Mark Story

For ‘logo twins’ UK and Houston, should NCAA meeting be a ‘loser loses logo’ game?

3 a.m. homecomings to couch burnings: UK fans have left their mark on basketball celebrations

For over 70 years, Kentucky basketball fans have shown their passion for the Blue and White during NCAA Tournament time - and sometimes created a little chaos along the way.
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For over 70 years, Kentucky basketball fans have shown their passion for the Blue and White during NCAA Tournament time - and sometimes created a little chaos along the way.

As universities, Kentucky and Houston have almost nothing in common.

UK is the flagship university of a rural state. It is located in a medium-sized city. Kentucky has an undergraduate enrollment of some 22,400 (source: U.S. News and World Report).

Houston is an urban university. It is located in the fourth-largest city in the United States. UH has an undergraduate enrollment of some 37,200 (source: U.S. News and World Report).

Yet, in the graphics realm, UK and UH are almost identical.

UK-UH logos.jpg

In the run-up to Friday night’s men’s NCAA Tournament Midwest Region semifinals showdown between No. 2 seed Kentucky (29-6) and No. 3 Houston (33-3), Twitter users have been having abundant fun with the look-alike logos of “UK” and “UH.”

CBS Sports proclaimed Kentucky vs. Houston “the battle of the logo twins.”

“We have certainly noticed the similarity,” in the university logos, says Jeff Conrad, University of Houston assistant athletics director. “I don’t have the explanation for why they are so similar.”

Jay Blanton, the executive director of UK’s public relations and marketing department, says Kentucky knows “of no connections in the logos or their designs.”

Houston appears to have adopted its logo first. According to the website, the University of Houston started using its current logo in 2012.

To the chagrin of what seems to be a small but tenaciously vociferous segment of the Big Blue Nation, UK adopted its current logo in 2016.

Blanton says that, before 2016, the University of Kentucky “had a different version of the logo for athletics as opposed to the (rest of the) campus. And UK HealthCare was using a different shade of blue. We wanted to centralize that to one logo.”

That was done, Blanton says, partly for consistency but also “to better leverage the power of one look, one brand as we seek to better communicate to all our audiences.”

The reason the UK and UH logos now look so similar is the changes Kentucky made from its prior graphics “softened” the K, made the branches of the letter rounder and less straight.

That alteration is why some Kentucky backers reject the new logo.

There is a petition at demanding that UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart “bring back the old Wildcat logo and power K.’”

A Twitter account, @stopthecrookedK, has been panning the new UK logo on social media for three years now.

Brad Munson, the traffic anchor for Lexington’s Cumulus radio stations, is among the Wildcats supporters who are not fans of the current UK logo.

“It took a letter, K, that you learn how to draw as a 5-year-old and messed it up,” Munson says. “The shape of the ‘K’ is my objection. I always loved the (traditional) ‘power K’ going back to the (Kentucky) football helmets in the 1970s. If you cover half of this new ‘K,’ it looks like you are drawing an ‘H.’”

Munson, 47, and a former UK student, says he has refused to buy any University of Kentucky memorabilia since the new logo was adopted.

“I love my school. I love my coaches. I love my players,” he says. “I love everything about the University of Kentucky — but somebody decided to change something that didn’t need changing.”

Now, becoming agitated over a university logo would seem to be the ultimate in first-world problems.

“In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn’t mean anything,” Munson says. “I guess (the traditional ‘K’ logo) just meant something to me.”

New logo Rupp
A repainted Rupp Arena court with the University of Kentucky’s then-new logo was unveiled before the 2016-17 men’s basketball season.

While vocal, the Kentucky fans objecting to UK’s current logo do not seem to be numerous.

The online petition calling for Barnhart to restore Kentucky’s prior logos had 32 signees as of Thursday afternoon.

Though consistently active, the Twitter account @stopthecrookedK had 1,253 followers as of Thursday.

Munson — who is not affiliated with either the petition or the Twitter account — says ‘there may only be a handful of us who are vocal about (the UK logo). But I think there may be more of us out there than shows up in the social media.”

On Friday night, under the amplifying lights of the NCAA Tournament, UK will face off against the university that is its logo doppelganger.

There are ample suggestions on social media that this should be a “loser loses the logo” game.

“I don’t think we want to go that far,” Houston’s Conrad says with a laugh.

Munson has a different concept for what the stakes should be in the round-of-16 meeting between the schools with the “twin logos.”

“What I’m really hoping is that (Kentucky) wins — and then the winners change that logo,” he says.


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.