Mascot Madness

Marquette University's previous mascot the Warrior.

Marquette University's previous mascot the Warrior.

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Marquette has a history of controversies, debates, embarrassment and even of a fluffy blue monster that all pertain to one simple element of the school. It is an element that has officially and unofficially changed over 10 times throughout Marquette’s years, transitioning from colors to Indians to monsters and, finally, to a Golden Eagle. Marquette’s mascot has changed drastically, outraging alumni, leaving Marquette trustees scratching their heads and prompting Marquette students to act on what they feel should best represent their school.

The long list of nicknames and mascots started with Marquette athletics. They have played an important role in bringing Marquette students together, giving them a sense of unity ever since the campus started. The only problem was that they had no one to cheer for. They needed a name to shout and a chant to scream their teams to victory. Then in 1892, Marquette started its first football team and along with the football team came Marquette’s first nickname, which sparked a flame of fire that would ignite numerous times throughout Marquette’s mascot history.

Blue and Gold – 1892-1916

As Marquette’s football team started off strong with multiple successful seasons, so did Marquette’s school spirit. Students paraded Marquette Stadium on 36th Street and Clybourn Avenue dressed in blue and gold, which remain Marquette’s school colors today. This led to Marquette’s first unofficial nickname, the Blue and Gold.

It was a nickname created by the students, since the chants of Blue and Gold could be heard echoing throughout the stadium during every sporting event. It was this outcry for a nickname that led Marquette officials to create an official name.

The Hilltoppers – 1917-1954

The Marquette student body started to move away from the Blue and Gold and started to unofficially refer to themselves as The Hilltoppers, due to Marquette’s first building, which stood on a hill located between North 10th and State streets. The name became so popular that Marquette trustees and the Marquette Student Government joined together and decided to make it the first official nickname of Marquette University. This eventually led to many versions of the nickname, as students referred to themselves as the Singing Hilltoppers and the Jumping Hilltoppers.

But although the nickname may have been accurate at the time, Marquette eventually moved its campus to its present day location on flatter ground causing the school to once again change its mascot.

The Golden Avalanche – 1917-1954

Even though the Hilltoppers proved to be a popular nickname amongst the students, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Marquette’s football team prided themselves on another nickname that made their team stand out – the Golden Avalanche

The Golden Avalanche is how sports writers at that time would describe the Marquette football team as their golden helmets charged down the field at their opponents. This nickname began to appear in Marquette yearbooks and throughout editions of The Marquette Tribune before catching popularity with the student body. But like the football team, the nickname eventually died off in the 1960s.

Warrior – 1954-1993

As the Hilltopper started to lose steam and the Golden Avalanche came to a crashing end, it was time for Marquette to once again change the school’s mascot. Little did they know that the new nickname and mascot would spark years of debate, controversies and outrage between among alumni, students and Marquette faculty.

On May 13, 1954, the Marquette Student Senate announced that the new Marquette mascot would be the Warrior.

According to a Student Senate report, they settled on the Warrior for three  reasons: First, the Rev. Jacques Marquette hired Native Americans extensively as guides, teachers, counselors and as pupils in his travels. Secondly, there is a Native American on the official seal of the University. Finally, the Warrior name fit in well with other Milwaukee team names. They included the Hawks, the Braves, the Chiefs and now the Warrior.

Interestingly enough, the Milwaukee Hawks basketball team moved to St. Louis in 1955, the Milwaukee Chiefs hockey team only existed in Milwaukee for three years, and the Milwaukee Braves left for Atlanta in 1965, leaving Marquette to stand alone with their Native American mascot.

Furthermore, the University prided itself on having a history that went hand in hand with Indian lore. They also chose the Native American Warrior over other types of warriors, such as the Spartan or the Amazon because it not only honored Father Marquette, but it honored the first inhabitants of the United States.

Although the Student Senate had good intentions with their new school mascot, controversy was right around the corner.

Willie Wampum – 1961-1971

In 1961, Marquette’s Student Senate started a campus-wide competition called “Name the Warrior.” They filed through hundreds of name suggestions until one lucky student’s idea was picked as the winner and that student took home a whopping prize of $5. The new name of the Marquette Warrior was Willie Wampum.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinela Marquette cheerleader turned to his sister, a non-Marquette student, to help him create the Willie Wampum mascot. Inspired by the Milwaukee Braves mascot, the brother and sister duo hung a giant balloon in their kitchen and began to create their paper mache head.

Then on Feb. 24, 1961, Willie Wampum made his first appearance at a Marquette basketball game against Duke University without any approval from the university. The giant bobble head caricature, with his devious smile and giant tomahawk, would chase other schools’ mascots during the games and lead cheers that would be echoed by the student body.

Controversy soon broke out and the Rev. James Groppi publicly announced that Willie Wampum was an offensive, degrading and embarrassing representation of Marquette. Native American students rallied behind Groppi and asked that Willie Wampum retire. But students and alumni quickly responded in hopes of saving Willie and keeping their beloved mascot.

According to The Marquette Tribune, the Student Senate agreed with a minority of students to have the mascot retire. The debate continued as students felt that the Student Senate should best represent the wishes of the majority of the campus, not the minority. Then in 1971, the student protest failed and James Scott, vice president of student affairs, and Samuel Sauceda, director of athletics at the time, announced that Willie Wampum would have to turn in his tomahawk.

The First Warrior – 1980-1987

After losing their precious Willie Wampum, Marquette students decided to take further action to ensure that they would keep the Warrior as their school mascot. After a year of debates and discussions, Marquette agreed on their new Warrior – the First Warrior.

The Student Senate worked alongside Native American groups and students to create an outfit for their new mascot. They wanted it to represent six Wisconsin woodland tribes (Chippewa, Menominee, Winnebago, Stockbridge, Munsee and the Potawatomi).

