It all started in 1970 when the Jackson Sun began a sports column, known as “Buster Says” on Union University’s baseball team to keep fans updated on scores and highlights of the weekend games. Adding character to the column, cartoon artist, Joe McCormick, started drawing bulldogs to go along with the articles, creating Buster the Bulldog.
A month and a half ago, the anger portrayed through Buster’s red eyes and jagged neck got an update. Before, there was no standardized logo every department on campus could use.
“The previous version did help Union have their own branding, but students and alumni didn’t love and grab a hold of it,” said Scott Heit, assistant vice president for University Communications. “No one seemed to really like the logo. Athletics used it because it was the best thing we had.”
When President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver finally made the call for change, Heit formed a committee consisting of faculty members, administration, alumni and students.
“Heit was the lead in a lot of this and put a lot of work into this project,” said Tommy Sadler, athletic director.
The group started by looking at the other 49 colleges that used a bulldog for a mascot. Heit said looking at all the different bulldogs presented the challenge of coming up with something different but also still attractive. He started to notice many logos were very similar, some schools simply just changing the direction of the bulldog’s ears or the letter on their collar.
The committee wanted Union’s logo to be different from other colleges, so they looked to Ben Watson, a recent art graduate who drew the sketches for the statue of Buster in the middle of campus.
“It was stoic and regal,” Heit said. “We needed something more fierce.”
After deciding the statue was a good start but not what they were going for, Heit went to work on three different logos that were unlike any other logo at the collegiate level. He headed west for inspiration for the new logo and found inspiration in the Memphis Grizzly logo at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.
“I liked the stark contrast between dark and light,” he said. “There wasn’t another university with that style.”
Heit said he knew he was onto something that would be well-received by the Union community as he started experimenting with different shades of gray and black on the face of a bulldog.
The committee decided on a bulldog and over Christmas break. Union’s Instagram page posted several pictures to heighten the anticipation of Buster’s new face.
“It was very well received,” Heit said. “People want [the logo] to put it on stickers and T-shirts.”
Along with the reveal of the new logo, it just so happened that a NCAA rule was cause for a new gym floor.
“It worked out perfectly,” Heit said. “I had just finished the Bulldog logo and then I found out on a Monday [that the logo could be incorporated onto the gym floor]. I turned everything in on Friday, and the crew started working that next Tuesday.”
Along with the new shades of gray and black on the Fred Delay Gymnasium floor is the signature of legendary Coach David Blackstock, who retired with 509 wins.
“A lot of people are going to like that kind of shading,” Sadler said. “With the new technology and not using oil-based paint, we can do a lot of different things to the shading of the gym floor.”