'You want to use a new logo, but the logo could change': Here's how conference-jumping schools adopt their new looks

LONG BEFORE MONDAY’S celebration in Norman marking the dawn of Oklahoma’s new era in the SEC, Greg Tipton, the school’s executive associate athletic director for internal operations, facilities and events, had an epiphany.

It was last July, and Oklahoma was already well into its process to chronicle all of the Big 12 logos around campus to be replaced with new SEC marks.

“I need to go count those flagpoles,” he thought, about the flags that fly over the south end zone videoboard at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and represent each conference member. “You have your American flag, your state flag, your OU flag high up in the center, but then there were 10 flagpoles. I’m like wait, there’s this … We’ve got to fix this.”

As the college sports landscape continues to change, fans will focus on the intricacies of the schedule or new road trips. But there are also plenty of conversations about smaller logistical hurdles going on inside athletic departments when they’re told they’re taking their ball and going to a new conference. Yes, staff members are changing budgets and managing resources, but there’s also so much more. They’re documenting logos. They’re sanding basketball courts, mocking different routes to new cities, buying new stencils for athletic fields and ditching old quarter-zips and polos with unsightly old emblems.

And they’re counting flagpoles. Welcome to the glamorous world of realignment.

The Sooners renovated their stadium in 2017, when the Big 12 had 10 teams (naturally, due to realignment). But with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC will now have 16 teams. The flags, long-standing symbols of conference unity at stadiums across the country, needed more poles on which they could fly proudly.

Oklahoma hasn’t changed conferences since 1996, and that was really more of a merger, when the Big 8 and four members of the defunct Southwest Conference combined to form the Big 12. The SEC move is a radical departure, all shiny and new and exciting, so Oklahoma wanted to make sure it did everything right, calling in the architect of the seven-year-old south end zone project to bring in the cranes. The Sooners added eight new poles, Tipton said, so that they could represent each of the 16 SEC schools along with an American flag and an NCAA flag.

“I wanted to make sure everything matched,” Tipton said. “I wanted to make sure an architect got their eyes on it instead of getting some local vendor to come to slap up some flagpoles.”

TCU, however, is over such calculations. At a school that has been in five conferences — SWC, WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and Big 12 — since 1995, staff has a more measured approach to the changes.

“I’m taking all the flagpoles down,” said Sassan Sahba, the Horned Frogs’ associate AD for facilities and game days. “I’m just putting a graphic on the wall. I’m not going to add in flagpoles for this year, have them be there for three years. Who knows if we’re down to eight teams in four years? It just doesn’t make any sense. So I’m just taking them all down. I’m putting graphics up on the brick wall in [the north end of Amon G. Carter Stadium]. It is what it is.”

MONDAY, JULY 1 is the official date that Texas’ and Oklahoma’s SEC dreams come true and SMU lands its coveted spot in the ACC. The Pac-12’s media rights expire Aug. 1, so USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington become official Big Ten members Aug. 2, the same time that Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado become new residents of the Big 12 and Cal and Stanford become part of the ACC.

The demise of the Pac-12 became official in August 2023, and staff members inside those programs have been preparing for this moment for a while. SMU accepted an ACC invite in September, giving it just nine months to prepare while also working on completing a $100 million end zone expansion in time for the new season.

There’s protocol involved. All of the schools said they wanted to be respectful of their former conferences and try to avoid any new conference logos in public spaces until they’re official members. But behind the scenes, they’re plastering new logos in recruiting spaces and interior hallways, eager to sell the future.

But they’re also trying to figure out how to get to each new place, and even the basics like where to feed their players on the road.

Rivalries or competitive advantages have been put aside. When it was announced that UCLA and USC would join the Big Ten conference, Matt Elliott, UCLA’s chief strategy officer, received a message from Minnesota’s staff asking if he would like to set up a Zoom call and talk about “what it’s like to be part of the Big Ten.” Eventually, several UCLA staffers were connecting with their future fellow schools.

When Elliott asked the Bruins’ nutritionist to build a list of food recommendations, he was surprised that it was already done, thanks to that type of collaboration.

“[They] had already met and talked numerous times with the performance nutrition teams in the Big Ten,” Elliott said. “Each person provided options from their town to say, ‘This is what we think is best for your teams when they visit.'”

