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Column: Ohio State patented a word and that’s fine

How manufactured shock at Wednesday’s announcement is exactly what it looks like.

NCAA Football: Ohio Stadium Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

On Wednesday, Ohio State landed another long-pursued prospect. It wasn’t yet another top-ranked wide receiver or a shot-blocking forward to give guard Taylor Mikesell more room to shoot. Instead, Buckeye officials landed an article of speech. This noun-defining word was a tough commitment to land, with Scarlet & Gray leaders first receiving a “no” from patent office civil servants in Sept. 2019. Now Ohio State owns a word, a commonly used word, and everything is fine.

Why is it fine? Scouring through endless social media threads and message boards tells a story of Ohio State flexing muscles of arrogance and making a decision based solely on making money. Both of those points are actually valid and correct, but isn’t that what today’s NCAA world is all about?

Although there’s little confusion between Ohio State University and Ohio University, its use has grown over decades of collegiate rivalry. Ohio State’s word has been used to differentiate themselves and give fuel to rivals. Now, it’s finally been elevated to a higher calling of a marketing chip.

Imagine you’re a fan of a competing conference university like Michigan or an SEC powerhouse like Alabama, and maybe you actually are a fan of one of those two sides. On June 8, Buckeye football coach Ryan Day announced an astronomical $13 million needed to keep a roster together in a post-Name, Image and Likeness world.

Also, every other year it seems like another outlet is warning of a doomsday NCAA scenario where a stretching financial bubble is about to burst, with subsequent responses that everything is fine. Owning a word gets Ohio State what every school, and every fan (consciously or subconsciously) wants: more money.

Ohio State has free reign to add this word to any and every piece of sports apparel produced from June 21, 2021 until Earth — or America — ceases to be. It removes any chance of small, non-Nike, clothiers from adorning this famous article. Speaking of swoosh, securing rights is their expertise. They single-handedly (footedly?) broke Olympic marketing with a golden pair of shoes for track star Michael Johnson at Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic games.

There’s also merit in Ohio State’s claim. After all, Scarlet & Gray apparel shops have featured clothing with this word for 15 years, as Ohio State’s 2019 claim for this word states. Expensive sweatshirt designer Marc Jacobs tried taking Ohio State’s word for a sweater, and lawyers for Columbus, Ohio’s landmark pounced.

More money also benefits NCAA athletics far beyond its most popular asset of college football. More money for a school means less cuts to soccer, field hockey and women’s programs.

So, banter will never cease in a connected and ceaseless world, but an elephant on a crimson shirt would get similar focus. Universities protect individual letters, so what’s wrong with adding a couple more?

If you haven’t stopped watching this billion-dollar industry that just recently allowed players to receive compensation for their involvement in these billions now, I doubt a word’s addition to a history of stuffing pockets will trigger a tipping point. If anything, this will only motivate other schools to pursue similar avenues.