The Daily Illini

UI mascot change far from possible

A popular online image which has received plenty of attention, the otter sports an Illini jersey as advocacy for the “Alma Otter” to become a University symbol gains traction.

Austin Lindell

A popular online image which has received plenty of attention, the otter sports an Illini jersey as advocacy for the “Alma Otter” to become a University symbol gains traction.

By Eli Schuster, Sports Editor

Disclaimer: I am about to utter a word that will make even the weakest Illini fan cringe.

Mascot.

With all of your might, please refrain from hitting the comment section immediately. To be quite frank, I do not care about your opinion on the matter. Likewise, I’m assuming you do not care about mine, unless it matches yours, of course.

Throughout my four years covering Illinois athletics, I have continued to watch the mascot debate ride a roller coaster to nowhere, and that coaster just began another descent upward toward a rather large climax.

In case you missed it, two mascot options have recently gained traction across the internet and on the University campus.

While the origin is up for debate, the symbol gained popularity several months ago when students online began to share memes of the Alma Otter. The name, of course, acts as a play on the symbolic statue Alma Mater which greets students on to campus.

The second is a mascot that sophomore student Mike Skibski designed called Champ. Inspired by the Illini students who fought and died in WWI, the mascot stands tall in traditional orange and blue WWI uniform.

To learn more about the logistics of each mascot, a simple google search will suffice. Long story short, the otter is rooted in the idea that many rivers across the state of Illinois are where the little creatures call home. On the other hand, Champ is rooted in a historical moment for the university.

While both of these mascots have been met with plenty of remarks online, it is important to understand where the University really stands on both of these “solutions.”

People have been quick to assume that the University is moving forward with legitimately viewing these options.

Those people are incorrect.

Alma Otter and Champ are currently nothing more than a pitch. In fact, neither pitch has been given to the University Board of Trustees.

The furthest success Alma Otter has reached was within the confines of the student government. In one of the group’s most recent meetings, a vote was held to place a question on the upcoming ballot regarding the interest in having the furry creature as an official University symbol. The question will show the student government if there is enough interest to move forward with advocating for the mascot.

Plain and simple.

As for Champ, Skibski is planning to take his concept, which design has been modified since its original creation, to the Board of Trustees as a public comment on March 14. He shared these remarks and more with The Daily Illini nearly a week ago.

The University has gone through more serious processes in the past.

In 2016, spoken from the belly of the beast, former interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson actually announced that the University would be moving forward with choosing a new mascot.

During that year, Wilson endorsed a Student Senate Committee that wanted the issue to be looked at. She even went far enough to state that a committee of about 10 to 12 people would be organized to tackle the mascot debate.

Clearly, the University sits three years later mascotless and with a different Chancellor.

That new Chancellor, Robert Jones, has touched on the idea of looking or considering having a conversation about a new University symbol but has not moved forward with any action.

The Chancellor even paid a visit to The Daily Illini office in October, and I sat in on a meeting with him.

While he did not turn down the idea of looking at adding a new mascot in the future, a recent News-Gazette article lists Jones as waiting to hear back from a commission on whether to proceed in such conversations. Overall, limited action has been taken.

Some of you may be reading this with a feeling of “well, duh.” However, based off the recent response to these two proposals, it appears some remain confused on what it all really means.

As of right now, it all means nothing.

Editors note: The column has been updated to state that the original origin of Alma Otter is up for debate but gained popularity over the past several months.

@Schuster_Elias

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