In a move expected by few, the athletic department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln submitted a request to trademark the word “red”, seeking to control its use and likeness.
Sources inside the department saw the move as a backup measure against other schools that use the color red.
“One of the things I was most worried about when I took the job was making sure the football team looked as good as possible,” said Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. “They’re the Big Red. If nobody else can be red, there’s nothing to worry about.”
The athletic department had been planning on the trademark since Eichorst came on as director in 2013. If other universities are not allowed to use the color red, Nebraska will be the biggest and best red, as required by law.
Eichorst wanted to get its trademark application filed earlier than the end of this year’s football season but found it difficult to find staff to do so with other important tasks arising over the last few months.
“We have to devote a full team inside the department to slam out tweets,” Eichorst said. “That stuff doesn’t write itself.”
Eichorst regrets not obtaining their trademark before the Huskers’ game with Wisconsin. He said the change would have tipped the game in Nebraska’s favor.
“Imagine if Wisconsin had to play in entirely new uniforms,” Eichorst said. “That would have totally thrown them off. Passing to someone in a blue uniform? Their quarterback has never done that before.”
Eichorst did concede that this plan would have likely not been a factor at Ohio State.
“That one was hopeless,” he said. “Those guys can play football with their eyes closed.”
All Big Ten universities affected by the trademark–Wisconsin, Ohio State, Rutgers and Maryland–have submitted formal complaints against Nebraska about the difficulty of removing red from all of the school’s branding and facilities. A team of law professors from these four universities seemed to have found a loophole, though.
“Eichorst thought he’d be real funny and put in a clause about this trademark applying to every school with less than five national titles,” said Ohio State professor of law Mark Benton. “I think we have them beat there.”