The University of Denver will be releasing a new mascot soon after years of development. Boone, the previous mascot, represented a highly controversial figure, and was terminated in 1998 only to be brought back by alumni in 2009 as an unaffiliated mascot. Rufus “Potato” Clarke may be the answer, as a role model, DU graduate and donor, his story is more relatable. A board of influential DU students called the 14ers were brought this task, of changing and rolling out the new mascot. The mascot must represent the DU community and embody its spirit.
Chancellor Chopp in a recent interview stated “So, down the road, if the students were to want a mascot and want to imagine one, that would come after a much greater sense of school spirit.”
The 14ers goal was to, “find a figure that is inclusive of all elements at our school”, according to Jill Thomas, DU student and member of the 14ers. The board was brought the story of Rufus “Potato” Clarke, a graduate, potato farmer, and the original donor of the land DU sits upon now.
Many DU alumni and students have been opposed to the change from Boone. This has been represented by Boone’s presence at college games. The lacrosse goalie almost always wearing Boone patches since 2006. And the termination of an Alumni run fan page, LetsGoDU, which the owner, Damien Goddard says, “There’s no point in having the blog if we don’t have Boone”.
Rufus “Potato” Clarke certainly “represents a more inclusive figure” than Daniel Boone, a man who began the conquering of the West with a passage through the Appalachian Mountains. As well as fought against Native Americans.
Boone offends several cultural groups on campus, and according to Coombe, former DU Chancellor, ““Boone was a polarizing figure that did not reflect the growing diversity of the DU community, but rather was an image that many women, persons of color, international students and faculty members found difficult to relate to as defining the pioneering spirit.”
Chancellor Chop, “I think that mascots usually represent the community. So, down the road, if the students were to want a mascot and want to imagine one, that would come after a much greater sense of school spirit.”
The University certainly does not want to have a mascot that is disliked but they are currently, “testing the waters” with “Potato” Clarke. According to Jill, the mascot will have the body of a pioneer and the head of a potato, for his nickname. DU will retain the Pioneers as a name, however it will now be represented by Rufus instead of Boone.
Jill Thomas said, “We knew that we were going to have to display the story before we displayed the image”. This is per the posters hung up in the Driscoll bathrooms explaining the story of Rufus “Potato” Clarke (as shown below).
Thomas explained this change is still an idea, and it will not happen if DU students show that they do not want it. However, to the board and some alumni the idea of Rufus becoming the new mascot seems to make more and more sense.
The DU community seems pretty split on the whole subject with half of the 10 students polled supporting Boone with a dislike for Rufus the “potato”. The other supporting Rufus with a dislike for the Boone.
A 14er member explained, “I think a lot of people are uneasy about it”. The idea of a potato as our mascot is very surprising however untrue. Members of the DU community are shocked by the potential potato mascot but this however is the result of rumors. No one is informed on what actual change is coming because nothing has yet to be released.
With an understanding of the story of Rufus and the potential mascot change students could make an informed decision on what they want. However, this information has yet to be released because of the 14ers roll out strategy, focusing on the story of Rufus first.
DU attempted to roll out three mascots in 2013. The school sent out an email to all students with the images of a miner, elk, and jackrabbit asking for feedback. The result was $40,000-$100,000 spent on research and development with no mascot to show for it. The students did show however that they were ready for a new mascot with lots of involvement.
Other contenders in the past also included a climber but Thomas pointed out this was still very inclusive of a mascot that not everyone could relate to.
The most important aspect of a mascot is its values and how they are embodied by the school and its students. Jill Thomas made this clear by comparing the Pioneers to famous mascots like the Blue Devils, Buckeyes, etc. which embody their school and are really loved by the community.
DU is looking for a mascot like this however is unwilling to force this. Like Chopp said this change will really only come with the support and participation of students. Until then, the University of Denver will remain without a mascot, except for the unofficial Boone.
Chambers, M. (2013, June 04). DU Pioneers mascot “Denver Boone” at center of controversy. Retrieved May 27, 2016, from http://www.denverpost.com/2013/06/04/du-pioneers-mascot-denver-boone-at-center-of-controversy/
Calhoun, P. (2013, August 12). DU’s decision not to decide on a new mascot inspires petition drive. Retrieved May 27, 2016, from http://www.westword.com/news/dus-decision-not-to-decide-on-a-new-mascot-inspires-petition-drive-5895030
Davis, C. W. (2016, February 8). Chancellor Chopp Discusses DU’s Future. Retrieved May 27, 2016, from http://duclarion.com/2016/02/chancellor-chopp-discusses-dus-future/