On the Marc

 

Let it be known: St. John’s will no longer be called SJU.

STJ is here to stay – maybe not in the minds and on the lips of students and longtime fans, but the school’s administration and athletic department are determined to force it down our proverbial throats.

Most of the rumors about the SJU-to-STJ switch are untrue though. It wasn’t trademark negligence, it wasn’t another school (St. Joseph’s, Saint John’s of Minnesota) swooping in and stealing our acronym out from under us. It was a choice of the business variety.

“We made the decision not to renew it,” said Brenda Majeski, St. John’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Huh?

As it turns out, SJU was indeed trademarked and licensed to St. John’s University. This one, here in Queens. However, while the trademark was valid for things like merchandise and clothing, it was never licensed for online use. The domain sju.edu is owned by St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“If you want people looking for St. John’s [online],” Majeski said, “you don’t want to be sending them on a wild goose chase.”

So the decision was made in 2003, as part of a new brand identity program, to cut off the SJU name altogether. The thinking was, ‘if we can’t have it all, we’ll have none.’ Since the STJ mark could be “protected,” it was the one to move into the future with. Leaving SJU – and a little thing called tradition – behind.

“I think the reason marketing and communications decided to go into the STJ area is they felt we would have more of a chance to protect STJ in the market in various forms,” said Chris Monasch, St. John’s athletic director. “That’s the primary reason.”

All the talk of protection seems awfully defensive. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense to have your company’s mark totally unique to not confuse your product or corporation with another.

But, in this case, St. John’s athletics can’t be looked at as a business. The University of Southern California and the University of South Carolina both use the same acronym. However, when people think USC, they think of the one Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush played football at, the one Mark McGwire and Tom Seaver played baseball for, and so on.

A person does not think of the one in South Carolina, unless of course that person happens to live there.

That is how St. John’s – this one – should see it. Saint John’s of Minnesota, as Majeski readily admitted, is totally irrelevant. It’s a Division II school with a regional following, at best.

St. Joseph’s has had some solid basketball seasons lately, but compared to the fifth-winningest team in college basketball history – none other than the SJU in Jamaica, Queens – St. Joe’s can’t stand up.

Tradition should be enough for this school to want to keep SJU and tradition is exactly what gets kicked to the curb by the decision to make it STJ.

And the brand was still very appealing to administration. The deal breaker was the sju.edu domain name that St. Joe’s owns.

Besides that, SJU might still be, well, SJU.

“Had we been able to use it, absolutely (we’d have kept it),” Majeski said. “-There would have been no reason not to.”

Maybe there still wasn’t. Maybe SJU could have been the foundation of the new logo that is being developed by the marketing department (with help from Nike) and will be unveiled at the end of the summer.

Maybe when coach Norm Roberts leads his men’s basketball team to a future Final Four, they would have been wearing SJU – the same letters Lou Carnesecca’s teams wore on their jerseys.

As much as this University hails its heritage and talks up its tradition, this is just one more sign of the school turning its back on it. It’s contradictive, it’s hypocritical.

It’s akin to me bringing you into my home and displaying my prized collection of fine china with my right hand, then quickly swiping every last bit if it off the shelf with my left.

Majeski read me the design philosophy of the new logo:

“Respect the past and represent the future.”

I guess that first part was rendered moot when SJU was thrown to the floor like meaningless waste.