May 31, 2005
GRAMBLING, La. (AP) - It turns out Grambling State never owned the oval G logo it has used on its football helmets for almost 31 years.
The school created a furor among its fans when it announced last week that it planned to design a new athletic logo because the school has no legal way to make anyone pay for using the current one.
The trademark had lapsed, officials said. But school records show that, in reality, the school didn't even apply for a trademark on the oval G until Jan. 14, 1997, and was turned down in February 1998.
The design was too close to previously registered trademarks, according to paperwork provided by GSU spokeswoman Vickie Jackson.
The Green Bay Packers hold the trademark. They've used their oval G since 1961.
The NFL club says it granted limited permission to use a similar mark to the University of Georgia (in 1964) and to Grambling.
Grambling's application was listed as "abandoned" on Dec. 18, 1998, causing some confusion.
Jackson said school officials have held on-again, off-again discussions about a new design since 1998.
"Grambling, with its renown and international acclaim, should have its own mark," Jackson said. "This administration is taking us to another level. Part of that is standardizing the look."
Some fans say aggressive marketing and management might do better for Grambling, since fans know the current logo.
After all, Georgia is currently the No. 3 seller among clients of Collegiate Licensing Company - the oldest and largest licensing representative in the nation.
It was chosen in part as a tribute to Willie Davis, who had graduated from Grambling and gone on to become the school's first Hall of Fame while playing for Green Bay, said Wilbert Ellis, who was then an assistant to R.W.E. Jones - at that time, both school president and baseball coach.
Over the four previous years, Grambling had gone 39-9 in football, sharing three conference titles and seeing 25 of its players taken in the NFL draft.
Ellis said football coach Eddie Robinson, Jones, the late basketball coach Fred Hobdy and longtime sports information director Collie J. Nicholson met to come up with a logo for the football helmets, then just black.
"Back in the day, that wasn't important to us at all," said Doug Williams, who first started for Grambling as a freshman in 1974, and went on to succeed Robinson as coach. "Uniforms and fanciness were not important. That's basically what made Grambling what it is. We were plain. We just had a good product on the field."
But it quickly became important. "We knew, from then on, we were representing the 'G,"' said basketball coach Larry Wright, who starred for Hobdy's squads from 1973-76.
Williams, coach from 1998-2003, said a G with a tiger - essentially the same logo proposed last week - was brought forward four or five years ago.
"I told them back then that you can change it, but we're not going to put in on the helmet," he said.
No one could recall the exact details of how Grambling gained permission to use the logo - or why the school waited so long to attempt to gain its own trademark.
"The 'G' is legendary," said Wright. "It goes right along with Eddie Robinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, Fred Hobdy. So, when you talk about that and the history of this school, there will have to be some economic decision involved in changing it.
"And, as I understand it, there is."
Earling Hunter, a Monroe native who graduated from Grambling in 1998, said the proposed new logo is OK by him.
"I like the fact that the new logo could incorporate the tiger mascot, and that it does not completely abandon the traditional Grambling 'G,"' Hunter said. "Although I love the 'G,' and even have tattoo of that emblem on my right arm, I still have no objection to the change."