Mississippi High School Losing Longhorn, Keeping Aggie Name

At UT-Austin's request, a Mississippi high school will lose its longhorn logo. But it will keep its Aggie nickname and maroon and white colors, which school district officials called "a freak coincidence."

The logo and school colors for Kossuth High School in Mississippi. The school is changing its logo — but not its colors — after trademark concerns from UT-Austin.

When the high school football season starts in Mississippi later this month, the Kossuth Aggies will be wearing maroon and white uniforms, just as they always have. But the high school's longtime logo — a longhorn that looks almost identical to UT-Austin’s — will be on its way out.  

Earlier this summer, Texas' flagship university sent Kossuth a letter asking the high school to stop using the logo, the Mississippi-based Daily Corinthian reported last week.      

For years, Kossuth’s school colors, nickname and logo have inadvertently paid homage to both sides of Texas’ most famous college sports rivalry — a combination that Burnt Orange Nation, a UT fan site, described in May as “an incredibly disturbing cocktail that will likely shock the senses of A&M and Texas fans alike.” 

The assistant superintendent of the local school district, Ritchie Williams, told The Texas Tribune that there has been no local outcry against the logo change. But he said he isn’t sure how UT-Austin found out that the eight-school district in northeastern Mississippi was using the longhorn, which has adorned Kossuth middle and high school uniforms and facilities since the late 1990s. Williams added that before May, when Burnt Orange Nation wrote about the Kossuth Aggies, no one had ever raised concerns about the combination of logo, name and colors.

“It’s not something where they sat around years ago and said, 'Let’s go out and look at Texas and take this logo and this nickname and put them together and see if we can make somebody mad,'” Williams said. “This was just a freak coincidence.”

Representatives from UT athletics did not immediately return requests for comment on Monday. But it's hardly uncommon for universities to take action when others use their logos or slogans.

Texas A&M sued the Indianapolis Colts last year and the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 for violating A&M's trademark of the phrase "12th Man" — a term used to refer to its fans. In both of those cases, the parties reached a settlement. 

In 2010, the New York Times reported that a Florida high school was using the Florida State Seminoles logo, but its colors were blue and orange — like the University of Florida. The high school and Florida State reached an agreement that allowed the school to keep using the logo. 

And in 2010, UT-Austin asked a Kansas high school to stop using the longhorn. Craig Westemeier, the senior associate athletics director who oversees the university's office of brand, trademarks and licensing, told the Daily Texan at the time that the university had to safeguard its trademark.

“That is part of owning a trademark," he told the newspaper. "You have to be out there protecting the mark ... to maintain its integrity and its value and, more importantly, the legal rights to it.”

The Mississippi high school isn't disputing that. Arch Bullard, an attorney for the local school district, told the Daily Corinthian that Kossuth will likely choose a different steer for its logo.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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