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NC State made a small college change its "Wolfpack" nickname

The red and white Wolfpack will fight to defend that name.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Keuka College, a Division III school with a total enrollment of fewer than 2,000 students, will change its athletic teams' nickname from Wolfpack to Wolves after the end of the 2015-16 academic year, after pressure from NC State to protect its Wolfpack trademark.

The school told the Greensboro News & Record that NC State made no bones about its intentions to keep the Wolfpack name for itself.

"We didn't receive an official cease-and-desist order," says Pete Bekisz, Keuka's communications director. "But they made it clear they would pursue this in federal court. ... They made it clear they wanted to be the only Wolfpack."

And NC State all but confirmed a vigorous defense of its mark to the News & Record, as well.

N.C. State officially trademarked the one-word "Wolfpack" nickname in 1983 to "preserve the value ... and protect consumers from misinformation," Brad Bohlander, State's chief communications officer, wrote in an email.

"Because of the history associated with the mark and N.C. State, the uniqueness of the mark in collegiate sports, and the value provided to the university," Bohlander wrote, "N.C. State works to protect its mark from possible dilution and others’ infringement."

Keuka's use of the Wolfpack nickname dates back only to 2014, when students voted to change it from Storm after Keuka students' response to flooding in the Finger Lakes area of New York.

It's very hard to see how anyone could confuse Keuka with NC State, either, especially given that Keuka uses green and gold as its school colors. But the smaller school — which had an endowment of $8.7 million in 2011, a fraction of NC State's athletic budget of just under $64 million in 2014-15 — is clearly convinced that discretion and a pointed press release are the better part of valor.

NC State and Keuka are currently the only NCAA athletic programs to use the one-word Wolfpack as their teams' nickname. The University of Nevada uses Wolf Pack, as does NAIA Loyola University of New Orleans.