Vicksburg Logogate smacks of Florida bullying

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sometimes, imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery.

When Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens got the news that the University of Florida had sent a letter ordering the team stop using the Gator head in an oval logo, he was incredulous.

The letter said Vicksburg High’s use of the logo infringed upon Florida’s intellectual property and its ability to market merchandise.

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Vicksburg High has already disposed some of the offending logos displayed in different locations at the school.

“To me, as a coach of 30-something years, it’s the most petty thing I’ve seen in my coaching career,” Stevens said. “In my experience, high schools emulate colleges. Vicksburg High and the others aren’t going to cut into the University of Florida’s money. You’ve got two national championships in basketball, two BCS titles…c’mon!”

The logo letter was as humorless and unfriendly as Urban Meyer. Lots of high schools borrow colors, logos — heck, even whole uniforms from colleges — and it’s something that’s happened for years. Kids grow up wanting to wear those colors (and logos). Madison Central looks just like Clemson, down to the tiger paw (in Madison’s case, a jaguar paw) on the orange helmet. Wayne County’s War Eagle uniforms look just like the ones Cam Newton and the boys wear down in the Loveliest Village on the Plains, Auburn. Hattiesburg High’s uniforms, like several other schools in Louisiana, look just like the denizens of Death Valley, LSU.

Yet no nastygram couched in legalese from those institutions has arrived in the mailbox. Florida, however, had a problem with Vicksburg and several other schools, including Florida’s Palm Beach Gardens and Glades Day, using the oval Gator head logo. Lawyers from their licensing firm, Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, intervened. Florida isn’t the only one, as Florida State, Missouri and Pittsburgh have also gone after high schools to protect their trademarked logos. It’s entirely understandable that the logo, designed for UF, is the intellectual property of the school and is a brand that needs legal protection. If Florida loses its logo to the public domain, the school would forfeit any rights to make money off of it, forcing them to design another one — which the school will do in a few years anyway. But what isn’t understandable is how Vicksburg or Palm Beach Gardens or any other high school is threatening that brand with a few on-court logos or on high school T-shirts. It smacks of bullying, especially considering that Florida’s athletic program raked in more than $90 million dollars in 2009.

In contrast, the NFL has no problem with high school and youth teams using their logos, which makes the trademark issues inherent in the use of college logos by high schools seem rather weak.

“If that’s all you’ve got to do, c’mon,” Stevens said. “This is not for a profitable gain. We’re not in the money-making business.”

So what’s next for UF’s legal brigade, The Swamp?

Guess Vicksburg might need a new name for its field as well.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at