Here's how and why Boise State controls who installs non-green playing fields

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMarch 28, 2014 

There’s a story making the rounds on the Internet this week about Boise State denying Brevard (N.C.) High permission to install a blue football field. The issue: Brevard College, a Division II school, also uses the field.

Brevard High had raised $19,000 to cover the additional cost of making its new field blue. The team’s nickname is the Blue Devils.

“Absolutely, we were a little disappointed,” Brevard High football coach Jason Lippard told the Citizen-Times newspaper. “We had such big momentum for this project, and it was fairly easy to raise the funds. But I understand where (Boise State) is coming from. We still think this is going to be one of the nicest fields in Western North Carolina, and our kids are excited about that.”

So how and why does Boise State control access to blue — and, as it turns out, all non-green — turf?

For that, I called Rachael Bickerton, the director of trademark licensing and enforcement at Boise State.

Since she arrived in 2009, Bickerton has issued licenses for approximately 30 non-green playing surfaces — some retroactively, because they were installed before she came on the job. The licenses are free.

“We didn’t do this to make money,” she said. “We did it to protect our uniqueness.”

Of the licenses issued, 17 have been to elementary or high schools for blue or navy fields. Boise State also has issued licenses to Yale, Massachusetts at Lowell and the University of New England for blue hockey fields — something that has become common since the 2012 Olympics in London used the color.

Five requests have either been denied or the school decided not to go through with the non-green field, Bickerton said.

One college has a blue field — the University of New Haven. That field was built before Boise State received its federal trademark registration on its famed blue turf. Boise State issued New Haven a license with the caveat that the school not market the field as blue turf. Boise State also issued a license for blue turf to Hosei University in Japan, with which the school has had a relationship for several years.

Boise State’s trademark, Bickerton said, is for any “non-green field” — not just blue. The school issued a license to Eastern Washington for its red field.

“In general, when it’s another color, we do approve it,” she said. “If a big school wants to put an orange field in, because it’s one of our colors, I can’t necessarily say we’d say yes.”

Boise State’s trademark received federal registration in the last few years. That isn’t required for the school to hold the trademark rights, Bickerton said, but the formality makes the trademark better known and increases the potential damages for violators.

“If you don’t license it or defend it, then technically you could lose your trademark,” Bickerton said.

Boise State controls the flow of non-green turf by working with the turf manufacturers. They have been informed of Boise State’s trademark rights and tell clients that they need to check with the school before proceeding with a non-green field.

I did a Q&A with Bickerton about this topic in 2011. Here is what she said back then.

•••

A couple notes from earlier this week while I was on vacation:

— Former Boise State quarterback Nick Patti tweeted that he has been accepted into school at UCF. When it was announced that he was leaving the Broncos program, Boise State had given him permission to seek a transfer to UCF. Patti is sitting out the spring semester. I texted him for more details; he did not respond.

— The April 5 scrimmage will be open to students, faculty/staff and media only. Coach Bryan Harsin indicated previously that it would be more widely accessible. The only scrimmage open to the general public is the Spring Game on April 12.

— The Broncos return to practice Tuesday. Players and assistant coaches talk Wednesday and Harsin talks Thursday.

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