UMass to keep Minuteman mascot
By Adam Gorlick, Associated Press, 5/14/2003
AMHERST, Mass. -- The Minuteman has won his battle against the gray wolf.
After upsetting students, alumni, sports fans and even state lawmakers, the University of Massachusetts has backed off its proposal to retire its 31-year-old mascot, a Revolutionary War soldier, in favor of the wild canine.
"As it was in 1775, the Minuteman triumphs," Athletic Director Ian McCaw said Wednesday to the applause of UMass athletes and coaches.
McCaw had complained the Minuteman hasn't been selling many sweat shirts and hats for the cash-strapped school, which eliminated seven varsity teams last year.
But the public backlash against transforming the Minuteman into a wolf proved how popular the school's logo really is.
During the past six months, there hasn't been a single order for apparel with the Minuteman logo, McCaw said. This week, the school received three orders, he said.
"We've been incredibly impressed by the outpouring of support for the Minuteman," he said.
While the Minuteman may have won the logo war, he won't be without some battle scars.
Phoenix Design Works, which has so far been paid $10,000 to reconfigure the logo, is tweaking the Minuteman's design, McCaw said. Phoenix recommended re-enlisting the Minuteman, he said.
The newly designed logo and the lettering that will accompany it will be unveiled in about three weeks, and students are anxious to see what it looks like.
"Other than the Kennedys, the Minuteman is the most popular symbol for Massachusetts," said Pete Trovato, a 21-year-old member of the UMass hockey team from North Attleboro. "But they're going to have to spice him up. It's just a plain mascot right now."
McCaw wouldn't give any details of the new design, but he had expressed concern in the past about the white soldier's "gender, firearms and ethnicity issues."
He said the new design will "more broadly represent the university athletic programs."
Women athletes at UMass have been called the Minutewomen.
Tara Peters, a 21-year-old junior from Stoughton, said she's never been bothered by the mascot's masculinity.
"It's a historical reference," she said. "And even if they went with the gray wolves, that certainly implies a masculine gender."
Field hockey coach Patty Shea said too much time has been spent discussing the mascot's gender.
"It's not about the logo you're wearing," she said. "It's about the institution you represent. Our students and our athletes fight for what they believe in, and that's what the Minutemen represented."
While the real Minutemen carried guns, the student who dresses up in homespun uniform and a tri-corner hat at home games was disarmed years ago.
McCaw wouldn't say if the newly designed mascot will take to the field with weapon in hand.
"We're going to save some suspense for two or three weeks, when we do the formal unveiling," he said.
A decade ago, UMass officials considered dumping the Minuteman, which has been the school's mascot since it dropped the Redmen in 1972, but retreated in the face of an outpouring of outrage.
"We should be proud of the sacrifice that the colonial soldiers made for building this country," said Sen. Guy Glodis, D-Worcester, who filed a bill to make UMass nickname law.
However, since the early 1990s when the school's basketball and football teams were nationally ranked, revenues from souvenir sales have dropped from about $400,000 annually to $100,000.
The basketball team was 11-18 this season. The football team improved to 8-4 from 3-8 the year before.
Ticket sales have slumped and the state is considering slashing its support for the university by 20 percent.
McCaw said it's too soon to say what cuts will have to be made in the athletic program, which has an $18 million budget. He and UMass-Amherst Chancellor John Lombardi have called the $10,000 spent so far on re-examining the logo a good investment.
Now, McCaw said, the university and lawmakers have to focus on better funding the campus.
"It's critical that we have the resources we need to have a first-rate university here in Amherst and also to have a high quality Division I athletic program," he said.