Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: Which of IU’s historical mascots would win in a fight for the soul of Hoosier pride?

The abyssal void of IU’s mascot was not always so disappointingly vacant. IU’s history is littered with attempts to find a champion to represent the school’s spirit — attempts that ultimately resulted in forsaken failures. 

However, I am a strong proponent of second chances, and I believe IU should reinstate the strongest of its former mascots. By strongest I mean both conceptually, as a symbol for the soul of our university, as well as physically, as a combatant who could best their competition. 

Imagine a parking lot filled with characters of IU’s past, fighting to prove themselves the ultimate mascot. Reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of IU’s historical mascots, I will determine who would best champion our university.

1935 — The Hoosier Schoolmaster

Hoosier Schoolmaster mascot. IDS file photo

Starting an IU game as a hobbling old man, sporting a wig, cane and 19th-century attire, this mascot would slowly get more and more hyped, increasing in speed and athletic ability — a power that was supposedly linked to the band’s accelerating tempo. While this ability would eventually make the Hoosier Schoolmaster a force to be reckoned with, it would be vulnerable in the early stages of a scuffle.

1959 — Ox the Bulldog

Ox coaches each football practice from the sidelines. IDS file photo

Is he an ox? Is he a bulldog? A little bit of both? No, he’s just a bulldog, but probably a very good, albeit historically underwhelming, boy. With less than a year of service, it is not likely that this contender would be fueled by the fervor of school spirit. Nonetheless, having the powers of a bulldog goes a long way in the realm of combat.

1965 — The Bison

The Bison mascot. Arbutus yearbook

Conceptually, the Bison is a badass mascot, trampling the competition’s morale. However, in execution, the Bison was just a student in a mask, and it was discontinued for being generally disappointing. The design’s physically light build would give this mascot a combative advantage in terms of maneuverability. On the other hand, the lack of armholes in the suit leaves the fighter with limited offensive ability and recoverability.

1979 — Mr. Hoosier Pride

Mr. Hoosier Pride. IDS file photo

Nobody knows what a Hoosier is, and while I am all for vague and mysterious folklore origins, I believe the value of those qualities is only maintained as long as this being is not manifested into a mascot. Sporting a cowboy hat and a large smile, this mascot, fortunately, was also denounced and discontinued for being so unpleasant.

Their Parking Lot Battle

It’s a fair-weathered afternoon, and a commotion is heard from across the parking lot. There, an encircling crowd of spectators cheer and cry for the spectacle that is brewing: IU’s four former mascots are rearing up to fight for their right to mascothood.

Mr. Hoosier Pride, being the nastiest boy of the bunch, is likely to strike first. The Hoosier Schoolmaster, brittle without the morale-boosting band performance, is a prime target for some cane-sweeping shenanigans. He is pushed over, fallen and unable to get up, defeated. In many ways, this defeat is fitting in terms of school spirit — a disappointing old man, short on the incentive and thus failing for not acting faster — but this sight is certainly not inspiring.

Witnessing the villainy of the terrible Mr. Hoosier Pride, it would not be surprising if Ox and the Bison were to gang up against this wretched foe. In a visually comical but spiritually inspiring act of animal solidarity, they instinctively go for the obvious wombo-combo: The Bison charges Mr. Hoosier Pride, who trips over the bulldog braced behind him. 

Though a big-headed cowboy may be very representative of several students I have encountered on campus, it is ultimately this Hoosier’s downfall, as his high center of gravity leaves him defenseless against his toppling doom.

The inspiring moment of allyship flips into a tragic but inevitable betrayal. Though the teamwork of Ox the Bulldog and the Bison got them this far, only one will prevail. 

Obviously, it’s the bulldog. The Bison’s inferior maneuverability and restrictive number of limbs aside leaves him standing with no chance. It’s a dude in a costume fighting an actual bulldog, a beast with a bite force of more than 300 pounds.

The Conclusion

Costumes and designs can be passed down from vessel to vessel, but poor Ox the Bulldog is dead and, even with a second chance, will die again. Though the Bison was unable to hypothetically best its canine opponent, I believe it wins by default in the big picture. 

I also find it the most fitting — in terms of Hoosier pride. No other mascot is more associated with Indiana than the bison, which is depicted on the state’s seal. As a symbol for athletics, a bison is a powerful visual to drive morale and could be quite the performer, if design modifications were made. 

Even today, many decades since its discontinuity, the bison is a favored candidate for IU’s next mascot attempt, if one is ever made. 

I find the story of the bison quite inspiring, for this large, beautiful bovine has faced the threat of extinction and, with careful conservation measures, the population is on the road to prosperity. Perhaps the mascot, too, could make such a comeback.

Juno Martin (she/her) is a junior studying studio art. She is a wretched art goblin who has opinions sometimes.

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