The University is playing around with a new name: “University of South Florida Tampa Bay.”
This won’t be an official name change, just a branding tactic to improve USF’s national reputation, an idea proposed by the appropriately named National Reputation Task Force. Apparently, the problem is that when people in other states hear “South Florida,” they don’t think Tampa.
“You think of the University of South Florida and you think Miami, obviously, south Florida,” student body president Matt Diaz said to The Oracle. He’s also a member of the task force.
University spokesman Michael Hoad said, “It’s just a way of getting past the confusion people have when they read ‘South Florida.'”
However, it is unclear how a name change will improve national recognition. If anything, it will only confuse the matter. If people don’t know what USF is, they certainly won’t know what USFTB is. They will know it’s located in Tampa, but there’s little advantage to that kind of “recognition.” One can deduce from its name that the University of Montana Western is likely somewhere in western Montana, but that does nothing to improve its national reputation.
Knowing who we are as a university is more important than knowing where we are. If USF continues to build its national reputation through academic and extracurricular achievements, name recognition will follow. Some of the most well-known universities don’t have geographic indicators in their names. The average person may not know that Dartmouth is in western New Hampshire, and people don’t recognize Harvard because they know where the city of Harvard, Mass., is located.
The name change won’t be reflected on bookstore merchandise, and other USF campuses won’t be expected to use it. Actual USF students will likely continue to simply call their university “USF,” and some may not even notice the geographical addition, though the announcement has already prompted the creation of a Facebook page titled “Do NOT Change University of South Florida’s Name.”
Hoad said there’s much confusion among Florida universities with similar acronyms, such as USF and FSU or FIU and FAU.
The decision to add Tampa Bay to the name comes on the heels of the St. Petersburg Times’ decision to rename itself the Tampa Bay Times, but that may not be the best example to follow, especially when it comes to name confusion.
The Times competes with the similarly named Tampa Tribune, which cried foul in 2006, according to the Huffington Post, over the title of the Times’ free tabloid, already called the Tampa Bay Times. The Tribune claimed the title was too similar to the Tampa Times, a name owned by the Tribune. A similar problem could result with USFTB and University of Tampa.
If USF is looking for a new name, maybe it can reconsider suggestions from 1957, the year the University was first named, that avoid the geographic ambiguity issue, such as Citrus State University, Sunshine State University or the University of Florida at Temple Terrace.
Many students would laugh at these names now because they know their university as USF. It may be geographically inaccurate, but the school will always be known as USF, and there’s nothing wrong with that.