University restricts club sports uniforms


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CW | Shelby Akin


In a meeting last spring semester, club sports teams at The University of Alabama were told they could no longer display any trademarked logos of the University on their uniforms. For many members of club teams at the University, the news was disconcerting.

"I know personally, I've felt very not valued. I understand we're the club Frisbee team, and there's people who don't even know we exist, but we're doing good things," said Alex Jones, a junior majoring in marketing and advertising and the vice president of the women's Ultimate Frisbee team. "Them forcing [the new regulation] on us when no one likes it is unfair."

UA licensing is currently in the process of constructing new uniform regulations for club athletes, but has already created a new logo for the teams to display on jerseys.

"Since the number of club sports and the number of students who are participating in them have steadily increased during the past few years, UA is creating a special and unique logo that only club sports can use,” Deborah Lane, vice president of University Relations, said. "We are also working to implement a cost-effective solution to the challenges of ordering uniforms and equipment."

The new standardization will remove any trademarked logo belonging to the University, such as the script “A,” elephants and houndstooth print. Although houndstooth has been branded in UA fan culture, the University does not own the trademark for the print. In spite of the blurred lines around houndstooth trademarking, club athletes have been restricted from depicting the print on their uniforms.

“We were told that all of the primary and secondary logos belonging to the University were no longer ours to use,” said Brandon Spooner, a sophomore majoring in international studies and a member of the UA triathlon team.

In August, club teams received their new logo, “Alabama” in a standard font. When Varsity Tennis player Becker O’Shaughnessey was given his uniforms for the upcoming season, he was supplied with a variety of equipment, all displaying the various Alabama logos.

“There’s really no reason for them to take away logos from the club teams,” O’Shaughnessey said. "They deserve to wear them."

Alongside the new "Alabama" logo are restrictions on the color palette available to the club teams. Teams will now be required to wear only white, black, crimson or silver. According to the "Sport Clubs Handbook" found on urec.ua.edu, "trademark and logo policies apply to all club purchases regardless of the funds used," and "fashion colors may be allowed, if desired, on a case by case basis." 

Jones said the limited color range will affect the Frisbee teams, which often wear bright-colored jerseys that are not necessarily school colors.

"My main thing is, if they're going to make us use this design, which is basically font, it's not fair to make us as a club sport pay for our own jerseys, especially if people don't like the design," Jones said. "[In Frisbee] we get these cool jerseys that are specific to us, and by them taking it away, it just hurts our brand and our image."

The names of the club teams will also be changing as a part of the University's new policy. The women's Ultimate Frisbee team was once called Ramma Jamma Ult., a name used as the team's Twitter handle and for national rankings. 

"They're trying to unify us as a club sports category, but they don't give us any benefits really," Jones said. "By them not allowing us to wear the 'A,' they don't want to take responsibility for us. To have to change [our name] is probably going to be annoying because that's a lot of branding that we've done for ourselves."

Lane said the new uniform regulations are purposed to “recognize and honor the importance, value and benefits of club sports at and to UA, as well as the commitment and talent of the students who compete in club sports.”

Teams are allowed to submit their own logos for approval to Cole Price, director of trademark licensing for the department of Intercollegiate Athletics, though Jones said she was told approval would take about a month, and the new logo was not likely to change. 

“This year, if we go to nationals, the other athletes will be wearing their team logos, but now we won’t be able to comply with that,” Spooner said, “It feels like our team identity is being compromised.”

UA club sports include 33 teams and over 400 athletes, all affected by the new uniform guidelines policies.

“Club and varsity athletes are all similar in that we’ve been able to find our niches at the University through our respective sports,” Spooner said.

Many UA club teams compete at high division levels. The women’s wheelchair basketball team won three consecutive national championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The ultimate Frisbee teams are governed by a national organization called USA Ultimate and are both ranked nationally. Last year, the women's team won sectionals. 

“When we go to races, we are representing the University just like any other athlete on gameday," Spooner said. "So why can’t we wear our school’s logo?” 

The answer still seems to be unclear to many club athletes as to why the regulations are being instituted.

“I spent the summer trying to track down people at the University who could give me a clear answer,” Spooner said. “I never got one.” 

Club athletes were told the new uniform policies would serve to differentiate between club and varsity athletes.

“I don’t think this differentiation is necessary, there is plenty of distinction between the two,” said Hayes Brewer, a sophomore majoring in finance and a member of the varsity tennis team. “Either way, varsity or club, they still represent this school.” 

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