CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois was looking for a new mascot. There was a contender. Now, some got their hands on “accidentally official merchandise” through one company.

You’ll remember in 2020, the University of Illinois Senate passed a resolution to adopt the Belted Kingfisher as its new mascot. But just because that resolution passed, doesn’t make the mascot official.

About a month ago the Champaign Target put up a display with Illinois merchandise. It included a pair of socks with this “accidentally official mascot.”

The design features the Belted Kingfisher bird. That design was put on socks through Strideline. Those socks were available through Target. Now, it appears they are no longer in stock.

The creator of the mascot design, Spencer Hulsey– a U of I alumna–said she was alerted about the merchandise through a Facebook message from a U of I professor. That happened in July. Until then, she was not aware of the company using her design.

She said she was never asked for her artwork to be used.

“Very interesting, little flattering. You know Target, to mid-westerners, is the boujee Walmart right. So, to see your artwork in the boujee Walmart I was like oh man, it’s being marketed as official NCAA merchandise. It isn’t,” she said.

Hulsey said she contacted a lawyer regarding the sale of the design and reached out to Target. So far, she hasn’t heard back from the store.

She believes the company found an old article with a picture of her drawing, and maybe thought that was the official new mascot and started making the socks.

We reached out to the U of I and asked if this mascot and merchandise was meant to happen. A spokesperson said the university has not knowingly licensed the creation of any Kingfisher related products.

We also reached out to Strideline to try and figure out how this happened, but have yet to hear back.

In September 2020, the U of I student senate approved the design. There is no word on if the university will implement the design. Hulsey said the next step would be for the chancellor to sign off on the design.