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USF enters American Athletic Conference on Monday

TAMPA — Eight years ago Monday, there was fanfare and celebration as the Big East flag was raised at USF's administration building to mark the official entrance into the league from Conference USA.

On Monday, as the Bulls officially make the transition to the new American Athletic Conference, there will be no marching band, no smiles for TV cameras from president Judy Genshaft. In fact, there's no scheduled ceremony or acknowledgment of the conference change save, perhaps, a story on the athletic department's website.

The reinvented conference has rolled out its name — the American, for short — and a logo, a red star inside a blue A. But you'd be hard-pressed to find it anywhere on USF's campus. The Bulls are working to replace all of their Big East signage in time for the start of classes in late August.

"We're really close to being able to start a whole new rebranding effort," athletic director Doug Woolard said earlier this month, having tasked his department to identify all things, big and small, needing a new logo. "It's every place from water towers to business cards. It's going to be a process that takes some time."

When USF joined the Big East in 2005, the league had a motto — "A New League, A New Look, A New Era" — which would certainly fit today's American mind-set. Once again, the conference was raided by the ACC. In addition, the basketball-only schools left and took the Big East name with them.

The American, which has an automatic berth in the BCS's final season, has three carryovers from the Big East days — USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut — along with Temple, which joined for football last fall and becomes an all-sports member Monday.

The new arrivals come from Conference USA, just as USF did eight years ago: UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU, with East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa arriving in 2014 to offset the losses of Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten). Navy joins for football in 2015.

Woolard wasn't kidding about changing everything down to business cards.

USF's early list for logo changes includes 65,000 new business cards at a cost of about $4,000. Each sport gets 1,000 new envelopes and 1,000 sheets on letterhead branded with the new logo. USF will have 2,500 "A" patches — each 2 inches by 1 inch — for apparel for its full lineup of 500-plus athletes and coaches.

Then there are bigger items. There's a Big East room in the Selmon Athletic Center and Marshall Center. Both will be politely renamed.

All those changes add up to significant cost. Woolard initially estimated it at "a couple hundred thousand dollars," and USF declined to offer a more precise figure, executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis saying Friday that costs "certainly can exceed $100,000."

Down the road in Orlando, UCF is making a similar change. The Knights accepted an invitation to the Big East in November 2011, not realizing conference realignment would reroute them to the American. Assistant athletic director Andy Seeley said UCF didn't make any significant amounts of apparel or signage with the Big East logo, and he estimated their costs in rebranding to the American at about $60,000.

If there's a lukewarm feel to the league change, you can see that online as well. USF has had a link to the American's website (theamerican.org) at the bottom of the main page of its athletic department site, which is more than some schools. As of Saturday, Cincinnati's still linked only to the Big East and SMU's to C-USA. Rutgers, only in the new league one year, instead links to its future in the Big Ten.

But over the next two months, get used to seeing that blue A as a regular part of USF athletics. It likely won't be featured around town on season-ticket billboards, which will have a team focus.

"I think it's a logo that seems to have been met well nationally; a strong, bold concept," Woolard said. "There will be some applications where we use the A and another where we use the 'American.' The A probably won't look quite right in an end zone."

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com.

USF enters American Athletic Conference on Monday

06/29/13 [Last modified: Sunday, June 30, 2013 12:17am]
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