It’s not unusual for colleges and universities to protect slogans or phrases that are associated with their head coaches.
A postgame comment in November 2010 by head football coach Bobby Petrino following a win against LSU that sent the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl led the University of Arkansas to trademark the phrase “We Didn’t Come to Paint” the following summer.
The head coaches themselves, however, don’t naturally seek trademark protection on their own.
Eric Musselman, though, sees a merchandising opportunity and is showing himself to be just as wise as a businessman as he is a basketball coach.
Musselman, who drew attention earlier this year by appearing at news conferences wearing T-shirts that feature corporate logos of various UA athletics sponsors, has an application pending with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to trademark the phrase “Muss Bus.” Per the application, Musselman seeks the trademark for use on hats, sweatshirts and t-shirts.
Danyelle Musselman, the coach’s wife, said the design would be licensed initially to Fayetteville custom apparel company B-Unlimited.
“They are neighbors and friends of ours,” Musselman said, referring to B-Unlimited owner Ben Clark and his wife, Christine. She said the agreement with B-Unlimited is not an exclusive licensing deal, and other entities could potentially make the same agreement.
Musselman said the “Muss Bus” phrase started growing in popularity during her husband’s previous coaching stop at the University of Nevada in Reno, where he coached teams that were a combined 110-34 in four seasons. The process to trademark the phrase started there during Musselman’s final season, she said.
“One of the retailers in town called Silver and Blue Outfitters — similar to Hog Heaven [in Fayetteville] — came to us and wanted to do t-shirts that said ‘Muss Bus,'” she recalled. “We figured if we did that, we should [trademark] that phrase so we could control the quality.”
The application was filed with the USPTO by Reno attorney Samantha J. Reviglio this past October. Musselman said the trademark is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.
Musselman completed his first season with the UA this past March with a 20-12 record to become just the second first-year Razorback coach to win 20 games. The phrase “Muss Bus” was common among media and UA fans on social media as a way to reference the renewed enthusiasm for fans jumping on the bandwagon (“Muss Bus”) of the resurgent basketball program.
Ironically, Musselman isn’t the first UA basketball coach to leverage his coaching success and apply with the USPTO, though with a significant twist. Nolan Richardson, who spent 17 seasons as head coach of the Razorbacks, filed to trademark the phrase that is widely linked with his success in Fayetteville — “Forty Minutes of Hell.”
Richardson filed applications for two separate trademarks in June 2016, well after his coaching days in Fayetteville ended. The first was related to educational and entertainment services, motivational speaking services, basketball instruction and fitness training. The second was related to the intent to use the term on a variety of athletic apparel from shoes, T-shirts, hats, wristbands and jackets.
Both of those applications are now abandoned.
Richardson coached the Razorbacks from 1985 and 2002. Fans and pundits lauded Richardson’s teams for their frenetic style of play with unrelenting, full-court pressure defense. It was dubbed as “Forty Minutes of Hell” to describe what Arkansas opponents would endure for an entire basketball game.
With Richardson as coach, Arkansas’ “Forty Minutes of Hell” style of play resulted in three trips to the NCAA Final Four (1990, 1994 and 1995) and a victory in the 1994 national championship game in Charlotte, N.C., against the Duke Blue Devils.
The phrase is so closely associated with Richardson that it’s the title of a 2011 biography written by Rus Bradburd called “Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson.”
Richardson, who still lives in Fayetteville, is the winningest basketball coach in Arkansas history (389-169) and was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.