As crushing blows tend to do, this one announcing that Western Michigan University had finally sold the intellectual property rights to “Row the Boat” to PJ Fleck came from Twitter, on the day after Valentine’s Day, no less.
BREAKING: P.J. Fleck & Western Michigan have reached a deal to transfer the "Row The Boat" trademark rights to Fleck. Will cost $50,000.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 15, 2017
The entire story is here.
To call this a crushing blow is a bit exaggerated, but it’s probably crushing to some Western Michigan fans that bought a bunch of tee-shirts with the slogan. For the rest of us MACtion fans, it’s just another twist in yet another break-up between promising young coach and MAC school.
“Row the Boat” was less a slogan and more like a mantra for some WMU fans, who have continued to use the phrase even after Fleck’s departure to Minnesota. Some fans have even compared it to Alabama’s immortal “Roll Tide” cheer.
Fleck and the University of Minnesota have quickly adopted RTB (amongst other Fleckisms) since his arrival shortly after the Cotton Bowl, so the move was largely expected between the two sides.
The sides agreed to a price tag of $50,000 for the transfer of “legal intellectual property” to Fleck on Wednesday morning.
As part of the deal, WMU still retains some usage rights to the slogan, so it now seems unlikely that RTB will be disappearing anytime soon in Kalamazoo. In return, PJ Fleck will gift a $10,000 scholarship as a part of an earlier “gift commitment” to one Broncos football player per year for five years starting this fall.
Since Fleck is now able to transfer the slogan at will thanks to the language of the contract, it appears that this will not be a thing again should he choose to move on to a new job, as it is a personal branding that he acquired (reacquired?) the rights to.
The more interesting question here may be what WMU will do moving forward. Most would guess that officials will repaint the walls and remove “Row The Boat” from everything, and put the whole thing behind them. However, in its official release, the school calls the RTB slogan a “legacy” and said RTB would be used in future football materials and displays to “recogn[ize] and celebrat[e] Fleck’s tenure at WMU and the teams he coached.”
If the school has thoughts of moving on, perhaps the next best thing to do for the athletic department would be to go to the people and ask what the Broncos’ next slogan would be. (Ignore what happened at North Dakota.)
That’s probably one of many reasons why I am not the A.D. of Western Michigan. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it here.
The rules are simple: Keep it clean, keep it semi-respectful and post your ideas in the comments section. The winner will get nothing. Not even a red Hustle Belt penny.
But it’ll be fun anyways!