Posted on Mar 10, 2018 in Alumni News, News, and Sports
Here’s a fun fact before the KU men’s basketball team takes on West Virginia in the final game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship.
A Jayhawk designed West Virginia’s logo.
That’s right—the famous “Flying WV” logo that the Mountaineers have embraced since 1980 was created by a Kansas native.
John Boyd Martin grew up in Ottawa, Kansas, about 25 mile south of Lawrence. He attended the University of Kansas and graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in commercial art.
If you’ve been to the Adams Alumni Center, you’ve likely seen more of Martin’s work. He painted the murals depicting Jayhawk sports greats in the All-American Room on the second floor.
Martin began his career as a graphic designer and illustrator, and he later become an award-winning advertising art director. In 1986, he began focusing exclusively on portraiture.
How the logo happened
According to WVU Magazine, when Don Nehlen arrived in Morgantown as head football coach in 1979, he wanted a more distinctive and recognizable look for the team.
Nehlen and his equipment coach, Mike Kerin, differ in their recollections of exactly how the new logo came about, but they agreed on one thing: the involvement of John Boyd Martin.
Martin’s brother, Dick Martin, was West Virginia’s athletic director at the time, hence the connection. (He also attended the University of Kansas.)
Nehlen, Kerin, and Mike Parsons, WVU’s sports information director at the time, shared their ideas with Martin. After a few days, a new logo was born.
Martin explained to WVU Magazine that although the logo is commonly referred to as the “Flying WV,” he was actually inspired by the state’s landscape.
“When you put a W and a V together, you had mountains. They may call it the Flying WV but to me, it depicts mountains,” Boyd said.
The total cost for the new logo? $200.
The Mountaineers introduced Martin’s logo on Sept. 6, 1980.
The day marked a number of firsts. It was the season opener against the Cincinnati Bearcats. It was Don Nehlen’s first game as head coach. And, it was the first game at the new 50,000 seat Mountaineer Field.
Today, the WVU logo is widely recognized, and Martin frequently encounters fans wearing the logo outside of West Virginia.
“I’m quite honored by it all,” Martin said. “It’s an awesome feeling knowing you were able to make that kind of contribution to an institution of that magnitude. Every time I watch a WVU game, I reflect back on something very special.”
Watch Martin describe his inspiration for the West Virginia University logo:
Thanks to a tip from one of our Facebook followers, Jeff Suggs, for some additional Kansas-West Virginia connections: Gene Budig, who was KU’s chancellor from 1980-1994, was president of West Virginia University from 1977-1980. Also, WVU’s head basketball coach at the time, Gale Catlett, was an assistant under Ted Owens at Kansas from 1967-1971. Catlett left Kansas for an assistant coach position under Adolph Rupp (another KU connection!) at Kentucky for one year. He took over as WVU’s head coach in 1978.