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Autumn 2001

by Alyssa Roggie

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Ads depicting superstar Tim McGraw in what appears to be a College T-shirt have some folks asking, "Do we know this dude?"




Did country music superstar Tim McGraw go to Franklin & Marshall?

It's the question on the lips of anyone who's stumbled upon promotional photos for the performer's latest album. In the photos, McGraw, one of the most popular acts in country music right now, wears his trademark black cowboy hat and flaunts his famous physique in a snug maroon T-shirt that says "Franklin Marshall Wrestling."

The image has been plastered in newspapers like USA Today since the album, Set This Circus Down, was released last April. So it's no wonder the shirt has people talking.

One alumnus mailed the College a newspaper clipping of the photograph with a note that simply said, "Do we know this dude?"

Disc jockeys at country music radio stations have called the College to find out when McGraw graduated from F&M and whether he was a member of the wrestling team, according to Director of College Communications Raymond Betzner.

"It's gotten tremendous attention for Franklin & Marshall College, and it's created tremendous confusion about Tim McGraw's relationship with the College," Betzner said. "Just for the record, Tim McGraw did not go to F&M and he did not wrestle here. So far as we know, there is no relationship other than that he wore a T-shirt during a photo shoot for his new CD."

Even McGraw doesn't know the whole story, according to his Nashville-based publicist Jessie Schmidt.

"It's a mystery where the shirt came from and where it is now," she said.

Just before the McGraw mystery surfaced, Peter Baker '00 submitted photos of what appeared to be a Franklin & Marshall T-shirt on sale in Italy.

Betzner said College officials believe those products, and perhaps McGraw's shirt, were produced by a two-year-old Italian sportswear company called Franklin & Marshall.

Sometimes the company's name and logo on clothing includes an ampersand, and sometimes it doesn't. The College adopted the ampersand in the early '90s as part of its official graphic identity.

But when Baker's father, William, passed a clothing boutique window in Verona, Italy, and saw a T-shirt that said "Franklin & Marshall," he didn't know of any such company. He was traveling in the summer of 1999 with his son Josh and a group of high school students from Lancaster County.

"We took three steps back. We both stood there and laughed and took a picture of it," he said. "We were trying to figure out what other Franklin & Marshall there might be."

They also puzzled over whether it could, in fact, be a real College shirt.

Peter Baker had a similar experience when he was watching VH1 music video channel with his friend. Both were F&M seniors at the time.

There was a veejay wearing a T-shirt that said, "Franklin and Marshall wrestling." (No, it wasn't Tim McGraw.)

"I thought it was an actual College shirt," Baker said.

Related Links

Franklin and Marshall?
View the current offerings of the Italian clothing maker that shares the College name

The Real Deal
Purchase official merchandise from the college bookstore

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Kid's Pages
Find out the difference between a utility patent and a design patent (don't let the name fool you...this stuff is not just for kids!)

Official Tim McGraw Site
See more pictures of the country star wearing the faux-F&M shirt


Photos (and sources) clockwise from above: T-shirt from Italian clothing company (Peter Baker '00); VW Beetle with Farmers & Merchants Bank logo (Ted Schmid, F&M Grounds/SWAT manager); F&M Grill in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Stefanie Valer, associate director of development)

One can only suspect that this shirt, too, was a product of the Italian clothing company Franklin & Marshall. An April 27, 2001, article in DNR, a news magazine focusing on men's fashion, cites the company's line as "part rugged college kid, part cool rebel," and says it's "revamping the classic university sweatshirt with zippers, color and a uniquely Italian sensibility."

The company is owned by Giuseppe Albarelli and Andrea Pensiero, both of whom never attended an American college, the article says. It is unclear why they picked that name, but records show the company has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to begin distributing clothing in this country.

The College made a similar application to protect its name. Both applications are pending, Betzner said.

"Our position is a very good one because one of the key elements in the decision of who has a right to use the name is how the name has been used in the past," he said. "F&M has been using the name since the 1850s. We can show that we have not only been conducting business under the name, but also producing clothing with that name for generations."

Betzner said the College's only concern with the photos of McGraw is that they were being used to promote his concert tour, which is sponsored by Bud Light. The College wants it clear that it has no relationship with Bud Light.

"That's important because of the message we're trying to send our students about alcohol and other substance abuse," he said.

Betzner said McGraw's manager understands the College's concerns and agreed to stop using the photo in connection with Bud Light.

Truth is, apparent references to the College creep up in lots of places, but it's usually in the form of the abbreviation F&M.

Alumni magazine readers were asked last year to submit photos of companies or products bearing the F&M name. Readers spotted it everywhere from Farmers & Merchants Bank to Fortnum & Mason tea bags.

Stefanie Valar, associate director of development and director of regional campaigns at the College, was shocked to stumble upon the F&M name last year on the sidewalks of Mostar, a city in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As she passed the F&M Grill, she snapped a photo.

F&M, it seems, really gets around.

"There are lots of F&Ms out there," Betzner said. "But F&M is not our name. Franklin & Marshall is our name and that's what we need to protect."

Meanwhile, McGraw will be receiving an official Franklin & Marshall College T-shirt. Who knows where it will show up.



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2001 © Franklin & Marshall College