The Accidental Genius of the Flying T

Original Flying T Logo (Marshall Harris/Artist)
Original Flying T Logo (Marshall Harris/Artist)
Marshall Harris
Furious Frog logo designed by Marshall K. Harris (Marshall K. Harris/Creator & Artist)

In 1979, Marshall K. Harris, a graphic design student at TCU, designed the Flying T logo after a previously failed logo attempt.

His original logo was called the Furious Frog, but it didn’t work for a variety of things like a logo needs to.

His professor encouraged him to redesign the logo so it would be more appropriate for a company brand.

“It was back to the drawing table and the Flying T was the result,” Harris said. “I’m not sure where the inspiration came from or why it was designed like it was.”

His design stemmed from his frustration that the TCU mascot and the football team were not seen as cool. Harris being a part of the football team made him even more motivated to design something that was captivating.

Star-Telegram photo of Marshall Harris with his logo on a football helmet. (Rodger Mallison/Journalist)

“I at least wanted something better to turn in for my school project,” Harris said.

Harris was not anticipating his logo to become so popular, but soon enough, it was on uniforms and the university came to adopt it as an official corporate mark.

“Now, this was long before college branding became a lucrative income stream for universities,” Harris said.

However, with the popularity of the logo came legal troubles as TCU was using the Flying T logo on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs without owning the copyright of the logo.

TCU used the Flying T logo for about 15 years before rebranding as the school transitioned from “not so cool” to one that everyone wanted to attend.

The legal issues that TCU encountered from using the Flying T logo also played a factor in the retirement of the Flying T logo and the schools rebrand.

Even with the disappearance of the Flying T mark, former TCU alumni still tried to wear the logo when attending tailgates. Black market pirating networks and other vendors tried reproducing the Flying T logo for a profit even amidst legal threats.

TCU maintained that no one should reproduce the Flying T mark after its retirement.

Fast-forward to 2023, TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati reached out to Harris about bringing back the Flying T mark for one year as part of the sesquicentennial celebration for TCU, thinking the logo would do well in sales.

Athletes at most recent holiday party hosted at Joe T’s (Sharon Ellman/Ellman Photography)

Harris was on board but felt that TCU could have done more than simply put his name on the merchandise tag. Considering TCU sold merchandise with his Flying T logo on it for over a decade and received a large profit from it without the copyrights to do so, Harris and the athletic director could not come to an agreement.

After years of back and forth, a non-profit club director Jeff Patman reached out to Harris and explained how the program was intending to help provide student aid support. Patman expressed that he wanted to call their organization the Flying T Club and use the logo.

“I was very enthusiastic as I knew the impact this type of organization would have on the school so I said of course you can use it,” Harris said.

However, he explained that TCU may not respond well to it considering all the legal implications that the logo has caused the school throughout the years.

Original Flying T Logo (Marshall Harris/Artist)

The Flying T Club began in September of 2021. It gives TCU fans the ability to donate to support TCU student-athletes. This club is a representation of the history of TCU athletics and the community. While the organization provides athletes with name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities, the athletes also give back to the community through the its work with other charitable organizations.

Kirkland Connally, marketing associate of the Flying T Club, noted that anyone can support, donate and contribute to the club.

“We have donation options ranging from $50 a month to $500 a month,” Connally said. “We also have a custom donation option if you are not ready for a commitment of that size, but still want to support TCU athletics.”

The Flying T Club recently introduced a student membership, paying $75 annually can get you a one-of-a-kind Flying T Club hat.

“We offer memberships at the Silver, Gold and Platinum levels,” Connally said. “If you join at one of these levels you receive access to exclusive events with athletes and coaches, as well as one-of-a-kind Flying T Club merchandise.”

Money is raised by the club through events that help to connect TCU athletes and coaches with members of the Flying T Club. Charities that the Flying T Club works with include HOPE Farm, Tarrant Area Food Bank and Starpoint school.

Harris thinks TCU became more recognized as a university and the students who were here during the Flying T era, generally loved being a Horned Frog and the Flying T logo identified them as unique.

Staff with donation check (Sharon Ellman/Ellman Photography)

“The Flying T became unique not because it was a unique design but because it happened at a unique time for some very unique alumni,” Harris said. “It helps them identify their Flying T tribe and was part of their TCU experience.”

“That’s the only reason I think the mark developed such a mystique,” he added. “It’s not a revolutionary design. I’m not even sure how I arrived at its form. I think it was special because it became unobtainable when it was retired.”

Harris’ logo, which gained popularity from its sense of nostalgia, is now creating new memories with current students and helping build TCU’s athletic brands.

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