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LONG BEACH >> Long Beach State's athletic department is unveiling a new visual identity as the first move in a wide-ranging rebranding of the university's sports programs that could put the 49er mascot, Prospector Pete, on the chopping block.
Changes to the school's logo, to be announced publicly this morning, is partially funded by a $100,000 donation from an unnamed group - the largest ever group gift to the athletic department. A slight design adjustment was made to the font and iconic "LB" logo used by all of the Long Beach State programs, and now all of the teams will be referred to as Long Beach or "The Beach" instead of "49ers." The baseball team will remain the Dirtbags.
"It is extremely important to have a unified look," said Long Beach State Director of Athletics Vic Cegles. "We're the only major university with 'Beach' in our name, so it makes all the sense in the world to promote that. It's a better brand for us. I would never change our mascot without student and alumni input. In the future we'll see how Pete fits in."
The 49ers mascot, a reference to 1949 when the university was founded, will remain intact for the foreseeable future. However, the new Walter Pyramid court - expected to be completed next month - will not have any reference to the 49ers, with just "Beach" emblazoned across center court and "#GoBeach" on the sideline.
"I don't think students care about being a 49er or Prospector Pete," said Michael Wood, a junior and editor at the Union Weekly on campus. "We don't identify ourselves with (a mascot) as much as we do with being from Long Beach."
"We had a fractured brand," said Dedan Brozino, senior associate director for external relations. "What he had wasn't broken; there was just too much, and we needed to bring it all under the same visual identity."
With that in mind, Andy Hoang, associate vice president for university relations and communications, is working to extend the rebranding university-wide, changing the name of the university from California State University, Long Beach to Long Beach State. Much like San Diego State or Fresno State, The Beach wants to capitalize on the region's popularity and unite under one recognizable name. Currently, the university as a whole is referred to as CSULB and the athletic department as LBSU. Under the new rebranding, everything would be referred to as Long Beach State.
"We've had focus groups and campus conversations about all of these changes and more," Hoang said. "This campaign is about unifying the university, but it is like changing tires on a moving car."
Terri Carbaugh, spokeswoman for the university, said brand development is critical on several fronts.
"It's important, not for the ego of an institution, but for the opportunity it affords students, faculty and alumni," Carbaugh said. "When you have a strong brand name, it opens doors for faculty research grants, and for students immediately upon graduation when they're seeking internship opportunities and employment opportunities."
Carbaugh said the stronger a brand name is, the more succinctly an institution is able to communicate its value.
"We're in a pivotal time where if we're going to continue to do the work that we do and do it better than anyone else, we really want to keep that brand development, that this is our story, and just amplify it at the state level, nationally and around the globe," she said.
Staff writer Josh Dulaney contributed.