ESPNU College students and fans across the country like ESPNU. But they r-e-a-l-l-y like their respective teams.

So, the folks at ESPNU went on what they called “a safari” to see how their network could tap into that parochial passion. Rosalyn Durant, VP ESPNU, programming, Dan Steir, Sr. CP, and Dan Margulis, director, programming & acquisitions, visited campuses and discovered what “U” may not have known: while folks watch national telecasts on ESPNU, they also get a home-team perspective via lap tops, Twitter and local blogs.

“We were asked how we could refresh our brand – take a strong national brand to the local level,” said creative director Mark Groeschner. “Everyone who sees our standard red ‘U’ totally gets it, but they wanted to hit the hyper-local level: how could we make them feel like it was their brand, too; how could we make them feel recognized?”

The answer was simple: video of a “U” getting an elephant’s trunk; a “U” getting pin-stripped pants; a “U” becoming a badger; and a “U” turning into an ant eater.

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So, Groeschner and Sr. creative director Chris Mantzaris got to work customizing ESPNU’s “U” into individual school designs. It takes 10-15 seconds for each “U” to morph into a school’s colors, mascot or theme. About 140 have been created.

“It was a blast,” Groeschner said, noting that turning the “U” into Florida’s Gator jaws and chomping, “Was one of the first ones. It just clicked and got us excited about the project.” It’s no surprise Indiana was among the early designs – Groeschner was a Hoosier, but admits, “Sean Murphy (Charlotte-based Sr. Coordinating Producer) is from Indiana, so he accurately embellished that one with the pinstripes.”

While the designs originated in Bristol, Groeschner & Co. worked with National Television in Los Angeles in what he calls “a great collaboration.” Some of the designs were “pretty in-depth,” he says, using words like “character animators” and “articulating parts,” to explain why early logos took several weeks to complete, until National “got it down to a science” and could complete one in just several days.

The morphing “U”s can be seen throughout ESPNU programming, including the simulcast of ESPN Radio’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd. Some can also be seen on the computer screens of ESPN employees.

“Every month or two I’ll get a call, ‘I’d love to get a frame grab for my wallpaper,’” Groeschner says of obliging loyal alum who are apparently following ESPNU’s mantra: “Never Graduate.”

  • Jordan

    No central michigan university? I have seen it before. why is it not in the video?

  • Jeff

    I love these! Any chance of seeing a University of San Diego Toreros one? I don’t know if it has been made already or not…

  • Ivan

    Seems fun until you sit through the whole thing and realize your Division I football school(s) didn’t make the cut.

  • Geoff

    Love these! Is that all of the schools?

  • TC

    After our Final Four appearance … gotta get Virginia Commonwealth University in there!

  • OnOnUofK

    No University of Kentucky that I saw… Just a travesty and again, shows the ESPN bias of only promoting stuff on UK when it’s a “possible violation”. Figures…

    • Dan Quinn

      Thanks for the notes. The video is a sampling of the logos that have been developed so far. There will be more on these logos coming to Front Row soon.

  • Jason

    UK is on there. Wildcat mascot color with UK blue and white ESPN tag. The tail kicks up some dirt at the end. I like it. Would love to see a UK Go Big Blue foam 1 finger to help identify it some. I love these!!! Playing a game with my son to see how many he can identify. He’s 11 and I bet he knows everyone of them. Go Cats!!!! GO BIG BLUE!!!