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USF abandons unpopular new logo, adopts 'Bull U' design used by athletic department

University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft revealed USF’s new academic logo during the annual fall address at the Marshall Student Center on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 in Tampa. [Times files (2018)]
University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft revealed USF’s new academic logo during the annual fall address at the Marshall Student Center on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 in Tampa. [Times files (2018)]
Published May 6, 2019

TAMPA —The University of South Florida's search for a new academic logo has ended with a familiar look.

Last fall, the university unveiled a new logo featuring a full-bodied, lime-green bull — the school mascot — on a dark-green background with "USF" spelled out in lime green.

Some students and alumni pushed back, saying the drawing too closely resembles the logo of Wall Street's Merrill Lynch.

So, on Monday, after spending $1 million on the new design, USF announced it would abandon it and instead adopt the "Iconic Bull U," with the bull's-head profile forming a stylized letter "U." The school's athletic department has been using the design for almost 15 years.

READ MORE: 'We still hate it.' USF students and alumni respond to final logo design

"Think of what we have accomplished under the Bull U, the students we have attracted, the faculty we have attracted," reads an email sent to students, alumni, faculty and staff from Joe Hice, the university's vice president of communications and marketing. "We became pre-eminent and were awarded for our performance. We raised more than $1 billion."

USF also announced a return to its "traditional green-and-gold color palette."

The changes will begin immediately and continue throughout the summer, Hice wrote.

The logo fail comes at a cost of about $1 million, Hice told the Tampa Bay Times. That includes a $200,000 marketing campaign created with Spark Media that produced the academic logo, plus all the t-shirts, flags, signs and banners.

Flags and signs around campus will be taken down this summer, but the remaining merchandise will still be sold in campus stores.

USF decided to change course, Hice told the Times, before spending more money on the unpopular design — painting it on a campus water tower, for example.

The now-abandoned logo, he wrote in the letter, "we believed was a positive representation of our pride and optimism."

But, he added, "as you know, there has been a great deal of controversy over the bull image and the new color palette. ... We know that the feedback comes from a place of great pride and passion for USF, and we have listened."

The old academic logo was USF in gold letters inside a green box.

Hice told the Times there were early discussions about using the Bull U logo but ultimately a decision was made to create something new that would pull together elements of bronze bull statues at all USF campuses.

The optimistic, upward-angled head was to mirror the bull at USF St. Petersburg. The curved tail came from USF Sarasota-Manatee. And the regal stance was inspired by the Tampa campus sculpture.

Unpopular from the start, the new logo underwent tweaks. But changes hardly appeared noticeable when a new version was re-released last month.

"We wouldn't be Bulls if we didn't take risks," Hice wrote. "That's part of our nature; to push boundaries; to venture in new directions; to try new things."

Jeffrey Fishman, a 1992 USF graduate who has given at least $1.45 million to the school, told the Times that he was impressed that the university could admit "they made a mistake and were willing to make a change."

"USF's iconic U is widely known," Fishman said. "It is the face of USF."

Jay Mize, a member of USF's first football team and owner of Irish 31 pubs, agreed.

"Part of leadership is acknowledging when mistakes are made, placing egos aside and making it right," Mize said.

"I commend the USF leadership for doing exactly this and ultimately arriving at the correct decision for our university and our branding initiatives moving forward."

Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report. Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or follow @PGuzzoTimes

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