OPINION: The case for throwback logos at USF Athletics

By Brian Hattab, Assistant Sports Editor
On April 17, 2019

2003 was a transformative year for the University of South Florida.

New logos were implemented on both the university’s academic and athletic sides.

That 2003 academic logo is being phased out as we speak, but the athletic logo is still going strong, and it’s hard to see it ever being replaced. If you think people were angry about the new academic logo, replacing the ‘Iconic U’ would make that anger seem like child’s play.

But let’s not ignore history — it was far from USF Athletics’ first logo.

Between 1997 and 2003, a logo I like to derisively refer to as “Robo Bull” — seriously, it has red eyes! — was used by USF Athletics.

By all metrics, it was a pretty terrible logo and students at the time hated it.

But it’s still a part of USF’s history, and it’s past time USF acknowledges it again.

Think of the possibility of a throwback night, either at a football or basketball game. Basketball could even breakout a throwback court for the occasion to match throwback uniforms and logos.

USF could pair it with alumni nights. How cool would it be to honor Chad Barnhardt, USF football’s first starting quarterback, then see Blake Barnett wearing the same jersey Barnhardt wore during his tenure at the brand new program?

It would be amazing from a fan perspective. People love nostalgia.

There’s also precedent for this in the AAC. Memphis wore throwback jerseys in men’s basketball against SMU earlier this year — so throwback that the jerseys were actually from an era when the university was known as Memphis State. Memphis fans loved it, and who can blame them?

UCF football wore throwback helmets during its homecoming game in 2018. It, like Memphis’ basketball jerseys, was a popular move and was a way to engage the past and present, which is what homecoming night is all about.

Locally, look at the reception the Tampa Bay Rays received last year for wearing circa-1998 Devil Rays jerseys to commemorate the franchise’s 20th anniversary. It was so popular, the Rays are bringing it back this year for several games.

The cap the Rays wore with the 1998 jerseys, which isn’t a true throwback as much as it’s an homage to 1998, has been a best-seller on MLBShop.com since it was released and was next to impossible to find in stores for months after that initial release.

Which brings up perhaps the most important point — USF could make a ton of money selling throwback merchandise.

Using the Rays as an example again, their top-selling jersey online is a throwback Wade Boggs batting practice jersey from 1998. Their No. 3 top-selling t-shirt is a shirt with the 1998 cap insignia.

By all modern standards, the Devil Rays logo from 1998 is outdated and pretty terrible looking.

But people have been opening their wallets like crazy to purchase items with it.

It feels like a pretty safe assumption to say USF could have similar results with its similarly horrendously outdated logo from the 1990s.

There’s something to be said about a good logo. USF Athletics’ current mark is so good, the university itself was using it for branding purposes for several years before introducing the new academic logo in September 2018.

But much like Rome wasn’t built in a day, USF wasn’t built in 2003. It’s time to honor the past — even if it’s the not so aesthetically clean past.

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