Dons Notes: New San Francisco Identity, One Year Later


An array of Dons shirts and logos (Photo by James Stapleton)

August marked the one year mark since the Dons unveiled a new primary logo and word mark for the athletic department. This change came with other announcements that San Francisco had a new website and would officially become a “Nike” school. The athletic department released these logos with a set plan. Mostly, San Francisco wanted to “limit the confusion” with other universities and differentiate the athletic department from other sports teams in the Bay Area.

"“This new athletics logo is a bold and modern look… It more effectively ties USF Athletics to this amazing city, and better represents the Dons to our recruits and many fans across the country. We are so proud of our history, our athletic teams, our student-athletes, and the greatness that awaits us moving forward.”Scott Sidwell, USF Athletic Director"

Breaking Down the Design

The main target here was the University of Southern Florida. Many times, both schools found themselves in a bit of confusion over the USF abbreviation. Even Barack Obama finds the abbreviation difficult. When South Florida made the tournament in 2013, President Obama’s bracket had USF’s abbreviation stand for the University of San Francisco. Hey, I thought it was a good assumption – I think San Francisco when the abbreviation “SF” is used too!

Secondly, stacking the “S” above the “F” is the first time a San Francisco based sports team has implemented such a design. The Dons separated themselves by not interlocking the “S-F” logo. The “U” in the primary logo creates a crest-like feature that ties the package together.

Next, the word mark continues the modern look but carries a further story behind the design. USF is a Jesuit institution and the athletic department believed it was important to emphasize that quality in the logo. The city of San Francisco was named after St. Francis of Assisi. San is Spanish for the word “saint” and was ultimately placed above the rest of the word mark. This created another stacking effect with religious and city connotations above all else.

The Backlash

There was an immediate response from many fans that the logo may not have cleared up confusion for USF, but instead complicated the situation. Southern Florida’s primary logo uses the “U” in USF and adds bull horns. This look was very similar to the “U” in San Francisco’s primary logo. Further, even though the word mark had a secondary logo with the bridge, fans were disappointed that the city landmarks were no longer front and center with the school’s athletic identity.

However, as the time passed, there were less complaints and fans began to have the logo “grow on them”. The word mark looked good on jerseys. The primary logo looked great as a crest on the uniforms. The logo almost made the green a little greener and the gold a little bolder.

What about the Don?

After the dust settled on the basketball season last year, the Loyolan posted an article ranking all the WCC mascots. Even though I do not necessarily agree with all of the rankings, I do believe it is quite telling the the Don was picked last of ALL of the WCC mascots – really? Regardless if anyone knows what a Don is (look it up people), this article may have given a good perception of our mascot in the WCC.

It’s been a year since the logos have changed, but what about our friend, Don Francisco? The departure of the old logo (used from 2001-2011) also marked the departure of the mascot from the logo. The old logo incorporated “the Don” (as a Zorro looking dude) and his sword through out the primary and alternate logo. A simple patch replaced any reference to the old logo on Don Francisco’s attire, but can fans expect a re-vamp in the actual mascot anytime soon? The athletics department, facilities and demeanor have changed – why not the Don himself?

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Where to Get Your New Dons Gear

Maybe when the new logos first came out, you weren’t quite sold. But now that college sports is just around the corner, it’s time to pick up some new threads and support the Green & Gold. Here are some of my suggestions on where to get your new Dons gear and truly be a “Dapper Don”.

University of San Francisco Bookstore

First and foremost, there is no better alternative than heading down to campus  and finding something you can get immediately. You can try the fit, find the material you like, and check out great options you never knew existed. If you can’t head down to campus or do not live in the Bay Area, the Bookstore website is also available.

Original Retro Brand

OK, I get it – you don’t like the new look, and it’s not going to change. You loved the USF logo when you went to school or you would like to revel in the past and really enjoy the “throwback” look. Well, this is the place for you. A few years back Retro Brand had a solid partnership with the WCC. Since then, fewer USF options have been available. Never the less, this is a great place to pick up some classic looks.

Prep Sportswear

Lastly, this store is king of customization. If you are looking for a particular look or style, but cannot find it anywhere else, this may be your last resort. It’s also easy to search by brand, sport or merchandise type. I have not purchased anything from Prep Sportswear yet, but I’m sure I will soon. I mean where else can you purchase Kelly Green Dons gear nowadays?

For a full visual history of the Dons visit the USF Visual History page.