Ranking Horizon League Logos

To start getting us in the mood for college basketball, we’re going to ease in by just ranking a whole bunch of crap. Today, we’re ranking Horizon League logos. This is totally subjective (one guy decides) and extremely biased (that one guy is me). If you stop reading here, I respect your beliefs and thanks for the page view.

#10. The Horizon League5145_full

From the Horizon League’s website:

A central component of the Horizon League logo is the non-gender specific “star-person,” symbolizing our men’s and women’s student-athletes who are the “stars” of the League’s efforts in competition, citizenship, learning and community service. The athletic motion can be interpreted as part of any of the 18 intercollegiate sports in which our student-athletes compete.

Oh man. This is something awful. Going beyond the fact that our conference’s logo freely admits it is “non-gender specific,” the Horizon League’s “Star-person” (ugh) was probably drawn by Jon LeCrone’s grandson in kindergarten that one day during nap time when all the other kids were sleeping but little Benny LeCrone had “a job to do for gramps.” If we’re grading on that curve, this is fantastic. Many straight lines, a general idea that is expressed on paper, but also a new take on a tired old children’s standby, the “Stick figure.”

But we’re not grading on a curve, so let’s just talk about how Star-guy-girl’s left arm is significantly longer and is also attached to a golden scythe. I’m seriously wondering whether or not this is what Slenderman would look like at twilight if he was getting ready to do downward dog in yoga.

9. Green Bay

PhoenixLogoI just don’t know where to start when talking about this hot dumpster-fire of a logo. The Phoenix have the unfortunate job of having to blend the Phoenix and fire. The result is what looks like a green feather duster with a red paint splotch and some bird poop on it. Is it an improvement over the former one? Yes, but there’s only so far you can go. The Phoenix decided to put way too many flame/feathers on there, so you get Kermit the Frog’s hairpiece.

Here’s a bold suggestion: go with the monogram “GB” and make a logo out of that. Phoenix is a rare mascot, to be sure (only Elon in D-I shares it with GB) but that doesn’t mean you need your main logo to be the Phoenix. Too many mid-majors go with the mascot as a logo, when they should be going with the city name. “GB” would not only look better, cleaner, more mature, but also the Brown County area would take ownership of the brand. That “GB” logo would be on t-shirts, hats, hoodies…every high school kid in the Green Bay area would own something even if they have no connection to UWGB.

If they must stay with the feather duster, cut out some feathers so it has some shape.

8. UIC

FlameMaybe fire is just hard to make into solid form. The Flames of UIC have real difficulty here, but before we talk about the flame, let’s talk about the colors. Red, white and blue is overdone. Why does UIC only use yellow in its logo? These are the primary colors, yet yellow is only an occasional accent color. The logo, though, is not standardized. The blue has too many variations, the red has too many variations…we don’t know the actual colors of the school. We’ve seen in recent years some more mature darker hues of the red and blue, yet you still see the kids crayons colors in logos like this one above.

UIC is a school who is saddled with an unfortunate nickname on the logo front, because flames are so hard to make work in a logo. These look like they came out of “How to Draw Fire 101,” which may actually be a class at UIC. I’m also not too hot on the diagonal, but if they feel the need to make it work.  The Flames should somehow incorporate the City of Chicago flag, which is the best city flag in America. Maybe start by adopting those hues of red and blue in the flag.

7. Milwaukee


After 14 years and a myriad of iterations, it looks like the Milwaukee Panthers have finally settled on a Panther logo. Great. Apart from the fact that the logo should absolutely be just a capital “M,” “MKE” or “UMIL” (come on, just listen to me), there’s just waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much going on here. The Panther itself has not one, not two, not three, not four but five colors (black, gold, white, dark grey, lighter grey). Take that logo into an embroidery shop and chances are pretty high that you’re just going to get flipped off by the embroiderer. It looks pretty awful on a hat, but even worse when you make it smaller and add the “Milwaukee” underneath.

I get it, but only because I am me. The wave of the Milwaukee name on the logo is supposed to mirror the top while also being an homage to the academic UWM logo. Instead, however, it looks like some terrible “Catty” WordArt that someone got out of Microsoft Word 2000 (still the best version). Do we really need to be reminded that the team is Panthers by having cat scratches in seven of nine letters? Ugh. Nic Waldron designed a far better logo that is now being used by the club sports, which is a great reminder that the kids who pay to play are better at branding than the people who run the university.

The Panther head by itself is very nice on the internet, but not on actual merchandise. For that, you need to dumb it down to make it look good. The Milwaukee WordArt has gotta go. Yikes.

