There isn't a new school in town. There isn't a new pro team, either.
It's still UNO. But, at least on the national level, the athletic department would like to be known as just Omaha.
As the University of Nebraska at Omaha continues to promote its burgeoning Division I athletic program, look for the department to increasingly refer to itself as Omaha, while also answering to the name of the city the university calls home.
“Ultimately, I think you're defined by the way people refer to you,” UNO — or, should we say, Omaha — Athletic Director Trev Alberts said. “And we've tried as we've made decisions to look at peer institutions — major metropolitan campuses that are part of university systems — to see what others have done.”
Around the country, the hyphen is out. The “at” is pretty much history.
North Carolina-Charlotte has long since become known as Charlotte. Wisconsin-Milwaukee refers to itself these days as Milwaukee. Same with Wisconsin-Green Bay, now Green Bay.
Missouri-Kansas City and Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, like UNO members of the Summit League, have recently begun going by Kansas City and Fort Wayne, respectively.
Simplification, name-brand identification and avoiding confusion all factor into it.
“One of the problems we've had is that now we're on the ticker (scores scrolling across the screen on many sports network telecasts),” Alberts said. “And we've come up as ‘NE-OM.' What the heck is NE-OM?'”
There hasn't been any declaration, but the school's athletic program will continue phasing in Omaha on press releases. Uniforms from several teams have displayed “Omaha” for several years anyway, and new gear will follow suit. The hockey team's sweaters will sport “Omaha” this season.
The change isn't an indication, Alberts said, that UNO is attempting to distance itself from the University of Nebraska system.
The department's new logo, revealed in 2011, is an “O” created primarily by an interlocking black “U” and red “N.”
“Our desire is not to in any way to disassociate ourselves from the University of Nebraska system — that's one of the strongest pieces we have,” Alberts said. “This is an effort to best show who we are on a national level.
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“We want people to know who we are. No one knows who NE-OM is, but people have heard of Omaha. And we're proud that we're the public institution in Omaha, and proud to be able to drive our brands and reflect what we think is one of the best communities in the country.”
UNO just over a year ago began requesting that media and fans refer to its teams as the University of Nebraska Omaha, Nebraska Omaha or UNO.
Omaha is the university's preferred choice now, but the University of Nebraska Omaha and the local distinction of UNO are accepted, too.
“Locally, we are known as UNO and the Mavericks,” Alberts said. “Nationally, UNO can be confused with the University of New Orleans, or a card game or pizza.
“We're trying to take advantage of branding opportunities that weren't available when we were at the Division II level.”
Coaches can recruit while wearing attire that says “Omaha” rather than UNO. Likewise, athletes' equipment bags will say “Omaha.”
“Whenever we're on a conference call, whether it was the CCHA or the WCHA or now the NCHC, nobody refers to us as anything other than Omaha,” said Alberts, referring to the Mavs' past, present and future hockey conferences. “That's what people outside the region call us.”
Alberts said that as Omaha the athletic department can better contribute to the school achieving its overall goals. UNO expects to have about a half-dozen hockey games on national cable television, as well as at least one men's basketball game.
“Having 20,000 students by 2020 is a consistent message sent to me by my boss, and our job is to do what we can do to help achieve that objective,” Alberts said. “We have a significant part in that by elevating ourselves and getting exposure locally, regionally and nationally. We have the chance to be on national television promoting a consistent brand that is reflective of our metropolitan area.”
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