(Tallahassee.com) - The Seminole head logo might not be Florida State's most iconic image — that honor likely goes to Osceola and Renegade or the spear on the football helmets — but that doesn't mean FSU supporters are willing to see it change.
Thousands of irate fans flooded social media sites and Internet message boards Wednesday and Thursday when the redesigned Seminole head logo was leaked following a premature shipment to a retailer.
By Thursday evening, more than 5,200 fans had signed an online petition demanding that FSU stick with the "traditional classic design or we will not purchase (merchandise)." Others formed groups on Facebook, such as "Save the Florida State logo," which had been given a thumbs-up by more than 6,000.
The outcry was so fierce that the university's athletics department issued a statement Thursday at 5:30 p.m., describing the changes as a "refinement" of the existing logo — one that was deemed necessary because of confusion surrounding the school's primary symbol and also the challenge of reproducing the existing Seminole head.
"The issue was that our Seminole head, while as recognizable and iconic as any in all of sports, does not reproduce well in a number of mediums," the statement read. "It is particularly difficult to embroider and impossible to accurately represent on some materials including at midfield at Doak Campbell Stadium. We believe this image is the best in all of sports and that the result of our efforts will maximize the symbol on a national level.
"The refined logo will allow us to use it more prominently across all platforms including our uniforms, sideline apparel and graphics."
FSU officials previously had only hinted at a logo change through recent promotional videos on their official website. One started with the narrator saying, "Tradition doesn't mean never changing."
With the theme "Ignition Tradition," the videos promised a release date on April 11 — one day before the football team's annual spring game. When contacted Thursday, a university spokesman said that release date won't change because of the leak.
Fans were not waiting to vent, however.
Allyson McKee, who changed her Facebook profile picture to the traditional logo, was one of dozens to ridicule the move in the comments section of an article on Tallahassee.com.
"I am so disappointed in FSU," she wrote. "I'm a grad, as well as my father, and have been going to FSU athletic events for over 25 years. That symbol is more to my family than just team athletics. It represents loyalty, emotion, and best of all, being 'unconquered.' In my office alone, there are over 10 items with our current symbol. It symbolizes a deep connection."
While the vast majority were displeased, some suggested it wasn't worth the uproar.
"People in the Florida State fanbase need to step back, take a deep breath, and stop overreacting," posted fan Jason White, who changed the leaked image to his profile photo.
When viewed from afar, the changes are not dramatic.
Some of the man's features were altered, including a more defined ear and the addition of teeth, and the words "Florida State" were removed from the feather in his hair. That lettering was apparently a major headache when it came to embroidery and other reproductions, which the university explained was why the logo had seen diminished use in recent years.
The new logo, which will be used more prominently, has been approved by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, according to the statement.
"It is very important for you to know that the refinement we are making to our Seminole head logo has been under development for almost two years and that the Seminole Tribe of Florida along with groups representing our student-athletes, coaches, boosters and university administration were consulted during the process," the statement said. "We tasked Nike for help in refining the logo so that consistency can be achieved without diminishing the identity of the iconic image. We arrived at a design that can take FSU Athletics into the future."
The current Seminole logo was designed in 1971 by John Roberge, an artist who then worked for FSU's office services department. He would go on to spend 21 years as the artist for the Democrat, before retiring in 2008.
Roberge, 68, didn't earn a dime other than his regular paycheck for drawing the logo. But in 2009, FSU inducted him in its Circle of Gold, an award presented to individuals who "personify the university's tradition of excellence."
Roberge, who was alerted weeks ago that his design was going to be replaced, likes the new logo. He believes the image looks more like Osceola, the Seminole Indian character who rides the horse Renegade, in FSU's famous pregame tradition.
"I think it's brilliant because it consolidates the Osceola logo that everyone loves into one logo," Roberge said Thursday. "My thinking (in 1971) was to do a spirited, Indian-ish thing. I wasn't thinking ethnically correct."