published Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Chief issues developing

Area high schools using logos similar to Florida State’s know FSU has forced changes elsewhere

The spear on the side of the helmet or the image of Chief Osceola makes Florida State University’s athletic logos among the most recognizable in college athletics. They also rank among the most copied by prep programs, but that may soon change as the university continues to notify high schools that those logos are trademarked and cannot be used without permission.

Collegiate Licensing Co., which represents numerous universities, sent letters in August to five schools that were identified as using near-exact replicas of FSU’s logo. FSU recently settled with the second of the five schools — Salem High in Rockdale County, Ga. — which agreed to phase out the logo within two to five years.

Salem has estimated the cost to remove the emblems from helmets, uniforms, gym floors and other uses at $200,000.

Although no area programs have been contacted on behalf of FSU, several do use the famous spear on the helmet or Chief Osceola on their uniforms.

Since the program began in 1988, North Jackson’s football helmets have been black with a red and white spear on both sides. The Chiefs’ fight song, which is played incessantly before games and after every North Jackson score by the school’s band, is the FSU war chant.

“We’ve had that logo since our school started, so it’s a big part of the tradition of our program,” Chiefs coach Shawn Peek said. “We even have a lot of people who come by the fieldhouse and ask us to order them a set of the spear stickers to put on their car or truck because it’s identified with our football program.

“If we get a call and it’s going to cost us money to keep the logo, we’d have to change it and find something else. And that would be a shame. If you’re imitating a program, it’s a sign of flattery. It’s because you respect that program and want to look like them or be like them.”

The Sequatchie County Indians’ uniforms once looked identical to FSU’s with the spear on the helmet and Chief Osceola’s likeness on the pants, but the Dunlap school changed the uniform design about eight years ago.

One area program that already has been told by a university to stop using its nationally recognized logo is Ridgeland. Two years ago the school received a letter from attorneys representing Penn State, telling administrators to stop using a logo so close to the Nittany Lions’ for the Panthers.

“I’m sure a picture of our school with the logo caught somebody’s attention, because out of the blue we got a letter telling us we had a certain amount of time to stop using their logo and remove it from anything from uniforms to school stationery,” Ridgeland football coach Mark Mariakis said. “We had to change all the school signs inside and around the campus and pretty much start over. It was costly, but we’ve completely changed all our logos.”

When Todd Windham took over as head football coach at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe four years ago, he brought back the spear on the Warriors’ helmets. According to Windham, a nephew of former longtime Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, he did so out of respect for his uncle’s program.

“I have an affinity for that logo because of my uncle’s ties with Florida State,” Windham said. “When I took over we went back to it because I like the look and the kids like it. But now we’re in the process of switching to a white helmet with the ‘LFO’ letters on it, not because of what’s going on with Florida State, but we just wanted to change some things up in our program and new uniforms are part of that.”

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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