Call it the revolt of the old-timers.
Critics of the brand new Longhorns’ logo crowded the school board chambers this week to object to the fast-track process by which the district adopted a new logo after the University of Texas ordered the school to stop using a likeness of its logo.
By the time the rattle of rhetorical musketry had died down, the school board agreed to consider adoption of a second logo, based on the original design dating back to 1966. The older logo had more facial features than the simplified silhouette the University of Texas disputed — but didn’t have the eyes of the new logo, which should look determined but which some people said looked angry.
The board decided the school could have two logos — especially since the district has already ordered new football uniforms, letterhead, T-shirts and other merchandise with the new logo.
Homer Sanders — a Payson alumni who spent 25 years in the graphic design business — agreed to head up an effort to determine whether use of the 1966 logo would pose any copyright problems. Sanders noted that the original design came from a drawing by Johnny Owen, a football player.
“Johnny Owen went on to the Vietnam War. Sadly, Johnny Owen would never make it home. He had a son he’d met only briefly and that son — John Owen — graduated in 1988 — one of my cousins,” said Sanders, whose family has lived in Payson for three generations.
Sanders and half a dozen other alumni who spoke at the meeting said they felt the district hadn’t done enough to consult the community about changing the logo.
However, Payson High School Principal Jeff Simon said he did his best to involve as many people as possible under considerable time pressure and the threat of a lawsuit by the University of Texas. Payson High School alumni Joe Klein, who has a design and internet marketing firm in Payson, designed the new logo.
Simon said after receiving a “cease and desist” letter from the University of Texas in the spring, the district tried to find out if it could simply pay royalties and keep the existing logo. “It’s amazing how many things have our logo on it ... When we finally came to the realization the answer was ‘no’ we developed 20 variations. We took those logos and dropped them back into a Google search.” They found many close variations already in use.
They considered opening up the issue to a student design contest.
“My initial thought was that would be a great idea — but as soon as it goes out to social media, someone who’s not a fan is going to be ugly — and I didn’t want my students to go through that. That’s why we moved away from a student contest.”
He said he spent more than 75 hours working on the logo project. Klein ultimately came up with a new design that the district could copyright. He said the points of the horns and the shading on the snout were distinctive along with “the eyes on both sides that have that determined look.”
Simon said he decided to put just one of the designs out for feedback, for fear a tie vote would force them to go “back to the drawing board.”
So they put the logo online and of those who responded, 69 percent gave the proposed logo a thumbs up.
The district then posted the logo on its Facebook page to get feedback.
On Facebook, the logo got 93 “loves” and 14 laugh or surprise emojis, three “angry” emojis and “one angry comment, which turned into an ugly exchange between a graduate and a non-student.
The Payson Roundup also wrote an article about the new logo. The article garnered 232 comments on the Roundup’s Facebook. Of those, 202 were “positive” and 16 were angry — with most of the anger directed at the University of Texas.
Meanwhile, the David and Goliath fight between PHS and Texas received national attention. A Phoenix TV station did a story, which prompted ESPN to do a story, which reached 2 million people.
“Overnight, I got 200 emails. I tried to respond, but it was overwhelming,” said Simon. “I had two people nonstop answering calls all morning” after the stories came out.
Nonetheless, many people in the community with deep roots and a long, proud tradition as Longhorns didn’t feel involved.
Sanders said he coached at the high school for 12 years and “I’ve probably painted more logos at Payson High School than anyone in history. My phone just blew up and it didn’t stop for two weeks. The community wasn’t involved in the creation of this logo — it was done very quiet, very closed caption, behind closed doors. People wanted to be part of the process.”
He said the area was settled by pioneering families, mostly bringing in Longhorn cattle from Texas. “We have one chance to do this and we need to do it right — do it as a community and keep our traditions alive,” he said.
Faith Haught, a senior at PHS, said, “I’m not here to complain, but to tell you how a part of the student body feels. We are aware the designer spent 10 hours doing the logo, but it fails to represent the Payson Longhorns’ discipline and leadership.”
The school board responded carefully to the complaints, stressing both appreciation for Simon’s work and the history lesson offered in the course of the meeting.
“I definitely feel like it is our duty to be as inclusive as we possibly can,” said board member Shelia DeSchaaf. “This is bigger than the 100 people who were involved in taking part in the current selection. I just don’t want to burden staff with spending another 700 hours on this.”
Superintendent Stan Rentz said, “I think the process was fine. Was it perfect? Probably not. But I think it was well thought out and inclusive of a lot of alumni and I don’t know that you’re ever going to get 100 percent agreement.”
Board member Jolynn Schinstock said, “I came here 11 years ago and it became obvious this town has so much culture — I wish we had kind of thought about that at the beginning.”
Board member Barbara Underwood, who has lived in Payson almost all of her life, said “I want to give Jeff kudos — his list was very inclusive. Maybe Jeff didn’t include everyone, but obviously not being from here he probably had a little bit of a disadvantage in terms of other people to invite.”
Board member Michell Marinelli praised the process, but added “I have to agree on one of the things I didn’t like — the eyes make it look angry.”
One former teacher who has lived in Payson since 1953 commented, “This is a small town, even if it’s changed unbelievably. But there are a lot of old-timers who feel like, why didn’t you ask? I don’t give a rats about the University of Texas. Why should they care about our little high school? You guys don’t understand the history of this town — and it upset the old-timers.”
Rentz cautioned the board about starting over, given that the new logo is already in use. “I have a lot of concern about backing up at this point — just like the University of Texas is so proud of that branding — I’m so glad they lost the other day,” he added to laughter. “But I’m open to a second logo.”
So the board agreed unanimously to give Sanders and whatever group he wants to pull together 30 days to research whether the district would face any copyright problems if it also adopted as a logo the 1966 version, based on the drawing by Johnny Owen.
If that logo checks out, the district could end up using two different, roughly similar logos interchangeably.