Founded in 1936 by Bill Schroeder and Paul Helms, the Helms Athletic Foundation was based in Los Angeles, California. The name was a misnomer, as there actually was no foundation in place to sustain the operation. Instead the organization was subsidized completely by the operations of Helms Bakery, opened by Helms in Los Angeles. Schroeder selected the foundation's national champion teams and made All-America team selections in a number of college sports, including football and basketball.
The Helms Foundation began releasing Schroeder's national championship selections for college basketball in 1943, when in February 1943 it published his retroactive picks for the national champion for each year from the 1919–20 through 1941–42 seasons. Later in 1943, Schroeder picked a national basketball champion for the 1942–43 season, and he continued to select national basketball champions for the Helms Foundation annually through the 1981–82 season, its final year of selections. In 1957, the Helms Foundation also released Schroeder's retroactive picks for the college basketball champions for the 1900–1901 through 1918–19 seasons. The retroactive Helms titles from 1900–01 through 1941–42 were the well-researched opinions of one person about teams that played during an era when, due to factors outside their control (e.g., minimal schedules, lack of intersectional play, differing rule interpretations, minimal statistics), it is difficult to know or assess the relative strength of the teams.
In 1947, Schroeder retroactively selected national champions in college football dating from that year back to the 1883 season. The Helms Foundation also operated a hall of fame for both college basketball and college football. Besides collegiate athletics, the foundation operated halls of fame for professional football, Major League Baseball, the Pacific Coast League, basketball, fencing, golf, tennis, swimming, auto racing, track and field, and soaring.
After Paul Helms' death in 1957, his family continued supporting the foundation until 1969, when the bakeries went out of business. Schroeder found a new benefactor in United Savings & Loan, and the foundation's name became United Savings–Helms Athletic Foundation. United merged with Citizens Savings & Loan in 1973, when the foundation became the Citizens Savings Athletic Foundation. It was again renamed in 1982 when First Interstate Bank assumed sponsorship, and it became the First Interstate Bank Athletic Foundation. Paul Helms started Helms Bakery in Southern California, which was the official bread (Helms Olympic bread) of the 1932 Olympics. Helms Hall was located on 8760 Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. The Helms Olympics neon sign still can be seen on top of the building.
When the Helms Foundation dissolved, its historical holdings were absorbed into the collection of the Amateur Athletic Foundation, renamed the LA84 Foundation in 2007.
The National Invitation Tournament began play in 1938 and the NCAA Tournament in 1939; until at the least the mid-1950s, the NIT was widely considered the more prestigious of the two. When Schroeder made his first set of retroactive championship picks in February 1943, he chose the NIT winner as the national champion for 1938 and 1939; for 1940, he chose USC (which won neither tournament that year); and for 1941 and 1942 he chose the NCAA Tournament winners as the national champion. After he began making annual picks in 1943, he selected the NCAA Tournament winner in every year except 1944 (when he picked undefeated Army, which won neither tournament) and 1954 (when he picked undefeated Kentucky, which won neither tournament). Thus, through the final Helms selection in 1982, NCAA Tournament winners Oregon (1939), Indiana (1940), Utah (1944), and La Salle (1954) were the only NCAA champions that were not also Helms champions. Some schools claim a Helms selection as a national championship.[a]
The World Trophy, originally known as the Helms Award, was an annual sporting award established by the Helms Athletic Foundation in 1939 to honor the foremost amateur athlete of each continent of the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Even though the Foundation was established in 1936, the awards date back to 1896, the year of the first Summer Olympics.
Also captained South Australia in Australian Rules state matches six times, and his CV included rave reviews as a baseballer, golfer and player of tennis, billiards and lacrosse, winning the World Trophy (formerly the Helms Award).