Thank you very much for contributing. I happen to disagree with a lot of your post, but I hope you won't take offense.
I'd argue there's many cases in which the statement of state affiliation is preferable, Tier 1A if you will. Such as when the school system has a good reputation, such as a UCal or UTexas. It's all the UCs and UTs that drive that brand and all the UCs and UTs that reap the benefits of that.
Also, being known as U of Davis or Brownsville means little outside their regions. And within those regions, it gives the impression the schools are insignificant regional institutions rather than colleges that challenge for acclaim on the field, class or labs on an international level. The same holds true whether there's a school system in place or not.
In california, I do agree. As I mentioned in an earlier post, California universities are a product of a maturing before the maturation of national athletics. A ton of California schools bailed on football before the advent of Big TV. Now there is a general perception that California is too laid back to support football. Perception is often reality, so they likely won't make the jump back to FBS en-masse. They have a system that is tolerable and probably yeilds either modest profits or modest losses. Manageable either way.
But Texas is an entirely different story. I wrote this in part based on conclusions I have reached in looking at Texas's systems. The UT system sucks. It does not carry the national academic respect that the UC system does. There are 2 nationally recognized non-specialty schools in the system --- UT and UT Dallas --- and UT Dallas is debateable. UT, Tech, A&M, and now Texas State and UNT have each set up their own systems and the member schools get very little out of each system in terms of esteem.
Now perhaps there are functionality issues behind this split up of the smaller schools, but it appears a little like the powerbrokers have carved up the state's smaller publics into their own empires to enhance the headliner's national rep. UTA joined the UT system because they were an afterthought in the previous system they were in. They are an afterthought in the UT system. They would do much better in trying to become the dominant school in DFW via a name change and seeking their own ID like UNT.
The universities known as Maryland-Baltimore County (U of Balt. Co. would sound like a community college) and Maryland-Eastern Shore can piggy-back off the prestige of the flagship produces.
Well this is not applying my guidelines as presented. Applying the inital rules would not yeild the U of Balt. Co., it would yelid the rather impressive sounding U of Baltimore or Baltimore University.
I think there's also some worry that the U of city has been traditionally used by private schools. Indeed in most cases in which schools may want to rename themselves to U of city because their city is influential, they can't because there's already another school that uses that name. Most of them private. Denver, Baltimore (was private), Dallas, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, Mobile. Even on down to Harrisburg, PA and Greensboro, NC. Branding yourself as U of city would imply that you were a private institution.
This is a fair point, but frankly I think if a school like UTA chose to become Dallas University, I think the small private University of Dallas might just chose to become Dallas Christian University or somesuch. But you are right, there could be legal challenges or institutional resistance. My point is being the DFW U or the University of Central Texas is still a ton better than being UTA. Universities should try to improve.
Much like the flagship school of the State system of most southern schools implies being a HBCU. Separating yourself from your peer institutions, targeted student body and independent supporters may not be the right path for the school to grow.
It is a good point which deserves to be repeated. I would almost never recommend this to a school with less than 15K enrollment. I think after you hit the 20K range you have your own momentum and seeking a unique identity often makes sense. Remember, you don't have to remove yourself from a state system to become a city school --- again U of Memphis is a great example.
The original post is correct in saying that a college's name can carry a lot of meaning. But each school is different and would have to make this choice carefully. Naming conventions are not likely to work on the grand scale. Whether I'm looking at schools or browsing the scoreboard, UMontana isn't going to attract my attention over a Norfolk St. or Southern Illinois. In the end, it's still Montana (no offense).
I would argue that naming conventions DO work on a grand scale. This is why SE Missou chose to follow so many other's in becoming that state's "state" school. They looked at it and realized that in 2 generations they would be seen as a peer of every other school carrying their state's headline "state"designation (many of which are from the land grant legislation)---- just like a ton of other "state" jumpers of the last century.
I do understand your point about montana not being everyone's cup of tea, but the flip side of that is that for people in that region if Montana St. is seen as just as viable as say Kansas State or Okl State, they are far more likely to go there than Norfolk State or chosing something closer Nebraska-Omaha. In that, branding helps them. If Montana State was instead the University of Montana at Bozeman there would be little chance they would be seen as a rival of UM and a peer of other "State U's". As unbelievable as that may sound to some, the rivalry angle does figure in to enrollment numbers as does the peer angle. UMBozeman would have a far more difficult time attracting students vs. nearby "state U's" and falgships. It is possible that multiple 1000's of students might be shaved off their enrollment numbers in that scenario IMO.
(But I could be wrong. Perhaps without MSU holding UM back legislatively, UM would be larger and a member of a high profile conference like the MWC --- perhaps even displacing Wyoming over time by winning a larger share of contested new students. That advertising for the state and the University of Montana system might legitimize the UM system as the UC system is. Maybe in that instance without a "state brand" being a strong #2 with that UM brand might be worth more than today's Montana State brand. I doubt it, but I freely admit nothing happens in a vacuum.)