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Monday, May 8, 2006
Seahawks, A&M resolve '12th man' dispute

Associated Press

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. -- The fight over the "12th Man" is over and both Texas A&M University and the Seattle Seahawks will be able to use the phrase.

The university and the Seahawks said Monday they had reached a deal settling the university's lawsuit over the phrase reserved for fans.

As part of the agreement, the Seahawks acknowledge Texas A&M's ownership rights of the trademarked phrase. However, the NFL team may continue using it under license. Neither side admitted any fault or liability.

"Our fans won't notice any changes in what we do," Seahawks chief executive officer Tod Leiweke said at team headquarters in Kirkland, Wash. "They won't see any changes in the stadium. We are really happy about that."

The only change the Seahawks will make is on any broadcasts that feature the 12th Man. A statement that the 12th Man is a trademark of Texas A&M University will be included on such broadcasts.

Texas A&M officials declined to say how much the licensing fee would be for the Seahawks, noting the final documents have not been filed in court.

Steve Moore, Texas A&M's vice president for communications, said in a story in Tuesday's Bryan-College Station Eagle that the university would do some monitoring to ensure the terms of the settlement are followed.

The Aggies hold trademark rights to the phrase "12th Man." In February, the university filed a lawsuit in Brazos County over the Seahawks' use of the phrase. Days before Seattle faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, a restraining order was issued calling on the Seahawks to halt any usage of "12th Man," or "12th Mania."

Origins of the term "12th man" aren't exactly clear, but the traditions in Seattle and College Station date back decades.

The Seahawks retired the number 12 in 1984 to honor fans who made the old Kingdome one of the noisiest stadiums in football.

The Aggies trace their use to 1922, when an injury-plagued roster led the team to pull E. King Gill from the stands and suited him up to play. Gill never took to the field, but the legend strengthened campus-wide commitment to support the team. The words "Home of 12th Man" adorn the stadium and the entire school is considered the 12th Man.

"We absolutely respect their tradition," Leiweke said. "I've learned a lot about it. Our entire organization has learned a lot about it. It's pretty amazing how far back it goes."

The Seahawks are discussing selling a 12th Man burger during this coming season at concession stands inside Qwest Field.

The Seahawks see home fan noise as a real asset; Qwest Field had the most false-start penalties against visiting teams in the NFL last season -- Seattle's best showing in that department.

"The 12th Man symbol is a lot more relevant in our world than it's ever been," Leiweke said. "The fans and the team became one last season.

"We never sold merchandise with the 12th Man on it. It is really a symbol of our fans and the relationship our team has with our fans."