6. Valparaiso

57402053172508The real problem for Valpo, unfortunately, is their colors are literally what you find in the toilet. Unless you ate way too many peanut M&M’s. Monochromatically, though, the logo looks pretty good. The V is prominent – on here twice, in the name and on the shield – but I can’t help but think the flame (what is it with this conference and fire?) coming up through the shield makes it look somewhat like a W.

The VALPO is in standard college block lettering – so underused in logos – but unfortunately it’s topped by a crusader, another school combining mascot and words to make a really busy logo. VALPO alone, the crusader alone, those work. Put them together, it’s tough. Definitely better than Milwaukee and way, way better than Green Bay, but it’s still too busy to be higher on the list.

5 Wright State


There’s a few things that confuse me about the Wright State logo. How do you get a wolf out of “Raiders?” I suppose wolves ‘raid’ places, but then again I ‘raid’ the fridge so it kind of dilutes the meaning. Like the Milwaukee logo, this is another one that has to be an embroiderer’s nightmare, with five or six colors in the logo with a bunch of janky slashes.

The real cool thing about the logo is the wording. Wright State looks cool – it’s not some font co-opted from somewhere else, it’s original. It doesn’t look like Microsoft WordArt like the ‘Milwaukee’ in our logo. There is one more thing I don’t get, though.

Is the green stuff above Wright State…is that the Dayton skyline? Does their skyline really look like the American southwest? Wait…is their Raider not a wolf but a coyote? Like… Wile E. Coyote?! HOW HAVE I MISSED THIS. Honestly, though, I don’t get why Wright State doesn’t have a main “W” logo that has an airplane theme. I know that Dayton is the Flyers, but Wright State is literally named for the Wright Brothers. They had kids dress up like them in the crowd.

4. Cleveland StateCleveland-State

Man, this is so much cooler than the Minnesota Vikings’ logo. The wording is most prominent, with a font that looks original and looks like it fits. Like, if Eric the Red were storming the eastern seaboard right now and colonizing Nova Scotia, this is the kind of font that he’d have on his business card. “Hey, I’m Eric the Red, if you ever need someone to invade a coastal village, give me a call. Here’s my business card. You like that font? I know, it totally says VIKINGS to me.”

The Viking himself is a bit cartoony, but a whole lot better than the last mascot, who looked like 7up’s Spot if he turned green and became uncool by taking off the shades. This guy looks like he’s staring over a meticulously-trimmed hedge getting ready to rape and pillage your point guard. This guy looks like a sober Hagar the Horrible. But his nose isn’t the red, bulbus Hagar nose, it’s the broken hockey player Owen Wilson nose. Like, I’ve seen some shit in my day.

3. Detroit


The Titans of Detroit have some difficulty, since the Titans didn’t really exist. They were, however, the creation of Greek mythology, so Detroit does a very good job using a sword – but, like, Greek, 300-style sword – and a war-worn shield. The ‘S’ has a lightning bolt at the end, which I suppose is a bit lazy in referencing Zeus, who was not a Titan but a God.

Besides that, though (and who really cares), this is a team that owns its brand without using the actual mascot. It’s also only three colors, so screen printing isn’t too expensive. The lines make it difficult for embroidery, so there’s some points to dock there, but the font is cool, the sword is cool, the shield is cool. This logo is everything that the movie Troy wasn’t – awesome.

2. Oakland

Oakland_new (2009)

THIS IS HOW YOU DO A MASCOT LOGO. Minimal colors – in embroidery, this guy only has brown, black and white. He’s menacing, he’s ditched that ridiculous body-builder bear physique and the Oklahoma letters rip-off. This logo is Oakland’s and Oakland’s alone. He looks like a bear, not a fake bear, and a badass one at that.

There’s no reference to “OU” in here, but because of the aforementioned Oklahoma rip-off, maybe it’s not a bad thing. The thing that makes them look good is that their bear mascot doesn’t try to do more, and it looks so much different from other bear mascots in college sports that it isn’t even a thing.

1. Youngstown State


Youngstown State does have the benefit of being one of the few ‘Y’ schools, but they take advantage of it. Obviously Green Bay is the only ‘GB’ school and doesn’t take advantage of it even though the big pro team – the Packers – doesn’t. This is a logo. It’s not a generic ‘y,’ the left arm is much thicker than the right one.

I’ve thought that YSU has the coolest brand, even though being the second-most southern Horizon League school makes the Penguins name odd. Where other schools try to accomplish so much in a logo, YSU “gets it.” They understand that the logo isn’t where you say everything about your program. It’s where you say the most important thing: who am I?

YOUNGSTOWN. That’s what the Y means. A real Y, not those wannabe Y Mormons out west, Y is where Youngstown State makes its brand statement. There’s a lot of ____ States in Ohio. But there’s only one Y.

That’s what these schools need to get about logos. It’s about establishing your brand, not expressing everything that it is.

Simplicity wins.

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