In spite of controversy concerning what some perceive as a change to the longtime Tullahoma High School crest, THS Principal Kathy Rose said no change to the crest is forthcoming.
Jerry Mathis, the former THS athletic director, sparked a stir with an Oct. 20 Facebook post about a possible new “logo” at the high school.
Mathis said in the now-deleted post that he was driving down Jackson Street toward the school and noticed a new wildcat logo. He then noticed the same logo hanging on banners in the school’s parking lot.
“I just wanted to know how this got started. I didn’t quite understand because we’ve always had a wildcat that had been standard,” Mathis said last week.
“I just didn’t understand. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Kathy has any ill will about any of that. I think she really thinks the world of the school and is there for the students. I just wasn’t sure why, all of a sudden, we needed a new wildcat.”
However, the wildcat Mathis noticed and commented on is not the official school logo. According to Rose, that will forever be what is referred to as “the crest” and the principal “wouldn’t dream of changing that.”
The crest, which can be seen in the Tullahoma High School lobby, was selected to represent the school in 1964, using a design by then-student Danny Majors. A contest was held at the suggestion of then-yearbook editor Suzanne Johnson to adopt a school crest, according to school officials. Majors’ design features an open-mouthed wildcat at the center of the crest, over the words “leadership, character and scholarship.”
Five entries were submitted to the board of education on Dec. 7, 1964. The board then turned the vote over to the high school administration, stating, “That the matter be referred to the faculty of Tullahoma Senior High School for final selection and approval.”
The faculty chose Majors’ design and that image is still used on official school letterhead, diplomas and some banners in the hallway.
The wildcat that drew the attention of Mathis and others was a logo adopted by the THS wrestling team during the 2011-12 school year, after being brought to school administrators by former head coach Cody Cleveland. The new stylized wildcat was approved by school officials and made its way onto the wrestling team’s uniforms.
The THS girls basketball has also adopted the wrestling team’s Wildcat logo. During the summer, the basketball court at the high school was resurfaced with the new “T” and wildcat painted at midcourt, a decision which was approved by both Tullahoma basketball coaches.
In the middle of the fall semester, the school opted to place banners in the parking lot, just before the homecoming football game, featuring the wildcat. According to Rose, the reason that this version of the wildcat was chosen was simply for aesthetic purposes.
After being approached about the idea of hanging signs along the street, Rose was all for the idea. After noticing what the city had done with its sign hangings downtown, the THS principal said she wanted to help give the high school more of a presence.
“We looked at several different wildcats and it came down to the fact that this one was the best that showed up from the street,” Rose said.
The new T and wildcat is also featured inside the gymnasium on the padding under the goals. According to Rose, digital arts teacher Nikki Rickard noticed what was previously on the padding was beginning to peel off. After talking to current athletic director John Olive, the students in Rickard’s class helped to create what is there now.
Downstairs, near the boys basketball locker room, the wall has also been painted with a wildcat logo. That image was painted by THS girls basketball player Erin Fitzgerald during the summer.
While this version of the wildcat has drawn ire from some people, Rose pointed out that the school has used several different variations of wildcats throughout the years. In fact, the wildcat that is now used by the football team wasn’t in use until the early 1990s at the request of Olive, who also serves as the head football coach.
The current logo for the football team was based on a picture of a wildcat image used by retired principal Mel Covington on a sign in front the school that was created by a company in Woodbury. Olive then mailed a physical photo of the same wildcat to Nashville Sporting Goods, which help create the football logo that has been used since 1994.
While there are several different variations of the THS wildcat, Rose said the school’s official logo would be Majors’ crest design. However, those commenting on Mathis’ post were quick to point out that the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s (TSSAA) website featured the wrestling wildcat as the school’s logo.
According to Rose, she had no knowledge of how that occurred and was not able to access the website to get that changed. However, in the days since, Olive has been able to have the school’s logo on the TSSAA website changed to the crest.
Zach Birdsong can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachBirdsong.