Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Colleges, pros rarely cry foul when HS teams lift their logos
Three years ago, Allen was basking in the glow of a big victory over Plano East that was televised on Fox Sports Southwest. That's when Allen ISD athletic director Steve Williams got the call from the Collegiate Licensing Company.
"They told us we were using Arizona's 'A,' " he said.
On the helmets, that is. The logo Allen had been using for years was identical, or at least similar, to the one trademarked by the University of Arizona. So Allen needed a new logo.
"They allowed us to phase it out," Williams said. "There was nothing ugly about it."
Universities could make it ugly, if that's what they wanted. Take a glance at logos used by high schools and you'll find many resemble or copy that of a university or a professional team. Some universities are trying to do something about it, such as Florida, which last month asked Vicksburg High School in Mississippi to stop using its gator head logo.
Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing for many university logos, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Vicksburg. Mark Ball received a similar letter a few years ago when he was the Wylie ISD athletic director.
"I really was surprised to get it," said Ball, now the AD for Lubbock ISD. "Probably somebody in the Metroplex was a Wisconsin alum."
Wisconsin sent letters to more than two dozen schools, including Wylie and The Woodlands, a Houston-area school, that were using Wisconsin's trademarked "Motion W" logo. Wylie changed its logo by shortening the middle peak of the W.
"Although it resembles the Wisconsin one," new Wylie ISD athletic director Kyle Craighead said, "it's different."
Several area high schools use Kansas State's wildcat logo, but in a different color. At least three use Texas Tech's double-T logo, and a half-dozen more use logos that incorporate the Philadelphia Eagles' design.
Those schools could be forced to change their logo, but most universities and professional sports organizations don't want to take the time to police the use of their logos by organizations that aren't making big money off them. More importantly, they don't want to take the public-relations hit that comes with sending cease-and-desist letters to high schools, middle schools and youth sports teams.
That's why Georgia Tech allows teams to use its popular Buzz bee logo. And that's why SMU isn't going to stop Richardson Pearce and Sachse from using a very similar mustang logo. Brad Sutton, SMU's assistant athletic director for media relations, said a few schools request to use the Mustangs' logo each year. They are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Georgia Tech tries to keep track of which high schools use its logo, but that's difficult.
"We want to know about it and we want to document it, but we don't want to deny anyone the chance to use it," said Wayne Hogan, Georgia Tech's associate director of athletics for public relations. "The ones that don't tell us, they don't do it out of maliciousness. I think they just don't know."
Sometimes ignorance is bliss, such as for schools that use the popular Minnesota Vikings logo. Schools that ask to use the logo are told they cannot, but a representative of the Vikings organization said the team doesn't "actively seek a cease and desist" for any team using it.
"We kind of turn the other way," he said. "Out of sight and out of mind."