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TIGER KICKOFF: Changing conference logo part of transition for realignment schools

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | 11:30 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Curtis Snyder still notices the backpacks around the University of Colorado athletic facilities now and then.

He has seen both student-athletes and athletic department staff wearing them and guesses the backpacks came from a past conference tournament. They would not be noteworthy without the Big 12 insignia on them.

"It's one of those things that no one ever said you couldn't use anymore," said Snyder, Colorado's associate sports information director. "But if someone sees it, it's a 'oh, time to get a new backpack' kind of thing."

Colorado officially became a member of the Pac-12 Conference on July 1, but since the school had announced it was switching conferences in June 2010, Snyder and his colleagues had scoured the athletic facilities for any Big 12 logos that would eventually need to be replaced.

It was a process that occurred at Nebraska, is in the works at Texas A&M and might happen soon in other places.

Like Colorado, Nebraska announced in June 2010 it would be leaving the Big 12 and joined the Big Ten in July. Executive associate athletic director Marc Boehm said employees were instructed to take a "hard look" around the facilities for anything including the Big 12 Conference logo. The school made no changes until Nebraska officially joined the Big Ten, but it prepared beforehand.

"You have to take a fine-tooth comb and make sure you have it all covered," Boehm said. "It could be as simple of a thing as a fax. Sometimes you forget what's on that piece of paper. When you send it out to recruit or a season ticket holder or whoever it may be, those are the simple things one might forget."

Between the overwhelming support Colorado got for the conference change and separately planned renovations for the football stadium, the Pac-12 logo ended up being much more of a presence than the Big 12 one had been on the campus. In the updated stadium, Colorado added a second set of Pac-12 team pennants and plastered conference-related wall wraps where there had previously been no decorations.

Texas A&M officials have taken notice of such marketing strategies. Jason Cook, the university's chief communications officer, said that while Big 12 "imagery" will remain in its athletic venues until next July, when it officially joins the SEC, it is working with its collegiate licensing agency and a conference transition team to introduce the SEC brand to the state of Texas.

"We are moving forward," Cook said. "It's important for us to capitalize on this hot market that exists with our conference transition."

The SEC transition team has visited College Station once already, plans to see a football game there some time in the next month and will invite the A&M staff it is working with to a football game on one of the SEC campuses. It is not the transition team's place to suggest how and where Texas A&M displays its new conference pride, transition team chairman Larry Templeton said, but it is working to incorporate the university within the conference's operations.

What happened to all of Nebraska and Colorado's old Big 12 stuff? Boehm said that at Nebraska, most of it has been put in a storage area. Colorado, though, auctioned off Big 12 items, including the set of Big 12 team pennants that had been at the front football stadium concourse. Fans of those teams, particularly Nebraska's, grabbed the memorabilia.

"We generated at least a couple thousand dollars on stuff that would probably have been thrown away or given to somebody," Snyder said.

The schools have not been the only ones trying to profit off the change. While conference logos are not prevalent in apparel and merchandise in school-affiliated stores, separate businesses do not have to worry about strict guidelines.

At Aggieland Outfitters, which has three apparel and merchandise stores in College Station, employees responded to the support Texas A&M was getting to leave the Big 12 by releasing a SEC-favoring T-shirt before the move was officially announced.

Once the university did announce it would leave for the SEC, the store launched a new line of SEC apparel. One new T-shirt said "So long orange and white, hello blue and yellow," with orange and white being University of Texas' colors and blue and yellow being the SEC logo's colors. Another said "Texas A&M football: new conference, same tradition." 

It also started a Big 12 "Farewell Tour" line, with a shirt for each conference game depicting the rivalry that has formed with the given team. Like Nebraska's auction, the Big 12-related memorabilia has sold easily.

"A lot of people are collecting them as memorabilia," said Katelyn Horner, Aggieland Outfitters director of marketing. "It's a pretty big deal. We hear some customers that are wanting to make T-shirt quilts out of them — whatever they can do to remember this season."

As Nebraska and Colorado have transitioned into new conferences competitively, their new identities have become complete. Boehm said Nebraska got rid of the only remaining Big 12 logo last week when it painted over the one on its basketball court.

At Colorado, Snyder said he has found random things "here and there" over the course of the year. Besides the backpacks, one of the final remaining items with the old conference logo were the Big 12 clocks in each of the Colorado athletic department offices.  

The staff did not scramble to take them down, but eventually Snyder made a new order. Walk in today, and you will see clocks with the blue and white logo of the Pac-12.


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