Just prior to the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, The Washington Post got into the March Madness spirit by creating a mascot emoji for every tourney team. But the idea hit a bit of a snag when it came to our own Indiana Hoosiers. Where every other team had a fairly straightforward mascot for inspiration, the Hoosiers had, well, none. But it’s not for lack of trying! Over the years, IU Bloomington has courted at least nine mascots; it just never found one we loved. A brief history of that mascot quest is below. (And if you’re wondering, WaPo solved for the Hoosiers’ emoji with the cap-wearing, face-painted fanatic pictured above. It didn’t stick, either.)
Perhaps the most appropriate mascot choice for IU’s “Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers” cheer.
Its tail was striped, yes, but lacked the proper cream and crimson color palette.
This short-term mascot was the son of athletic trainer “Bernie” Bernstein. He eventually outgrew the job.
Golden Eagle (1916)
The fine-feathered friend, dubbed “Jim Watson,” was adopted as mascot after it was found wounded and nursed back to health.
IUB’s first try at a canine mascot, but not its last.
Ox the Bulldog (1959)
Theta Chi’s house dog became a fan favorite for a time. But evidently man’s best friend did not become IUB’s best mascot, as Ox was never officially chosen.
Upon selection by the student senate, this mascot seemed to be a perfect fit: Bison, once native to Bloomington, even adorn the state seal. In practice, however, its costume was plagued with problems. (For one, it was unbearably hot—even by mascot costume standards.) Consequently, the bison fell out of favor after only a few years.
Disney’s Stand-In (1966)
Not even the magic of Walt Disney Productions could solve our mascot conundrum. Walt Disney himself served as grand marshal of the 1966 Rose Parade. Accordingly, his animation studio created the game program’s cover, which featured cartoon versions of various team mascots. For the Hoosiers, Disney illustrated a grass-chewing, barefoot brute—complete with a belt of rope tied round his waist—in the absence of an official mascot. Like WaPo, their artists were forced to get creative. History really does repeat itself.
Mr. Hoosier Pride (1979)
After animal options ran their course, IU tried its luck with Mr. Hoosier Pride. Alas, the mascot never inspired the Hoosier pride his name suggested. He lasted but a season.
This article was originally published in the fall 2020 issue of Imagine magazine.