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 foundation was subsidized completely by the Paul Helms bakery operations. Schroeder selected the foundation's national champion teams and made All-America team selections in a number of college sports, including football and basketball. He continued to select national champions for the Helms Foundation until 1982, its final year of selections. Schroeder also retroactively selected national champions in college football dating from 1947 back to the 1883 season and in college basketball from 1942 back to the 1900-01 season. The Helms Foundation also operated a hall of fame for both college sports. The retroactive Helms titles 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.
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, and track and field.
After Paul Helms' death in 1957, United Savings and Loan became the Helms Foundation's benefactor and when United merged with Citizen Savings Bank in 1973, the Athletic Foundation became known as the Citizens Savings Athletic Foundation. It was again renamed in 1982 when First Interstate Bank assumed sponsorship for the foundation's final year. 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.
From 1939, when the NCAA Tournament started, the Helms and NCAA Division I champions were the same, except for 1939, 1940, 1944, and 1954 when Oregon, Indiana, Utah, and La Salle respectively won the tournament. Some schools claim a Helms nomination 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.