The new turf at Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Memorial Stadium has a logo that stretches from 25-yard line to 25-yard line. The reaction has spread even further.
The design is as simple as it is enormous – a gold lion’s head in profile – with no outlines, drop-shadows or lettering.
ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell called it “the biggest on-field logo in the game.” CBS Sports noted accurately that it’s “more of a half-field logo than a mid-field logo.” Yahoo! Sports used the vast cat to introduce a story headlined “Running down the greatest non-traditional football field styles.”
The boldest aspect of the new field design didn’t make it into the final version. A&M-Commerce athletics director Ryan Ivey said that the university had explored the idea of making the new field blue instead of green. Blue and gold are the university’s two colors.
But that plan was punted, apparently because Boise State University is behind some obscure prohibition of any NCAA football fields other than its own being blue. Boise State’s Bronco Stadium has had its unique blue turf since 1986.
Word of the colossal kitty spread Thursday through the sports blogosphere, with SB Nation and other popular sites chiming in. LionAthletics.com’s photo gallery of the turf’s installation was republished in many places, and a video stream of the installation at AstroTurf.com was overwhelmed by visitors. “Due to high traffic volumes, the live video has been set to refresh every 10 minutes,” reads a disclaimer at the page.
National reaction has been mainly of the “How about that!” variety so far, with opinion generally positive. Locally, social media response on the athletics department’s Facebook page and elsewhere has been a roar of approval. So far, only USA Today has growled that this kitty’s too super-sized for his savannah.
The national community of journalists and sports marketers who focus on athletics aesthetics were focused on the NBA New Orleans Pelicans’ new uniforms today. So, no word yet on whether Uni Watch’s Paul Lukas and other sports style critics like the lion, but perhaps that’s forthcoming.
The trend in bold turf designs has been adopted by several schools recently, with Eastern Washington University sporting a red field and striped surfaces at the University of Central Arkansas and Lindenwood University-Belleville in Illinois.
The new turf – which was needed anyway, all image considerations aside – is just one part of a nascent renaissance in sports at Texas A&M University-Commerce, which competes in NCAA Division II.
The school’s football program has a storied history among regional institutions, with an NAIA National Championship in 1972, when the university was still known as East Texas State. Famous alumni include former Dallas Cowboys Harvey Martin (co-MVP of Super Bowl XII), Kevin Mathis and Wade Wilson.
The Lions are charter members of the Lone Star Conference, founded in 1931. Since then, the school has won 24 football conference championships, but none since 1990. In recent decades, the Lions have rarely clawed their way out of the bottom half of the conference standings.
New head coach Colby Carthel, one of many recent additions to the program, has stated his intent to revive the team’s fortunes. A&M-Commerce only managed a single win last season, and was picked to finish last out of the conference’s seven schools in the preseason poll released this week.
But regardless of how numbers on the scoreboard look this fall, football fans at Memorial Stadium will be able to appreciate one thing, for sure.
That’s a big ol’ lion.