But there are still regional quirks to iron out.

“People still don’t understand our time zone,” said Doug Tammaro, who runs Arizona State’s media relations department. The state of Arizona — with the exception of the Navajo Nation — does not observe daylight saving time. Therefore, the time difference from Tempe to, say, Orlando or Morgantown will be different at different times of the year.

“Mountain Standard Time perfectly makes sense half the year. This time of the year, Mountain Standard Time is the same as Pacific. And everybody in the Pac-12 understood that. I don’t know if half the teams in the Big 12 are going to understand it. When you come here in the fall, we’re actually on Pacific time. But if you come here and play November through March, you’re actually on real Mountain time.”

Tammaro said he’d gotten to know all the Pac-12 announcers, so this year they’ll be focused on educating new faces on their program. But there are other important details everyone will have to learn together.

“I think the most-asked question will be, ‘Do you know where the restroom is?'” Tammaro said. “When we play at Texas Tech, I don’t know where the restroom is.”

EACH SCHOOL SAID it has a strategy team that goes about hunting logos. UCLA had its facilities team members walk up and down their venues charting every Pac-12 logo they saw. Texas tasked its employees with taking photos of Big 12 logos so it could catalog them, wary of a wayward logo making its way to social media after it had made the move.

Like Oklahoma, the Longhorns aren’t very experienced in moving. Their last move, from the SWC, was more of a resignation that the sport was changing, but there was still romanticism in the old league, much like there was for Oklahoma and the Big Eight and for the Pac-12 by all the former members who are now headed elsewhere. No one felt the pressure if one of those logos remained. This time around, it’s serious business.

Still, the veterans have learned their lessons over the years.

Cincinnati has been here before, switching conferences twice in its recent history, including from the American to the Big 12 last year. In fact, Cincinnati has been a member of nine conferences going all the way back to 1910. It has learned to be prepared for change. When Under Armour sponsored the program, its logo was featured prominently throughout the facilities, including as part of electronic light fixtures affixed to walls.

“Now? Maybe it’s vinyl or some kind of wall treatment instead of like a hard install,” said John Daniel, the school’s deputy athletic director and chief financial officer. “We can do some real things with dynamic wall treatments that aren’t running power and lights and like you’re ripping out the entire wall to take off one logo.”

Houston’s T.J. Meagher, a senior associate AD who oversees facilities, has been at the school since 2000 and was there when the Cougars briefly joined the Big East in 2011. So naturally, he was wary when the American launched with Houston as a member.

“We thought long and hard about what we needed to do to meet the minimum requirements of the American because they’ll tell you, ‘This is what you need to do, this what needs to be seen on TV, on the fields and basketball courts,'” Meagher said. “Let’s just say that when we joined the American we weren’t 100% sure that would be our final destination, so we followed the branding guide to the minimum, and we tried to do it so that if a change would come, we wouldn’t be too far into it to have to change course.”

When the Cougars finally landed their long-sought-after Big 12 bid, Meager said it took him “about 10 minutes” to list off where all the logos were for his bosses.

Once they find them, they’re not that difficult to change, especially on things like media backdrops or other areas that carry sponsorships they’re used to changing often.

But the biggest challenges by far come with volleyball and basketball courts. The courts have to be stripped, the wood sanded, the logo reapplied, then everything else painted around it again.

UCLA’s famed Pauley Pavilion is set to be resurfaced after a coordinated effort with the Bruins’ new conference.

“Even figuring out where the Big Ten logos need to go,” Elliott said. “How they fit on the court with a volleyball setup and a basketball setup so that the logos are the right way and, and everybody can view them appropriately on TV. That’s planning and that’s a back and forth.”

Texas’ Drew Martin, a senior associate AD, said the Longhorns replaced the Big 12 logo with the SEC mark in December on their volleyball court more than six months before they were official league members because Gregory Gym, their volleyball court, also serves as a rec sports center. Texas replaces the court every five years, doing it when school is out over winter break. So they discussed it with both conferences and came to an agreement.

“We all collectively made a decision of, hey, this just makes sense,” Martin said.

At TCU, it was more of an undertaking, due to the Nike-designed lizard-skin pattern on the court at Schollmaier Arena.

