Georgia Regents University officials distanced themselves Wednesday from what they said was an “error in judgment” for altered photos in a new publication that touts Augusta State University’s athletic traditions while erasing the former school’s name and insignias from team uniforms.
The cover of the 12-page, color, glossy “view book” says, “Be a part of the legacy at Georgia Regents University,” and inside is a two-page spread on “Jaguar Athletics” with photos of Augusta State sports teams.
Their uniforms, however, no longer display Augusta State logos or emblems.
One photo shows a group of seven smiling young men clad in golf attire, proudly holding an NCAA national championship trophy between them.
Carter Newman stands in the back, second from the left, but unless you know him and who he played for, it would be difficult to tell from the photo.
His Augusta State University emblems have disappeared. His white cap is blank where a bold, blue “A” should be.
Newman, who grew up in Augusta and helped the Jaguars win consecutive NCAA Division I national championships in 2010 and 2011, said he was proud to wear “Augusta” on his clothing. He said he is infuriated by the photo.
“It makes me mad that they want to use us to show that we won back-to-back national championships but not who we played for,” said Newman, nicknamed “Captain Clutch” for his clutch play at the 2011 national championships. “They’re taking advantage of us. That’s something we worked for. We represented Augusta.”
A block of text adjacent to the photo refers to the men’s golf team as “one of best collegiate golf teams ever” and says the men were “National Champions in 2010 & 2011,” without mentioning the team represented Augusta State.
Photos of the men’s basketball team and a women’s softball team also had Augusta State emblems digitally erased.
Ben Madgen, the all-time leading scorer in Augusta State basketball history, wears No. 1 in the photo and now plays professional basketball for the Sydney Kings in his native Australia. After seeing the altered photos Wednesday, he expressed his shock and dismay in an e-mail.
“That is terrible. We won those (three) regional championships for Augusta State University, so to see those photos of great memories be Photoshopped to promote another school is really heart breaking,” said the two-time All-American who helped lead the Jaguars to three Division II Elite Eight appearances. “It looks terrible and takes away from the joy all of the basketball team had winning those championships for ASU. I hope something can be done about this because it isn’t right.”
David Brond, the senior vice president of communications and marketing, sent an e-mail to school faculty and staffers Wednesday night calling the decision to alter the photos an isolated occurrence that does not reflect the views of the university’s leadership, his office or the athletics department on the importance of Jaguar athletic accomplishments or the athletes.
Questioned about the alteration Tuesday, Brond said the view book is a marketing publication targeting potential undergraduate students. He said the changes were done to avoid confusing future students with names of the former institutions that merged in January to create GRU.
“The question was how to alleviate that confusion,” he said.
Instead of explaining the merger with Georgia Health Sciences University and the origin of the new university, it was decided to “eliminate other brands” from the view book and emphasize only the GRU brand, Brond said.
In fact, there is no mention of the merger in the entire publication.
Removing the logos, he said, was simpler than explaining the context of the photos.
“We chose not to do it that way,” he said. “In marketing, it is always said that simple is better. Less is better.”
About 5,000 of the view books were printed at a cost of $10,000, GRU officials said. Distribution began this week, with many being handed out to local high school guidance counselors who attended a two-day admissions workshop on the university’s Summerville campus. Brond said some had already been distributed to Atlanta area schools.
“This was produced by our enrollment management group,” Brond said, but when pressed, he said he would not name the person who made the decision to alter the photos.
Officials said it wasn’t University President Ricardo Azziz. University spokeswoman Christen Carter said Azziz had no involvement in the publication and did not review its content.
Who made the decision about the photos is something of a mystery. Director of Admissions Katherine Sweeney directed inquiries about the view book to her boss, Vice Provost Roman Cirbirka.
University officials said Wednesday that Cibirka was not available for comment.
Augusta State men’s basketball Coach Dip Metress said he had seen the photos, but “we aren’t allowed to comment.” He referred inquiries to athletics spokesman Joey Warren, who also declined to comment.
“David Brond is the only one who will be making any statements about this,” Warren said.
Nick Evans, the chairman of the Save the A campaign, which sought to keep the “Augusta” as part of the new institution’s name, said he was “extremely disappointed” in what appears to be an effort to claim Augusta State’s athletic glory without acknowledging the past.
“That’s tremendously disappointing for those kids who wore those shirts for their school and now it is like it never happened,” he said.
Evans said the publication appears to be part of pattern of moving away from the name “Augusta,” despite a compromise his group and university officials agreed to a few months ago.
“I cannot believe the school’s leadership is taking the marketing in the direction they are taking it after having agreed to prominently include Augusta in everything,” he said.
Brond said the school is using Augusta in some of its marketing materials, but not all. He said this instance wasn’t an attempt to reshape the school’s past.
“This doesn’t change history,” he said earlier, explaining that the school’s sports teams are competing under the Augusta State moniker until the end of the season. He said there are no other photos.
“There are no such things as Georgia Regents uniforms,” he said.