Opinion: Here's a solution for the Big Ten's logo and division naming fiasco
A logo cherished as one of the most iconic in the industry had been replaced by something chintzy and generic.
A long-respected brand became the butt of national jokes.
In October, Gap Inc., the clothing and apparel giant, replaced its trademark blue box with a boring Helvetica simplification that drew the wrath and derision of its customers.
Within a week, the company retreated to its original logo.
Perhaps the Big Ten - in the early stages of its own brand redesign at that time - should have paid attention.
When the college athletic conference unveiled its new logo this week, along with division names and trophy names, the results weren’t any better than the Gap fiasco.
In fact, they were worse.
The rollout has been an unmitigated disaster. On every level. Much like Gap, they’ve been mocked all week.
The Honolulu-blue logo's "B1G" looks like a heavy-handed attempt to be overly clever. Division names of “Leaders” and “Legends” - what, were “Bland” and “Boring” already taken?
Thirty-six names on a truckload of trophies just smacks of a clumsy effort to please too many people.
When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany unveiled the changes, he said “we’re hoping they resonate, we’re hoping people understand conferences have a great legacy of players and legends.”
Instead of honoring that tradition, it’s been butchered.
Delany read through a list of reasons the divisions couldn’t be named by geographical boundaries, reasons they couldn’t be named for players or coaches, reasons they couldn’t do much of anything, because officials were seemingly boxed in by a set of imaginary restrictions.
The result is a set of changes that strip the conference of any sense of its people, place or its history.
To be fair, Delany was well-intentioned in trying to be inclusive of all the member schools.
But so innocuous and inoffensive are the division names, it’s as if the decision-makers ran through a checklist. No colors of any conference members. Check. No mention of coaches or icons. Check. No mention of historic roots or Midwestern location. Check.
The “Leaders” and “Legends” are so bad that a Spartans fan left me a voicemail this week saying he would have preferred “Bo” and “Woody,” because at least they would have been names that signified something.
An undercurrent to the Big Ten’s entire expansion process, of which these changes are part of, has been the notion something inherently was wrong with the conference.
That it had to make changes to compete with the SEC or else the Big Ten would fade into the organizational equivalent of a doddering old fool fondly and faintly recalling his glory years. But it was a false insecurity.
Tradition was the Big Ten’s brand.
That doesn’t need to change to compete with the SEC.
Big Ten officials apparently disagree. There’s no other way to read the cookie-cutter new logo and division names. They are decidedly anti-tradition.
Hopefully, Delany and his cohorts aren’t reassuring themselves right now that they merely need to hunker down and survive the frenzy. Hopefully, they can own up to these colossal mistakes with a little bit of honest reflection.
Big Ten officials never ran the changes past a focus group, never conducted survey studies, never really did any due diligence. In their attempts to be inclusive of all their members, they completely forgot one significant constituency.
Sports fans are a cantankerous bunch - Delany probably received e-mails from a few of them this week. They’re also a forgiving group - ask baseball umpire Jim Joyce.
So here’s what Delany should do: Follow Joyce’s lead and admit a mistake was made.
The Big Ten can backtrack with a press release that says something to the effect of “we are sure honored to have such passionate fans, and we’ve heard their voices.”
Then hold a contest. Fans submit their best ideas for new division names and new logo - there are plenty of good ones floating around the Internet in recent days, ideas that exceed the cartoonish one delivered by the conference.
Winners win lifetime tickets to the new Big Ten championship games.
There’s no shame in admitting a mistake. Had Delany paid attention to the Gap logo controversy, there would be another lesson to be learned.
There’s plenty of time to do the right thing.