They took their leader. Then they took their identity.
That sounds like the opening line of a movie trailer, yet the truth is sadder than fiction in the fairytale land known as Dunk City. After hiring away Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield Monday night with a boatload of cash, USC also pirated the Ft. Myers school's now-famous "Dunk City" moniker.
"Please welcome Andy Enfield to the Trojan family as the new head coach of USC hoops," went the Trojan tweet Monday. It was tagged #DunkCityUSC.
That's a flagrant, according to FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh.
"There's only one Dunk City USA." Kavanagh said in a news conference Tuesday. "It's here in Southwest Florida. I think it's totally inappropriate for USC to do that. We would not copy somebody else's well-earned scenario, and I will be sure to let USC know that."
Enfield tried to call a timeout.
"Let me get through my press conference," the new Trojans coach said Tuesday, "and actually get out there and we'll take care of it."
The funny thing is, FGCU seemed more incensed about getting its slogan swiped than it did about losing its coach. Enfield's meeting with the team Monday night was emotional and sad for all involved, yet most in the room reportedly came away with a good feeling. Players understood the opportunity and wished their beloved coach well.
But the Twitter hashtag? Them's fightin' words.
"That was kind of bad on their part," FGCU sophomore Bernard Thompson told the News-Press. "They didn't earn the right to have that type of label, try to trademark that for themselves. Coach Enfield is not really Dunk City. It's the whole team. I figure it should go to the school. FGCU is Dunk City."
So who owns Dunk City? In a legal sense, it's anyone's ball. You may remember a court battle over the fan brand "12th Man" between Texas A&M and the Seattle Seahawks. The Texas university had a trademark approved for the phrase in 1990 and then asked Seattle (and other teams) to cease and desist. The Seahawks didn't respond, and in 2006, the school sued. The matter was settled out of court, and the Seahawks were required to pay the school and acknowledge A&M's ownership of the phrase. (What's lost to history is that the term was originally coined for the University of Iowa by a writer in an alumni magazine. Take that, Johnny Football.)
No one has yet made a formal claim to Dunk City, although a Ft. Myers music producer filed for a trademark last week. A general counsel representing FGCU told ESPN it felt "Dunk City" is "inextricably linked" to the school, though so far no one from the university has filed to trademark the slogan. (Maybe the school can change its nickname from Eagles to Dunk City, though that wouldn't work so well in, say, swimming.) So technically Dunk City can live in two places.
"I can't imagine litigation over this," said Michael McCann, who is the legal expert for Sports Illustrated. "To me this is a fairly generic expression. This is different from Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow – an individual person. Here, it's a style of play, success. I think the nexus between that expression and [Enfield] is weaker than Tebowing or Linsanity. This is something that should not be resolved in court."
But how should it be resolved on court? Who owns the phrase in the basketball sense? Is it Enfield, for bringing his wide-open style to FGCU when he arrived from Florida State in 2011? Or is it the Eagles players, who actually executed the "alleys" that launched the Dunk City term during the team's upset win over Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament?
We're going to rule for the players here. Enfield certainly condoned the dunks, and he taught the system that resulted in the dunks, but "Dunk City" brings FGCU to mind. And not just the team, but the ferocity, creativity and straight-up brashness of the dunks.
Dunk City means tossing up an alley oop when you're a 15-seed leading a 2-seed with less than two minutes to go in a tournament game. It's faking a jumper, going baseline and posterizing a San Diego State player who is supposed to be advancing to the Sweet 16 while you're supposed to be watching at home.
Dunking in the Big Dance happens all the time – did you see some of the rim-rockers Michigan and Louisville threw down last weekend? – but dunking by heavy underdogs on a national stage is the ultimate statement of fearlessness. Dunk City told us FGCU is a place on the map, with an exclamation point, and now you know where it is because these hardly recruited Eagles informed you with authority. Dunk City temporarily un-tipped the scales that will always be in the favor of basketball's rich and powerful.
Andy Enfield has joined the rich and powerful now. He'll likely build a thrilling brand in Los Angeles, replete with high-flying fun and tomahawked highlights. But Enfield left Dunk City when he left the underdogs. In that sense, he can't claim it anymore. Maybe he'll see Dunk City again when he leads USC into the NCAA tournament and a 15-seed directional school has the audacity to dunk on his Trojans.
UPDATE: USC is backing off the use of Dunk City. "They have a right [to be upset]," USC athletic director Pat Haden told ESPN on Wednesday afternoon. "That's their moniker. They made it up. We're going to create our own moniker. Somebody will figure it out with the way we play next year. I don't think we should [use it]. We should respect their wishes."
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