Seeking a mascot

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University appeared to be getting close to selecting a new mascot, but now the decision may not come until fall.

The Indians and Otahkians have been the school's mascots since 1922 but the names were officially retired in 1985, even though the nicknames continued to be used by fans, alumni and writers and broadcasters who cover Southeast's teams.

Thirty-three NCAA universities still have Indians-related mascots. Thirty schools have dropped similar names because of the perceptions of some American Indians.

For nearly 20 years, the university has had no mascot to promote its teams or contribute to school spirit. Now a university committee has been put in charge of recommending replacements for the Indian mascot and nicknames. The formation of the committee followed votes by the university's national alumni council, student government and boosters to find a replacement.

The committee of faculty and staff members, students, alumni and boosters had planned to make a final recommencation early next month. Effort to get more public input may delay that decision until fall..

More than 800 names have been suggested -- including keeping the Indians and Otahkians. Most of the suggestions have been humorous offerings like Flying Squirrels or Fighting Okra. The committee has narrowed its list to five choices: Red Hawks, Red Birds, Red Wolves, Explorers and Sentinels.

The final decision is up to the regents. There are high hopes the choice will be supported by faculty members, students, alumni and boosters.

For the next few weeks, there will no doubt be intense lobbying for some of the suggested names. And the diehard Indian fans likely will make their voices heard too.

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