Mad About Mascots: Costumes and names have stirred controversy throughout Marquette’s history

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Bleuteaux cheers at a Marquette basketball game, circa 1985. Photo courtesy Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University.

During the summer of 2020, Marquette University finally gave its mascot, the Golden Eagle, an official name: Iggy, after St. Ignatius of Loyola.

But Marquette’s mascot hasn’t always been the Golden Eagles. In its 139 years, the university has changed its mascot and nicknames more than 10 times.

The Blue and Gold

In 1892, Marquette’s football team was established. Students would wear blue and gold to games, which led to the university’s first unofficial nickname: the Blue and Gold. While it didn’t stand the test of time, blue and gold continue to be the university’s colors.

The Hilltoppers

In the 1910s, students began referring to themselves by another unofficial name: the Hilltoppers. This referred to Marquette’s first building, which stood on a hill between 10th and State streets.

After gaining traction, the the Board of Trustees and the student government made it the first official nickname.

The Hilltoppers remains the mascot of Marquette University High School, located just west of campus.

The Golden Avalanche

Along with the Hilltoppers, the Golden Avalanche was also a popular nickname for Marquette in the early 20th century. The Avalanche specifically referred to Marquette’s football program at the time. Sports writers would describe the team as such due to their golden helmets.

It caught on after being used in yearbooks and in the Marquette Tribune.

However, the program — and consequently the name — was discontinued in 1960 because of financial hardships.

The Warriors

In 1954, the student senate announced Marquette’s newest mascot: the Warrior. First, it related to the university’s namesake Rev. Jacques Marquette, who had a relationship with Native Americans — as guides and students — through his travels, and there was a Native American on the university seal. It also fit in with the many other sports teams in Milwaukee around the time, like the baseball team the Milwaukee Braves and the football team the Milwaukee Chiefs. The first mascot representing the Warriors was Chief White Buck.

Willie Wampum

Nearly a decade later, in 1961, the student senate hosted a “Name the Warrior” competition. The winner was the infamous Willie Wampum. However, it didn’t last. In the early 1970s, Willie Wampum, a caricature representation of a Native American with a giant cartoonish head and Indigenous clothing, was deemed offensive by Fr. James Groppi. He began a campaign to retire the mascot, and Native American students at the university rallied behind him.

In 1971, the Student Senate voted 16-9 to retire Willie.

The First Warrior

After protests from Native American students, the student senate decided on the First Warrior mascot in 1980. The costume was made to represent six Wisconsin tribes — the Chippewa, Menominee, Winnebago, Stockbridge, Munsee and Potawatomi. It was a much more serious and realistic depiction, and only Native American students could wear the costume.

Mark Denning, a 1983 Marquette alum of Native American descent, was one student to portray the First Warrior. He was the First Warrior from 1980 to 1983, and is now an advocate for changing race-based mascots. 

The First Warrior was abandoned in 1987 after Native American students refused to participate, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Bleuteaux

While the Warriors remained a popular but unofficial nickname for university teams, in 1984 students voted on a new mascot: Bleuteaux. A blue French puppet, he was often seen wearing a blue and gold beret. The other options — the Yak, Sam Dunk and the MU Cow – followed in second, third and fourth place.

In the 1985-86 National Mascot Competition, Joe Bachna, one student who portrayed Blueteaux, finished the contest in the top ten.

Bleuteaux retired in 1990.

The Golden Eagles

In 1993, Marquette discontinued its association with “the Warriors” entirely and in 1994 the university became the Golden Eagles. Rev. Albert J. DiUlio, the university president at the time, offered students two choices: the Lightning or the Golden Eagles. The latter won, to the dismay of many alumni at the time, who believed in keeping the warrior as Marquette’s mascot.

At the 2004 graduation commencement, Wayne R. Sanders, vice chairman of the board at the time and former chief executive of Kimberly-Clark, said that he and another anonymous trustee would donate $2 million to Marquette if the university were to reinstate the Warriors mascot. Fr. Robert Wild, president of the university at the time, turned down the money, but took the opportunity to revisit the university’s nickname.

The Gold

In 2004, the university’s board of trustees voted on a new name — the Gold — without input from the Marquette community. The decision resulted in student uproar. Even alum and former Marquette University basketball player Dwayne Wade commented.

“The Gold?” Wade said in an ESPN interview. “I got to make a phone call to Marquette … I don’t know about that one. Marquette Gold. The Gold! The Gold?”

The name was short-lived, and by 2005, after student protests, Marquette was considering a number of names. Options included throwbacks like the Blue and Gold, the Golden Avalanche and the Hilltoppers.

After a student vote, the university returned to being the Golden Eagles once more.

The Golden Eagles (Again)

Today, Iggy the Golden Eagle attends sports games and student events embodying Marquette’s school spirit. Still, the physical costumes of Willie Wampum, Bleuteaux and the First Warrior can be seen in the university’s Archive Reading Room.

This story was written by Alexa Jurado. She can be reached at alexa.jurado@marquette.edu.