The nine-team Summit League
includes Omaha, Kansas City, Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, South
Dakota, South Dakota State, Oakland, Western Illinois and the lone
tongue-twisting holdout, Indiana University-Purdue University
Indianapolis, or IUPUI.
As much as the league would
like to eliminate a few vowels, referring to IUPUI as Indianapolis could
conflict with their Division II neighbors, the University of
"I know they would like to make a change, but I don't know if they have the solution yet," Orleans said of IUPUI.
Omaha has already completed
its own rebranding campaign that offered an alternative to the UNO
acronym, which also is used at the University of New Orleans. The
Nebraska school bills itself as "Omaha's team." The new
look includes an "O'' insignia to replace a hodgepodge of logos that
were used by the Mavericks.
"For the 40,000 alumni who
live in the greater Omaha area, we will always be UNO," said Dave
Ahlers, Omaha's director of communications. "But from more of a national
perspective, it made more sense.
"People know Omaha. It's a lot easier to put that on a ticker," he said.
The UMKC chancellor and
others associated with the university have suggested changing the
official name of the school to Kansas City. There's similar discussion
regarding IPFW, which is seeking to distinguish itself
from Indiana and Purdue universities.
The Summit League's move
follows the lead of other schools and conferences. The University of
Wisconsin-Green Bay is now just Green Bay; its separate athletic website
is greenbayphoenix.com. Same goes for the University
of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which goes by Milwaukee, and the University of
"In this day and age," Ahlers said, "shorter seems to be better."
And bigger also can be
better, league officials say. With the exception of USD, SDSU and
Western Illinois, schools in the league are located in major
metropolitan areas of 200,000 or more people. Kansas City is the
only D-I athletics program in a 40-mile radius.
Since changing its name from
the Mid-Continent Conference to the Summit in 2007, the conference has
produced 54 All-Americans, 37 academic All-Americans and seven NCAA
champions — five in track and field and two in
swimming and diving. The league also offers baseball, basketball, cross
country, golf, soccer, softball and tennis.
In the past seven seasons,
Summit teams have been ranked nationally in six different sports, won
NCAA regional championships in two sports and advanced to three NCAA
"I am just incredibly impressed how those cities and those institutions matter in those regions," Orleans said.
Even so, Summit is considered
a mid- to lower-major conference. Therefore, it needs to work harder to
attract national attention than, say, Michigan or Alabama.
"I think everybody has that
branding challenge," said NDSU assistant athletic director Troy Goergen,
who handles the department's marketing. "We're in the mode like a lot
of schools are, trying to gain that notoriety."