The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Opinion | Is it time for UI to adopt a new mascot?

The Daily Illini Photo File
“Stuff Huff” Friday night at Huff Hall for the women’s volleyball game as hordes of fans swarmed the court to cheer on the Chief during his halftime performance on Aug. 25, 2006. Senior columnist Maggie Knutte and columnist Grayson Hodson share their opinions on the university’s mascot status.

Senior columnist Maggie Knutte and columnist Grayson Hodson share opposing perspectives on replacing the mascot for the Illini. Knutte argues in favor of a replacement with the belted kingfisher, whose campaign gains traction yearly, whereas Hodson argues it would be too divisive at this point in time.


The belted kingfisher mascot fits fantastically

A vibrant orange and blue bird swoops down and dives gracefully into the water, emerging victorious with a fish. It is the kingfisher.  

If you have watched “Our Planet,” an Emmy Award-winning nature documentary, then you have likely watched this scene. While short, it shows a captivating shot of a kingfisher in action in the seventh episode, titled “Fresh Water.” Renowned broadcaster and biologist David Attenborough introduces it as “the kingfisher, the most glorious of divers.”

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    This semester, the belted kingfisher became the unofficial mascot of the University, filling a spot that has been vacant since 2007.

    Despite mixed opinions about the choice of a mascot, not many know much about the bird itself. 

    There are several different species of kingfisher birds, but it is the belted kingfisher that can be found in Illinois. They often nest near water bodies such as streams or shorelines, fishing for fish and crawfish like their name suggests.

    The belted kingfisher specifically gets its name from its blue belt that wraps around its breast. Female kingfishers also have an orange belt across their chest, sporting Illinois’ colors against their white base. 

    This bird is a proud symbol of the University but is also becoming more scarce. As fishery competitors, belted kingfishers used to be hunted. There are now laws in place protecting them, but they can only do so much. Kingfishers have also become displaced because of habitat loss. 

    Making the belted kingfisher our mascot could help bring awareness to conservation efforts. A bird that is so unique and important to our local ecosystem deserves nothing less than to thrive.  

    Supporters of the belted kingfisher created a website with information about the potential mascot. It includes everything from the timeline of the kingfisher becoming a mascot figure to student-made designs for the mascot. There is a page about how you can get involved in making the kingfisher our mascot.

    The Kingfisher has several social media accounts that post updates, merch and anything else Kingfisher-related. 

    Mascots should be something fun for everyone to enjoy and appreciate. The Kingfisher does not have any deep historical connections to the University, but it is a unique member of the Champaign area that is symbolic of the Illini spirit.


    We are not ready for a new mascot 

    In 2007, the National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled that the University’s mascot, Chief Illiniwek, should be retired. Ever since then, the Illini have been without a mascot. The question “Who should be the next mascot?” still lingers in people’s minds, but we don’t need a new mascot and aren’t ready for one anyway.

    The conversation is now coming to a head, with many students and Illini fans giving ideas for a new mascot. The kingfisher has been the most talked about, with an advisory vote three years ago by the Illinois Student Council — then the Illinois Student Government — that passed. Additionally, the unofficial mascot has even appeared in full costume for the first time on campus this year. 

    However, I don’t think we are ready for a new mascot, and that’s OK. 

    As of October, there are still four NFL teams without a mascot: the Green Bay Packers, the Los Angeles Chargers, the New York Giants and the New York Jets. These teams still have thriving fan bases, and none are petitioning for an official mascot. Why can’t Illinois be the same?

    The desire for a new mascot comes from the fans who want to leave the old one behind and move forward. There are also fans who are passionate about the removal of the Chief and even consider him to still be the symbol that represents Illini football. To implement a new mascot is to create an unnecessary divide within the fan base and is one that could be easily avoided. 

    The best thing that the University of Illinois can do is nothing. If the University were to implement a new mascot, it would make the younger generation of fans happy but upset the older. The University should wait until the connection between the Chief and the Illini is all but severed.

    At that time, we could create a new mascot that fans could get behind, like the Kingfisher. But as of now, the fans who still recognize the previous mascot will see a new one as the twisting of a knife already stuck in their back.

    At the end of the day, football is about bringing people together, and if creating a new mascot divides the fan base, then it isn’t worth it. 


    Maggie is a junior in Media.

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    Grayson is a freshman in LAS.

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    CORRECTION: In a previous version of the column, it was written that “The kingfisher has been the most talked about, with an advisory vote three years ago by the Illinois Student Council and then the Illinois Student Government that passed.” This quote has been edited for clarity. ISC’s official stance is that they have not officially endorsed the kingfisher — the vote was merely an advisory vote.

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