Animation • Utah's is pretty good, but BYU's is rather boring.
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In its six years of existence, ESPNU may have gotten more attention for its individualized, animated logos than anything else.
They're definitely cool. Each takes the basic ESPNU logo an ESPN banner in front of a big block U and creates individual looks for college teams using school's mascots, colors, logos, etc.
BYU's is a rather unexciting Cougar muzzle on the bottom of the U.
Utah's might throw you at first it's a red hawk. The tip-off that it's Utah is the two feathers hanging below the tail the feathers that are part of the Utes' drum logo.
And Utah State's animated logo is outstanding a ring-nosed bull snorting steam, accompanied by a "We're No. 1" foam finger to the side.
There are more than 90 of the animated logos now, with more on the way.
"They're expensive, so we try to get the ones that are going to be on our network the most at first," said Dan Margulis director of programming and acquisitions for ESPNU. "And then we've rolled out other ones as we go along."
The logos have caught the imagination of fans, even fostering a good deal of debate about which logos belong to which schools.
"It's the best trying to figure out the logos," Margulis said. "It's amazing how many variations of tigers, cats, birds there are. And trying to be different all the time is tough."
The idea grew out of ESPNU's philosophy of appealing not just to sports fans but college students as well.
"It's something different and fun," Margulis said. "It's not offensive to the die-hard college sports fans and appeals to somebody younger. And, in a lot of cases, somebody older as well."
Like its logos, ESPNU is trying to be the same, only different. The production quality you'll see during games is no different from what you'll see on ESPN or ESPN2, but there are little touches such as those logos to maybe make it feel a little younger.
"The viewer doesn't want you to do different things in a game," Margulis said. "Games are sacred to everyone. It doesn't do anyone any good if we're covering BYU football and our camera is shaky or something like that."
ESPNU has become a major TV outlet for college sports. ESPN and ESPN2 are each in about 100 million homes, and ESPNU isn't there yet. But at 74 million, it's in the top tier of cable sports networks.
"To be in 74 million homes in six years is a great accomplishment in this day and age where there's a lot of networks out there and a lot of options," Margulis said. "We've become a great collegiate companion to the ESPN family."
It certainly doesn't hurt to be part of the worldwide leader in sports when you're negotiating with cable and satellite providers. And ESPNU is always negotiating to widen its distribution.
But the days when it was hard to find the channel are over. Which is good news for BYU, which has football and WCC basketball games on ESPNU this year; Utah State, which gets WAC exposure on the channel; and Utah. The Utes' win over Pitt was on ESPNU because of the channel's deal with the Big East, but, "When we have a chance to show a school from a conference we don't normally have, we do love that opportunity," Margulis said.
And beginning next year, Pac-12 games will be part of the ESPNU lineup. So Utah's logo will get more use.
Expensive or not, BYU deserves something less boring.
But don't touch that USU logo. It's really cool.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His sports on TV column runs Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce