Originally written January 28, 2013 on Fox Sports Ohio:
The University of Akron's plan to place the basketball program's official Twitter handle on the back of its players jerseys for a nationally-televised game this weekend didn't get past the planning stages. The NCAA swatted the idea away. It's not an NCAA compliance issue; rather, NCAA basketball uniform guidelines bar a team's logo from being used on the back of the jersey. The special 'Z' logo on the front of the black jerseys -- a jersey unique to the school's Social Media Night promotion -- counts as the logo, and displaying any form of 'Zips' on the back would also count as doubling up. The Akron athletic department could have taken its chances with breaking the rule but chose not to. The school carefully worded press releases regarding the promotion while it waited for clarification on the rule, then announced Monday night it would scrap plans to use the Twitter handle on what's normally the name plate. As part of the promotion, 12 custom-made jerseys with unique Twitter handles were sent to national media members who cover college basketball and maintain a strong Twitter presence. One picture of a jersey with the @ZipsMBB handle was distributed. Akron players will still wear @ZipsMBB on their shooting shirts. The whole thing will go down as a publicity stunt that, in a way, has been cut short. But it's one that surely brought publicity to what's been one of the nation's top mid-major level programs in recent years. It's actually Akron's second strong publicity play in the last week. Last Saturday's home game vs. Buffalo was LeBron James Bobblehead Night. James, an Akron native, played for Akron head coach Keith Dambrot in high school and played dozens of high school games on campus at Rhodes Arena, but never attended the school. That promotion drew negative backlash from some in Northeast Ohio still angry with James over his 2010 departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers, but a line formed hours before the game for the 1,500 bobbleheads that were distributed. The special jerseys for Saturday's game against 2012 Sweet 16 participant Ohio are made by Nike. As part of the program's relationship with James, the Zips are one of four teams nationally who wear uniforms, shoes and warm ups provided by Nike's LBJ line. The University of Akron had an apparel and merchandise deal with adidas before James' line started outfitting the basketball program in 2008. Akron, which has played in six straight Mid-American Conference Tournament championship games and has been to the NCAA Tournament in three of the past four years, unveiled a social media-themed ThinkBigger slogan for the 2012-13 season last fall. After winning the MAC regular-season title last year, the Zips lost the MAC title game to Ohio and were eliminated by Northwestern in the first round of the NIT. Follow Zac Jackson on Twitter at @FSOhioZJackson
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