The University of Kansas – known as KU for some backwards reason – advanced to the Elite Eight last night on the back of Perry Ellis, who went to high school with your dad. They’ll face off against Kyle Scott’s Villanova Wildcats tomorrow night, and that alone is plenty of reason for me to root for Kansas. But there are so many reasons to dislike them. For example, they’re quasi-affiliated with Marlins Man. They’re also a bunch of logo stealing dickwads who ripped off their logo and wouldn’t admit it.
In 2003, my Alma mater, Kutztown University, did a branding overhaul and paid a firm $20,000 to develop a new set of logos for the school and its athletic teams. The “KU” they paid for is above on the left. Two years later, the University of Kansas – who should be UK and I will hear no arguments otherwise – paid a Pacific Northwest firm $88,900 for their new logo, which is similar to Kutztown’s in the way that Bruno Mars’ “Gorilla” is “similar” to about a dozen different Prince songs.
Sure, Kansas has owned the trademark on “KU” for higher education purposes since 1979, but I refuse to acknowledge it because that’s some Midwestern nonsense.
The earliest story I could find on the dispute is from 2005 and it consistently refers to Kutztown as Kutzdown (nice work, Associated Press), but acknowledges there wasn’t much of a competition between the schools so it was no big deal. It does contain this sick burn from a Kutztown senior though:
“What do I care?” he asked. “It’s so far away.”
He said he wasn’t even that familiar with Kansas University.
“I have heard of it. Your colors are, I guess, purple and white?” he said.
Those are the colors of Kansas’ in-state rival, Kansas State, who as far as I know aren’t low-down logo thieves.
But a month later, things heated up. Kansas was considering pulling the trademark card to get Kutztown to change their logo, completely going against the well accepted legal precedent of “we had it first.” The schools were looking into “cross-licensing” deals but Kansas said making a legal move was unlikely.
Fast forward a couple of months, when Kansas and Kutztown were close to a binding agreement “allowing Kutztown” to use the KU initials, and had mostly moved on from the ordeal. Kutztown acknowledged that they weren’t on Kansas’ academic or athletic level, especially since, by law, Kutztown’s student-body had to be 90% Pennsylvanian. But this wasn’t good enough for Kansas, who at this point had their uniform shorts in such a bunch that they began to carry Kutztown’s maroon colorway. Paul Carttar, Kansas’ executive vice chancellor for external affairs (which I refuse to think wasn’t also a title in the USSR), wouldn’t take it lightly. “We are relevant to Pennsylvania,” Carttar said. “Wilt Chamberlain was a Philadelphian.”
Excuse me while I roll my eyes so hard I pass out for a few minutes.
Okay, I’m back.
Kutztown was realistic about the whole thing. “If somebody out there has $100 million, we’d be happy to become Joe Smith University,” Philip Breeze, Kutztown’s then Director of Communications said. “For the right price, this university can have your name on it, probably.”
A bit later, the schools settled and both continue to use their logos today. But that’s the story of how Kansas spent four times as much money for the same logo as a small state school in PA, two years later, and got so embarrassed about it that they started name-dropping Wilt Chamberlain. They deserve no wins, they deserve no joy, and they should go by UK – Kentucky be damned.