Las Vegas Sun

May 20, 2019

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University ordered to put the ‘R’ back in UNR

What's in a name?

That depends on whom you ask.

The various names used by the University of Nevada, Reno appear to be a matter of some contention as Interim Chancellor Jim Rogers sent a missive last week reminding President John Lilley to use the northern university's full name in all of its documents, references and marketing materials.

Rogers' order was in response to the repeated complaints by some university regents that UNR was continuously dropping the Reno from its name, often calling itself the University of Nevada or simply Nevada.

The University of Nevada name is most popular on university merchandise and marketing materials and is the official brand of the institution's most visible entity -- its athletic department. The alumni association also issues licence plate frames that say University of Nevada.

The shortened names are a nickname from the past, Lilley said, when his institution's official name was the University of Nevada. University regents added the Reno in 1969 when they also renamed Nevada Southern University the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Lilly said Rogers' request is something he has asked his faculty and staff to comply with before, and that for all official purposes they go by the institution's full name. The current flare-up arose because of a mistake, Lilley said, as the "Reno" was accidently left off of a document at the June meeting of the Board of Regents.

UNR's School of Medicine and the Cooperative Exchange are allowed to drop the Reno because they are statewide, Lilley said, but those are supposed to be the only exceptions to the rule.

Yet 35 years after the name change, several of the university's entities have yet to make the switch. The athletic department Web site, the alumni association, the student government and the bookstore all leave out Reno from their names, and a quick perusal of the school's merchandise shows that the city name is practically nonexistent.

Only one item out of dozens of T-shirts and sweatshirts and other merchandise had the full name of the institution on the bookstore Web site, and the small "Reno" was blocked out by a larger "alumni" stamped across the university's crest. Most clothing items went with Nevada or simply displayed the university's giant blue N with a wolf peaking out of the lettering.

In contrast, all of the items marketed on UNLV's bookstore Web site go with the institution's full moniker or it's well-known initials.

The inconsistency in UNR's name usage has irked some officials in the system, albeit for different reasons.

Regent Steve Sisolak thought that by leaving out Reno the institution was presenting itself as somehow better or more important than it's Southern counterpart, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"I think everything from the jerseys to the stationeries to the name on the school should be University of Nevada, Reno," Sisolak said.

"They are equal," Sisolak said of the two universities. "One is not a child of the other one, or an offshoot of the other one."

Reno Regent Howard Rosenberg supported the memo because he said leaving out UNR's location confused outsiders who, being more aware of UNLV, assumed that the University of Nevada was in Las Vegas. He thinks UNR needs to have a consistent brand in all of its marketing.

UNLV President Carol Harter said she just thought it was proper for both universities to use their full names, though she too said she sometimes heard from people who thought of Las Vegas when they heard University of Nevada.

Other regents, however, didn't get what the fuss was about.

"It's a silly, little ridiculous thing that people get going," Regent Doug Hill said.

He and another regent noted that it's quite common for the first institution in a state system to still be referred to by its original name, such as the University of Texas at Austin or University of California at Berkeley. Both often have their names shortened, specifically in the sports media.

It was UNR's appearance in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament this past season that brought the name discrepancy to the forefront again, as national media continuously referred to the school as Nevada.

Kurt Esser, UNR's assistant athletic director for marketing, said he has never heard of any problems with their use of the shortened name, which has always been the athletic deparment's moniker.

"I think both institutions have done a great job of branding themselves, as one is UNLV and one is Nevada," Esser said.

Although he didn't see the need for it, Esser said the athletic department would abide by whatever name the regents wanted.

"We can included whatever verbiage we have to," Esser said. "We'll still be the Wolf Pack."

Neither Rogers or Lilley were sure how Rogers' order might affect the university's athletic marketing. Rogers said he will work with Lilley to phase it in.

"We're very proud of the University of Nevada, Reno," Lilley said.

"We're not trying to sow confusion," Lilley said of the nicknames. "We're just trying to honor longterm traditions. Clarity is in our best interest."

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