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September 01, 2004

Fans Seeing Red Over Name-Change To ‘The Orange’

FROM THE “WHAT’S-IN-A-NAME?” DEPARTMENT comes word that the Syracuse University logo and name change to “the Orange” has legions of students and fans seeing red.

People adaptable in other elements of life have been known to get very nostalgic and parochial about their sports favorites. This phenomenon is most visibly manifested in the acceptance—or lack thereof—of the name of the fan’s favorite team.

If you mess with a name without buy-in from fans, you’ve got trouble. And trouble is exactly what Syracuse AD Jake Crouthamel got after the seemingly minor change from the Orangemen and Orangewomen to 'the Orange.'

The name change was bad enough, but that the news was leaked in May antagonized died-in-the-wool Syracuse fans: students, faculty and alumni alike.

Part of the mystique of fandom is a sense of belonging and ownership. The unfortunate timing and the perception that they weren’t involved seems to have severely rankled thousands of fans.

Consequently, Crouthamel has been e-presented with an internet “Keep Orangemen and Orangewomen!” petition containing over 5000 signatures. The petition is unequivocal in its tone, stating, “any change—even to ‘Orange’—would cause irreparable harm to allegiance, loyalty, passion and support for Syracuse University.”

Hmm. What’s in a name indeed.

The switchover actually makes a lot of sense, particularly from an objective, non-emotional perspective. The comprehensive brand image conversion involved spiffing up and the “SU” logo, standardizing a brighter and more distinctive orange on everything, and consolidating the nickname. Fans were told that the changes would help emphasize that Syracuse is the "only school in the country that has orange as its primary (official) color."

And what do Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Texas think of SU claiming to be the only school with orange as its primary color?

However, on a more emotional level, maybe the problem with the fans is not so much the new name, but the idea that they weren’t properly asked to buy in.

Who knows?

(this 322 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was distilled from an 810 word article in the Syracuse University Daily Orange of 8-30-04, as well as remarks by Mr. Crouthamel at a press conference in May, 2004)