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COST OF CHANGE: Purdue Fort Wayne athletics invests significant time, money in branding switch

Purdue Fort Wayne athletic director Kelley Hartley Hutton speaks with media June 18 after a new logo and branding was unveiled for the school's athletic department. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
The Purdue Fort Wayne athletic logo was unveiled on June 18 at the Gates Center. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
The Purdue Fort Wayne athletic logo unveiling revealed a touch of blue on June 18. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
A look at the blue seating in the Gates Center. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Signage inside Hilliard Gates Sports Center that still holds the IPFW name. (Photo by Dan Vance of news-sentinel.com)
Indiana's De'Ron Davis, No. 20, defends against Fort Wayne's Dylan Carl, No. 11, in December 2017. (File photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Herald-Times via The Associated Press)

The change from IPFW to Purdue Fort Wayne comes with some tangible cost to the athletic department.

That expense is highest in the short term for an obvious reason.

The athletic teams will need new uniforms and practice gear with “Purdue Fort Wayne” at the heart of the new black, gold and blue color scheme.

According to athletic director Kelley Hartley Hutton, it will cost close to $200,000 for the change in uniforms and practice gear. The switch becomes official Sunday and will enter the public’s eyes officially when Purdue Fort Wayne’s 2018-19 sports year kicks off with soccer in the fall.

“What we’re focused on is the logoed stuff,” Hartley Hutton said. “We want a consistent message in the community, and student-athletes and coaches are a big part of it in what they wear. Turning over that gear all in one year is an added expense, but we think it’s a worthy one, rather than having some people wearing one logo and somebody another one.”

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Hartley Hutton estimates changing some of the other signage and logos around the athletic fields and courts will run another $100,000.

But she also said she feels the change to Purdue Fort Wayne will be overwhelmingly positive for the sports programs.

“Automatically, we’re less confusing,” Hartley Hutton said.

The IPFW acronym, for Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, had been challenging to explain to those unfamiliar with the school, whether recruits or national media. It was the main reason the athletics department changed its focus to promoting “Fort Wayne Mastodons” as the athletic brand. That goes away now, replaced by Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons.

“Much of the rationale for going to ‘Fort Wayne’ was the confusing acronym,” Hartley Hutton said. “We are not an acronym now. We’re Purdue Fort Wayne.”

The decision by Purdue Fort Wayne to incorporate blue into the traditional black and gold of Purdue was a nod to the blue color scheme of the past and also eased some of the potential cost in transforming the athletic facilities. For example, the seating in the school’s Gates Center facility is blue, as are the pull-down curtains and the indoor track.

Those could change color in the future when wear and tear require updating, Hartley Hutton said, but they will not be changed initially. The basketball court has already been painted and refinished with the new color scheme.

“I’m glad senior leadership agrees it’s fiscally irresponsible to replace things that are perfectly good and not broken,” she said. “When we do have to replace the bleachers, I’m certain we’ll make other choices about color.”

The Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons logo features a blue outline of the Mastodon as a nod to the school’s recent history. The sports teams’ colors were red and yellow in the early years of the school, so this is not the first color change.

The color scheme has produced mixed reviews. While Hartley Hutton said she has received much positive feedback, there are some alums and fans who have expressed disappointment.

“There are folks where change is hard, and it’s emotional and that’s probably the toughest thing,” Hartley Hutton said. “They love this place in a deep way and now it’s changing the way it looks and it’s personal to them. That’s tough and I’m not going to argue with them. They’re entitled to feel that way. But I would say we’re still family and we need and value your support more than ever.”

The recent blue Mastodons jerseys being replaced will not be immediately available to the public for purchase, Hartley Hutton said. But they could be sold later.

Another aspect of change has been underway for more than a year as student-athletes must be enrolled in a degree program with Purdue. In the past, athletes could be in either a Purdue or an Indiana University program. Those scholarship athletes who were affiliated on the Indiana side have transitioned to a similar program with Purdue.

“The three medical degrees with IU – nursing, medical imaging and dental hygiene – very few student-athletes were in those degree programs,” she said. “Those majors are a tough marriage with a Division I athlete’s schedule.”

The change to Purdue Fort Wayne has been embraced by the coaching staff, and has been positive in recruiting, Hartley Hutton said.

“We knew the change was coming a long time ago,” men’s basketball assistant coach Ryan Sims said. “We’ve brought in some really good recruits, and had one of our best recruiting classes. A lot of the players here think it’s cool getting new gear or whatnot. I’m telling a lot of people we could be similar to the Golden State Warriors, a little gold, black and blue in the colors.”

There is no timetable for when athletic apparel with the new Purdue Fort Wayne logo will be available for public purchase, Hartley Hutton said.

The priority for the athletic department will be to have soccer players sporting the Purdue Fort Wayne design to open the 2018-19 school year.

“I’m going to try not to lose a lot of sleep over what you can’t control,” she said. “Everything looks to be on schedule, but shipments come in late sometimes. We’re optimistic everything will fall into place. At the end of the day, we’ll still play.”

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