Five years later, Chief Illiniwek logo gets update

As Chief Illiniwek’s absence hits the five-year mark, one independent logo has emerged as a temporary alternative for pro-Chief fans, which debuted Friday.

After a year of designing the logo, the Council of Chiefs, a group of former Chief Illiniwek portrayers, has teamed up with Gameday Spirit to sell T-shirts with the logo. Steve Raquel, president of the council, said this gives fans and alumni a new way to tangibly support the Chief. He added that a portion of the sales of will go toward scholarship funds and service-based events.


Daily Illini Editorial: “UI deserves a new likeness of the Chief”:

The council went through a long design process in order to find a balance between something that would be recognizable to fans yet different enough to avoid copyright infringement against the University’s round Chief logo.

“At the end of the day, we went to this very abstract logo because we wanted the logo to be distinct enough so: one, we wouldn’t have any trademark issues, and two, that it could stand by itself,” he said.

The council first attempted to gain access to the round logo but was denied by the University.

“We wanted the tradition to continue moving forward,” Raquel said. “We felt that developing our own logo that we could own, that’s outside the purview of the University … was going to be something that we hoped would be supported by alumni and fans.”

Raquel said he and the council realize the history of the round Chief logo cannot be replaced, and they do not wish to do that. He said they would welcome that logo back if the University were to change its stance but must adjust to the present circumstances.

Raquel said creating a new mascot, like what is being attempted by a registered student group’s ongoing mascot competition, is “hard to do” because mascots and their accompanying traditions must come organically through peoples’ passion and experiences at a university.

Emily Hartl, sophomore in LAS, was one of the first customers to come to Gameday Spirit after the store began selling the T-shirts at 4 p.m. Friday. She said she is pro-Chief and found out about the new logo via Facebook.

“It’s kind of abstract, not necessarily what you think of when you think of a new Chief logo,” she said. “I hope it takes off.”

She said she sees the new design and merchandise as a small way to reincorporate the Chief into campus culture.

Cory Shumard, manager of Gameday Spirit, said this is the first time his store has been approached by a group looking to sell a new Chief design since the University stopped using the Chief mascot in 2007.

“Once we saw the logo and what a wonderful job they did with it, everything else from there was just semantics,” he said.

He said the product line will expand in the coming week with more T-shirt designs, and he hopes it will grow to more products, such as sweatshirts, in the future.

Though Raquel said the only backlash he has received thus far was from passionate Chief supporters who do not want to move beyond the round logo, Shumard said he expects more backlash for selling this new design.

“We would be naïve to think there wouldn’t be some (backlash),” he said.

Shumard said in the 15 years he has operated the store at their Green and Sixth streets location, he has received criticism for selling the University-sanctioned logo.

“I always hoped that I had enough orange and blue in my store that would cater to both opinions,” he said.

Shumard said he believes the council’s goal for this new product line is to remind people about what the Chief stood for and to make sure it is not forgotten.

As of Sunday evening, Gameday Spirit had nearly sold out of their initial 250 shirts. It will restock the current designs this Tuesday and will begin offering three new designs with the words “Forever,” “Lives” and “Respect” this Thursday.