No Need for Michigan State To Mess with Tradition

James AndersenContributor IFebruary 5, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17:   Kyle Brown #3 of  the Michigan State Spartans carries the ball during the game with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 17, 2005 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  The Spartans defeated the Irish 44-41 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Michigan State’s athletic department finally got the message from fans and alumni: the new Spartan logo was a bad idea.

MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced today that the university will not change its current Spartan logo as part of its new branding project set to release in April.

“After careful consideration, we will use the current Spartan logo design, first used in the late 1970s, to build our visual brand identity. Using sound branding principles, the university will continue to register some variations of our Spartan logo in order to ensure that this symbol is well protected and firmly associated with Michigan State University,” Hollis said in a statement.

After a new logo design was found on a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site in January, there was a tremendous amount of uproar from Spartan sports fans and alumni alike.Message boards were hot with people expressing their outrage. Protest Facebook groups popped up immediately and dozens of users became fans of the old logo.  

I didn’t like it either.

Hollis implored people to wait until they saw the whole package in April. But presumably, the whole package starts with the logo. It was to be the centerpiece of the whole thing and it was a bad idea.

To me the new logo wasn’t too awful; it just didn’t look very good. It’s like someone moved around a few angles, shaded in a few things and said, “Now there’s an edgy logo!”

Uniforms change all the time; in fact MSU does this frequently with its football and basketball uniforms, but there’s always the classic logo on the jerseys. The football helmets either have a block S or the Spartan logo. The basketball jerseys always say “State” across the front.

Jersey designs and colors can change all the time (looking at you Oregon), but a university’s symbols and logos stand for something and shouldn’t be messed with, plain and simple.

Hollis talked about using this new project to forge a new and improved identity for Michigan State, but in doing that, MSU would be throwing away an already existing identity that’s widely recognized, simply for the sake of change.

Can you imagine the Red Wings without the winged wheel? How about the Tigers without the Old English D? Just last year the Lions changed their logo to make it look edgier and the reaction seemed to be lean more toward the negative side. Some teams can pull off a branding change, others cannot.

MSU has one of the biggest alumni networks in the world and its logos are instantly recognized. People know the block S and the Spartan helmet. The Spartan logo has been around since the 1970s and the MSU community has obviously come to embrace it.

There’s no need to change anything.

That goes for the school colors too. There were rumors that in conjunction with the new logo, MSU would have new colors. To do away with the Green and White would’ve done more damage than the new logo. Change the colors and you might as well start a new school. I mean the colors are only mentioned in the school fight song and a number of the cheers heard at school sporting events for crying out loud!

Not everyone opposed the new logo though. Quite a few people voiced support for the new look including MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo. During a press conference a few weeks ago, Izzo showed his support of Hollis and the new logo and criticized fans and alumni for not giving it a chance.

There’s no bigger supporter of everything MSU than Izzo. In East Lansing he’s practically worshipped. I can appreciate his support of Hollis and of the administration, but he kind of has to do that. He’s a member of the athletic department, the same as Hollis and voicing displeasure about the logo in the midst of the public uproar doesn’t help Hollis any.

But Izzo is an honest guy who speaks his mind and I think he meant what he said in support of the logo.

“In this process, Nike has suggested various innovative concepts and design elements, yet it is always Michigan State University that determines the direction we will take. Input from student-athletes, coaches, alumni, donors, students, faculty, and university public relations advisors have been involved in this process,” Hollis said.

Really? If input from the student body is so important, why didn’t Hollis seek its opinion in the first place?

From the looks of it, the athletic department was hoping to keep the whole project under wraps until April when it could do everything on its own terms. Unfortunately the logo was leaked earlier than expected and it blew up in the department’s face.

I don’t think Hollis was naïve enough to think that the new logo wasn’t going to cause some sort of outcry, but he and the department probably should’ve taken better steps to ensure that nothing was leaked to the public before it was meant to be unveiled.

Hollis has done a lot of good things for MSU athletics and most of his moves and changes have been met with overwhelming approval. No doubt he probably had MSU’s best interests at heart when this whole new logo idea came about too.

But I think he’s gotten the message now: the old logo is just fine.