out which high school football program has the best helmet.
Online voting via Twitter has begun for what they are terming the National High School Helmet Tournament. A champion will be determined at the end of this month, with a trophy being awarded and everything.
It’s @hshelmettourney, by the way. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were over 3,000 followers.
“I don’t think that I’m shocked,” Arnold said, when asked his level of surprise at the popularity of this endeavor. “I’d like to think I have a pretty good pulse for how people react and think about high school sports, in general. A helmet is such a signifying thing for a program. You think of college helmets, everybody knows what (a school’s) helmet looks like. Everybody knows what a Hawkeye helmet looks like, you know what I mean?
“Everybody knows about a high school’s helmet in their own state. Then when you broaden it out, take an Iowa high school helmet in terms of the entire country, you find out real quick how unique or not unique of a helmet you actually have.”
After hearing about a Twitter tournament in another state, Arnold decided to pass idle time during the COVID-19 pandemic by putting together an Iowa tourney a couple of months ago, asking schools to provide him photos of their helmets. He put together a 128-school bracket, with the head-to-head event won by Council Bluffs Lewis Central.
So many other states have since followed suit, with Arnold saying 46 of them are represented in the national event, which already has begun with “wild card” entries facing off against each other. Those were determined by the tournament committee: Arnold and other coaches from Nebraska, Montana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Kansas.
The only states not participating are Oklahoma, Connecticut, Nevada and Mississippi. Arnold hopes that will change next year.
The 46 state champs automatically qualified for what will be a 64-school bracket. Arnold and his committee picked four at-large schools from each state who are going head to head right now, with 18 of those eventually fit into the final random bracket.
In Iowa, the wild cards are Ida Grove OABCIG, Underwood, Treynor and North Fayette Valley. Two of the more interesting at-large helmets nationally are the Camas (Wash.) Papermakers and the Chinook (Mont.) Sugarbeeters.
“Those were just cool, unique things that people like to look at, so those are helmets we wanted to get into the mix,” Arnold said. “Then we also want to consider if these schools have a following. Do they use Twitter very well? Do they have very many followers? Do they know how to rally support?”
The 64-school national tournament begins Saturday. All matchups have a 24-hour voting time frame, with 48 hours being allowed once it gets to the Elite Eight. The championship head to head will be June 29 and 30.
And for those of who thinking about fixing the results, yes, the seven-coach committee is aware that you can buy a certain amount of votes on Twitter for a small fee. Someone checks the authenticity of the vote virtually every single hour.
“As a group, we have seen over 6,500 helmets,” Arnold said. “That’s what we’ve figured out. Mark McLaughlin from Nebraska, he’s a spreadsheet guru and had them all on there. That’s kind of comical.”
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