After a year of constructing an appropriate outfit, the First Warrior made his debut appearance at a Marquette basketball game dressed in his new flashy attire. According to the contract regarding the First Warrior, only American Indian students could wear the costume and be the mascot at events.

“The First Warrior would always perform an Indian dance on the court before the game or during halftime,” says Tony Kennedy, Marquette alumnus and past editor of the Marquette Tribune. “There was always some awkwardness to it because it tilted toward a somber and serious thing to show respect for the roots of the Warrior name, but clearly out of sync with the party atmosphere at games.”

Although Marquette took every step to ensure that they had an appropriate mascot, there was a lack of interest among American Indian students to perform, so eventually the First Warrior was discontinued.

“It wasn’t wildly popular with the student body, and there was a scarcity of candidates to do the job,”  Kennedy says. “Partly because the University wasn’t offering any scholarship money for the position as I recall, but also because the population of Native American students was low.”

But even after there was no longer a mascot to lead the crowd in cheers and entertainment, the silhouette of the First Warrior lived on in T-shirts, notebooks, pencils and other spirit-shop trinkets until 1993.

Bleuteaux – 1984-1991

As the First Warrior began to fade, Marquette decided once again that it would be in the best interest of the university to change its mascot. This time they allowed students and alumni in on the process, although according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, very few were interested in participating.

In the end, the votes came out in favor of the Bleuteaux. The Yak, Sam Dunk and the MU Cow followed in second, third and fourth place respectively.

Bleuteaux was a muppet-like creature that was covered in blue fur, had a short, stumpy trunk and large, goofy eyes. According to Judy Meyers, the associate director of alumni relations at the time, Bleuteaux was chosen because, “we liked the character Bluto in ‘Animal House’ and because of Father Marquette, we thought we should make him French.”

Since the students were never keen on the idea of a French puppet with crazy eyes, in 1991 the silly giant monster retired as Marquette’s mascot.

The Golden Eagle – 1993-2004

Marquette was officially at a standpoint  in the beginning of 1993. Bleuteaux was gone, and the Warrior was still a prominent nickname and mascot for Marquette. Then after 18 months of committee introspection, Marquette officials announced that they would scrap the Warrior completely due to it being disrespectful to American Indians. Students and alumni felt blindsided, as there were no public complaints about the mascot since Willie Wampum.

The outrage continued as Marquette alumni and students rallied together to protect their beloved mascot that had represented their school for almost 50 years. It came as a shock to many that despite the student body’s efforts to keep the Warrior, Marquette officials continued to ask input from students, alumni and faculty on what the new mascot should be. They narrowed it down to two possible mascots, the Marquette Lightning or the Marquette Golden Eagles, neither of which had any connection to Marquette’s  history.

The winner was obvious. On May 2, 1994, it was announced that Marquette’s new mascot would be the Golden Eagle.

“When the team name changed to the Golden Eagles, fellow alumni that I knew didn’t choke it down very gracefully. The icon was dumped and the college basketball junkies you knew who came from rival schools were happy to rub it in,” Kennedy says. “But I took it as a sign of progressiveness, and it’s stunning in contrast to see a franchise like the Washington Redskins still hanging on to a name that offends so many people.”

The Golds – 2004

Fast forward ten years to fall of 2004, when the Marquette student body surprised everyone as they once again attempted to bring back the Warrior. They conducted a university-sponsored survey that asked students if they felt the Golden Eagle was a boring mascot and if they would be in favor of returning to the Warrior. The results showed that a strong majority of students wanted to return to the Warrior, and Marquette’s Board of Trustees met to discuss the possibility of changing the University’s mascot. Interim university President the Rev. Robert A. Wild, who was the university’s president at the time, immediately rejected the idea of returning to the Warrior and the other trustees agreed.

However, the Board of Trustees also agreed to get rid of the Golden Eagle and change the campus’s nickname to the Marquette Gold without taking in any opinion from alumni or current Marquette students.  This decision set off an on-campus protest and hundreds of angry letters started pouring in, which was an embarrassing public relations mess for the University.

The Board of Trustees had an emergency meeting and decided to conduct yet another student voting process allowing the students to pick their new mascot. To much surprise, the Golden Eagle came in first place after the votes were tallied. The Hilltoppers came in second and the Warrior was not allowed as an option for the new mascot. This brought about the end of the Marquette Gold making it the shortest-lived mascot in Marquette history. Wild told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “we will never have any more nickname discussions on my watch.”

The Golden Eagle – 2004-2014

The Golden Eagle continues as the present day mascot of Marquette University. The eagle head can be seen throughout the campus on posters, school supplies and everyday student attire. The debate on changing the nickname has not been addressed or brought up since the controversy in 2004.

“In my opinion, I love our Golden Eagle,” says Kelsey Hau, a junior in the College of Communication. “My parents and grandparents both went to Marquette, and while they still seem to have a hard time letting that era go, I think the Golden Eagle fits us well. It may not seem connected to our school or Milwaukee,  but I still think it is a great mascot for all ages. I love our Marquette Golden Eagles and would hate to see it change to anything different.”

Although the debate has gone quiet and the Golden Eagle continues to go strong as a non-controversial mascot for the University, evidence of past mascots still haunt the campus. On Marquette’s Club Lacrosse uniforms, the silhouette of the First Warrior still stands proudly as it does on many club sports uniforms at Marquette; Marquette’s school colors have never changed since the Blue and Gold dominated the campus, and past alumni still share stories of when Willie Wampum chased rival mascots with his tomahawk.

It has been a long winding road for the Marquette mascot and it has finally found it’s way to some peace. Through years of debates, controversies and outrage, Marquette finally settled on the Golden Eagle … for now.

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