ATHENS, Ga. -- Could the University of Georgia become a school with no name?
All sides say that's unlikely, but the very identity of the
219-year-old university has become entangled in the school's messy
divorce from a private fund-raising foundation. That is because the
school let its trademark lapse and the foundation applied for the
rights to all things labeled "University of Georgia."
The mere suggestion of a nameless university was laughable to
Gov. Sonny Perdue, who holds two UGA degrees and has backed the
university in the dispute.
"That name is not owned by anyone," Perdue said Friday. "I think it's pretty clear. It's owned by all of us -- it's owned by Georgia."
The dispute is rooted in UGA President Michael Adams' decision
last year not to renew the contract of beloved athletic director
Vince Dooley. That sent many alumni into a revolt, with the
University of Georgia Foundation leading the charge.
Georgia's Board of Regents, which controls the state's public
colleges, stepped in to end the feud this week when it announced it
would dissolve the decades-old relationship between the university
and the foundation in 90 days.
Foundation lawyers said it will not be so easy to cast the group
aside and start another. Not only does it raise funds for the
university, cover some of the school's costs and endow
scholarships, it also has an agreement to license UGA products --
shirts, mugs, anything emblazoned with the school name.
On top of that, the foundation applied for the trademark to the
University of Georgia name last year after finding out that the
school itself had let the trademark lapse in 1997.
Foundation attorneys said the application was no attempt to take over the school or its name, just a protective measure. The trademark application is still pending.