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So, Yeah. About That Logo...

Well, it's been a week. Has the new logo started to grow on you yet?

Me neither.

And judging by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the redesign by folks who aren't on Michigan State or Nike's payroll, there's plenty of room for growth.

It's the age of social media, and the online backlash to the move was swift, loud and decisive. 

Mark Hollis might argue that the logo cannot be properly evaluated outside of the context of the entire rebranding package the University is set to unveil in April, and Tom Izzo might be disappointed in the lack of a unified cry of "Hooray for Nike!" from the alumni in response to the news, but the various online polls speak volumes. More than eighty percent of respondents to polls posted by MLiveThe State News and The Only Colors either express dislike for the new Nike-fied logo or a preference for what has affectionately become known on the interwebs as "The Old Spartan Logo." 

I'm not a numbers guy, but even I'm able to draw some conclusions from that data. 

The question that I haven't been able to shake, though, even as I make plans for a trip to East Lansing for the specific purpose of buying as much gear emblazoned with the old logo as possible, is: Why? Why did the old logo, which made its debut in 1977, and which I've never heard a complaint uttered against, need to be revamped in the first place?

I suppose maybe the good folks in the athletic department had gotten a little lonely, and were looking for a way to generate an avalanche of incoming emails which begin "As a proud alum of Michigan State University....", or maybe someone just got tired of looking at the same old Spartan helmet adorning a desk clock in their office, but this whole thing just smacks of fixing something that was never broken.

Which isn't to say, of course, that the University's branding strategy didn't need some work. Here's a snippet from Coach Izzo's response to the uproar:

Somebody out here tell me, what is our tradition?  Which one of those different things is our tradition?  We’re going to have the same color, the same uniforms, the same logo, and we’re going to be moving into that new century here in the proper way, and I’m excited about it. - Tom Izzo

Izzo raises a valid point. There has been a glaring lack of uniformity in MSU's athletic branding over the years. Most noticeably, the revolving door that was installed on the head football coach's office upon George Perles' dismissal led to a never-ending rotation of the Spartan-helmet logo and the block "S" on MSU's football helmets. But, at the end of the day, whose fault is it that the uniforms and branding elements utilized by all of MSU's teams didn't feature the same colors and the same logos? And did the athletic department's failure to decide on just one of the existing marks as a primary mark for use on all uniforms really merit what Hollis has called "a comprehensive brand and identity project" that resulted in Nike producing a new logo that looks, well, like a helmet suitable for use by an angry chipmunk?

Further, the reason that Izzo can raise the "what is our tradition" question is simple: Michigan State never sticks with anything long enough for tradition to truly take hold. One minute, the Sparty mascot is gruff, the next he bears a haunting resemblance to Jay Leno. One minute the uniforms are kelly green, the next minute they are forest green. One minute we've got a perfectly fine Spartan helmet logo, the next minute we have a "comprehensive brand and identity project."

Thirty-three years of the old logo may not a tradition make, but at least it was a start.

OK. Glad I got that off my chest. But the thing that really bothered me was this:

So for all of you out there who are complaining, shame on you, because we’ve got a leader, our president, I’ve been involved in this thing, we’re trying to do what’s best for Michigan State University, our athletic department, and the great people that we associate with, and Nike’s done a heck of a job. - Tom Izzo

That's just disappointing, especially the "shame on you" remark, and here's why: alumni, fans and current students aren't just complaining about the change for the sake of complaining. They're complaining because they are passionate about Michigan State University, its athletic programs and traditions. They're passionate about the logos and marks that represent their alma mater. It may be silly, but it's genuine. And if anyone should understand that, it's Tom Izzo.


By the way, I'm the new guy. Thanks to KJ and the rest of the crew for the invitation to contribute to the best Michigan State sports blog on the web. I'm excited to be a part of the community, and look forward to chipping in.