The NFL is ending its relationship with Riddell as its lone helmet representative as of next season. They have had an exclusive deal with the helmet company since 1989 and while players could use any helmet as long as it met the standards of the NFL, they could only display the Riddell name. This is bigger news than it sounds.
Considering the state of the NFL and the discussion about concussions, there is an arms race going on as companies are trying to invest a better mousetrap. Established companies such as Riddell and Schutt to companies known for other products such as Under Armour to some new companies entering the fray such as Xenith are all in a desperate race to come up with the best helmet. The company that is able to win this race will be able to make an incredible amount of money as they boast the safest, best helmet and every team from college down to high school will try to get their hands on it for the sake of recruiting.
For all of the perks schools can offer from incredible facilities and everything else which are extremely attractive to players, safety appeals to parents. And while the impact in college might not be huge, when that factor trickles down to high school, it will have an effect. Teams and coaches will recruit with safety and negatively recruit other programs who do not have the latest, safest helmets.
For the time being, the NFL will be an open marketplace as far as which helmets are represented, which is big for these other companies. If another company can come up with a better mouse trap and lock down an exclusive deal with the NFL such as Riddell had, it would be a monumental feat for that company.