To briefly some it up, the University of Denver (DU) has not had an official mascot since the early 2000s. Up until 1998 the mascot was Boone: a smiling, coonskin cap wearing pioneer. We are the Pioneers after all. Well, in 1998 the chancellor decided that Boone no longer represented the diversity of a not-so-diverse school, so in attempts to make DU more diverse they decided that the new mascot would be Ruckus a red-tailed hawk. Ruckus didn’t last more than five years before it faded into oblivion. Then in 2008, a group of alumni brought Boone back using their own money to serve as an unofficial mascot. In the past year now, a small student group on campus has claimed Boone is racist, should be banned, DU needs to find a new, official mascot to completely kill off Boone. They succeeded in having a bill passed through the student government banning any organization (student or other) receiving funds from the university to use Boone’s image. So, that should catch us up to where I left off.
Before I update you all on the current status of this mess, I’ve learned a little more about why Boone is racist. As I mentioned before, the student group that has been most vocal about this matter (apparently all 8 of them on a campus of about 11,000) considered Boone racist because he shared the name Boone with Daniel Boone and his ties with battling Native Americans and his “connection” with the displacement of Native Americans in the western United States. As mentioned before, the only similarity between Boone and Daniel Boone is the name. It has been well documented that Daniel Boone did not wear a coonskin cap nor did he have a beard. Our Denver Boone has both. Also, Daniel Boone lived during the American revolution and the days after during the settlement of Kentucky, Ohio, and eventually Indiana. So really, the only similarity is the name and these anti-Boone people are more upset about the Pioneer idea than anything. The Pioneer nickname isn’t going to change. That has been made clear. Well recently I learned that they also think Boone is racist because he has a belt buckle, wears a flannel shirt, and is too white. Well I guess we better give up our belt buckles and flannel shirts. That’s all I have to say to that because, quite frankly I think it’s ridiculous. Next, according to a source close the creation of Boone, the color of the fabric chosen is “ethnically ambiguous” so I’m not really sure how that makes him too white but they should see me sometime…I’d blend in with Antarctica. So there you have it. Boone is racist because he is “white,” wears a flannel shirt and belt buckle, and is named Boone.
Alright, let’s move on to the complete and utter mess that this has become. It’s a disaster, a “boone”doggle to say the least. After the practical banning of Boone, the university formed a “mascot steering committee” to create a new, official mascot for DU. This committee is made up of 76 students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Now before I get distracted by anything else, I’d like to point out that this committee has more members than the Colorado state senate, the Colorado state House, or the final Broncos roster. Yeah let that sink in. Once this committee was formed they began conducting a number of informational meetings. They conducted 45 focus groups, 15 open-forum meetings, an unknown number of one-on-one interviews with members of the university community (alumni included) and eventually chose a few artists to come up with some depictions of three potential candidates after eliminating several other possibilities. It’s important to note that Boone was never considered as a viable option. So after all of this the university released the three possible new mascots in a survey sent out to the entire university community and alumni. The potential new mascots were a jackalope, elk, and a mountaineer as you can see in the picture.
No mascot is currently the best option.
From their statement sent to everyone:
“The research shows that nearly 70 percent of the University community is either receptive or neutral to moving forward with a new Denver Pioneer mascot, but at this time the community as a whole is not aligned on what that character should be. The data shows three distinct preferences among the community. Half of those surveyed want a character that is simply a good fit/good performing mascot: an engaging character that appeals to all groups. Meanwhile 35 percent of those surveyed prefer a character with distinctly western dimensions, and the remainder prefers a non-western character.
While the Mountain Explorer and Elk performed the best, neither gained a consensus among the community. As a result, the 75-member Mascot Steering Committee recommends that none of the characters should move forward as they are currently designed.”
Then I saw the price tag. When questioned during a meeting of the faculty senate, the Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications admitted that this development of a new mascot would cost around $100,000. No, I didn’t add extra zeros. That’s what he said. He would go on to explain that this money would eventually be repaid from royalty payments for the use of the new mascot image and sale of merchandise containing the new mascot. “Wait Benton, didn’t you just say they didn’t choose a new mascot?” Yep, you’re not crazy (I might be, I just posed a question to myself…the blog form of talking to yourself). So what now? Well as of now it looks like DU is out $100,000. That’s $100,000 that could have gone to who knows what. They thought it was okay to drop that much on a stupid mascot debate that shouldn’t even be debate, while this whole time freezing faculty salaries and increasing tuition. At the same time many angry alumni have stopped donating (a sizeable decrease has been reported by the university). My concern is that they are going to try again and blow even more money.
It is clear that there is never going to be a consensus on a new mascot, especially with the overwhelming majority in favor or reinstating Boone. I predicted from the beginning of all of this that the new mascot would be relegated to irrelevance faster than the hawk and I wasn’t even here during the days of Ruckus. In a way I was right, neither option even made it into existence. Honestly, at this point I’ve decided that no mascot is the best route, but let Boone stay, after all he is of no cost to the university since alumni pay for him and according to the chancellor “the person in the Boone costume at athletic events is a ticket holder, and nothing more.”
My real solution, look at Indiana University. IU doesn’t have some costumed person serving as a Hoosier because they are all Hoosiers. Having been to an IU-Ohio State game (yeah I left out the “The” bring it OSU) at Assembly, they don’t need a mascot for spirit. DU wanted a new mascot to encourage more school spirit. Boone did I fine job at that as the unofficial mascot. This whole mess of a situation has done nothing but destroy school spirit (and credibility). It’s time to move on, without an official mascot and get back to blowing the roof off the hockey arena every time Colorado College (our rivals) make the trip up from Colorado Springs. I can almost guarantee that if both sides just let things go back the way they were and let this mess fade into the ether for good, then everyone could get back to being Pioneers and cheer the teams on to victory.
Alright that’ll do it for the rant. Sorry it got kind of long. I was going to let all of it go until I saw the price tag for this fiasco/catastrophe/clust…(I think I’ll stop with the synonyms). I sincerely hope they abandon all attempts to find a mascot. DU doesn’t need one. We honestly don’t even need Boone, but it is fun to have a character that’s not an administration puppet to taunt the opposing players. I hope all of you have a great weekend. Enjoy the NFL; I’m already avoiding ESPN like the plague. For all of you non/lukewarm-football fans, don’t worry it’s almost October (playoff baseball, basketball, hockey). As always thanks for reading! You all rock! Oh, and GO, GO USA!!!! LET’S GET 3 POINTS!