“Sanding down the basketball court to put a new logo is kind of a big deal — and a lot of money — depending on how unique your court is,” Sahba said. “Our court’s got the skin, and it takes a very long time and it’s very expensive to do.”

Its Metroplex rivals at SMU, meanwhile, are starting to see their arena dressed out in ACC colors, a thrill for a school that’s been trying to claw its way back to the top of the food chain for 37 years since the Mustangs got the NCAA’s death penalty for their pay-for-play scandal in 1987.

“I walked through our basketball gym last week, and I hadn’t seen it yet,” athletic director Rick Hart said. “I looked up and we have the ACC logos up of all the schools, and I just got chill bumps.”

The new decor is much easier to swap on grass, thanks to the turf managers who paint the logos on the athletic fields and have their stencil-makers on speed dial.

“The ACC, for example, has brand standards where you paint a logo on your soccer field,” SMU’s Sutton said. “That’s not something that we’ve done before.”

That’s good news for Pat Dickens, one of the guys on the receiving end of those turf calls. His employer, World Class Athletics Surfaces in Leland, Mississippi, makes field paint and, according to the company, has a 17-foot-wide, 74-foot-long cutting machine that cuts logos in stencils from giant plastic sheets and ships them out to schools.

“They’re idiot-proof,” Dickens said. “We’re making stencils 24/7 because, as you know, college athletics has changed so dramatically. It is now a real, real driving force in our little business. We’re going crazy, but we’re thankful for the business.”

OREGON GOT LUCKY. One of the most tedious undertakings in a conference change is swapping out patches on uniforms. And nobody has more uniforms than the Ducks.

Every year, Oregon introduces a new shade or new color combination to its ever-growing palette. The variety — and often the shock value — has become a part of the school’s brand. But when it comes to quite literally swapping out new threads, from helmets all the way down to socks, the program paces its turnover.

“Every three years we do a reset where everything’s brand new,” said Aaron Wasson, Oregon’s associate athletic director in charge of equipment. “And this happens to be the year that that’s happening for football.”

Gone are the Pac-12 patches. Enter the “B1G” emblems.

Wesson has spent ample time not just learning about what the Big Ten wants, but also how it may or may not fit with what Oregon is used to doing.

The “B1G” logo can change colors depending on a school’s uniform, but when it comes to Oregon, the amount of colors it can and likely will use, make this a tricky proposition. Wesson has worked with the league to strategize how the Big Ten logo will fit in whatever color scheme the Ducks decide to sport on Saturdays.

Football will be an easy swap, as Nike will apply the new mark over every uniform. Other sports such as baseball and basketball aren’t so fortunate. The patch has to be removed and a new one sewn by hand. The sewing business is booming in Eugene.

“We have a local seamstress that will sew them down for us,” Wesson said. “They’re ladies that either come into our equipment room and do it, or will do it out of their house just as a side job.”

AFTER MONTHS — AND years, in the case of Texas and Oklahoma — of preparing to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, the finish line is in sight for each school’s makeover. They just hope they’ve tied up all the loose ends. Then there’s the matter of dispensing with the leftovers.

“My dad, Bob Tammaro, back in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, is about to get a real good solid collection of Pac-12 gear,” Doug Tammaro said. “He’s lucky we’re the same size.”

After a mad dash, all involved can take a deep breath. That is, until it all starts over again.

The Big 12 is exploring naming rights for a sponsorship that would change the entire name of the conference.

And one thing is for sure: The sponsor will want its name represented boldly in that logo. Which means … it’s time to do it all over again.

“You want to use a new logo, but the logo could change,” ASU’s Tammaro said.

TCU, meanwhile, is eyeing that lizard-skin court, too.

“We’re just waiting to see what happens with all of that talk with potentially a new logo in the future,” Sahba said.

The ACC, meanwhile, is facing legal threats from Florida State and Clemson that could hurt the league in the same way USC and UCLA hobbled the Pac-12 by bolting.

As always, the insiders will keep their stencil-makers and seamstresses close and keep counting flagpoles. Administrators know the only sure bet is that college athletics will keep them guessing.

“It’s either highly unpredictable or remarkably predictable,” Meagher said. “The one thing you can count on is change.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top