UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS — Is the university ready for a mascot? That’s what some students are trying to figure out. It’s been more than nine years since Chief Illiniwek’s last dance. So members of the Student Senate are looking to move forward.
They want to make sure the community is on board first. They’ve met with students already to get their feedback, but they still plan to talk with alumni, faculty and other fans. They started working on this last month. Alex Villanueva, who is the committee’s co-chair, says they don’t want to jump the gun if people aren’t ready, so they’re taking the next few weeks to make sure they get a lot of input. They say the “Fighting Illini” name will stay the same, so it would just be a matter of finding a mascot to fit that brand. People we talked with say they’re not sure what to think.
“I think they would need to do some soul-searching and really figure out the heart of this community because this school, this area, goes so far beyond just the grounds of campus, especially for sports,” said Taylor Good, who lives in Champaign.
“Once we figure out an animal to represent the U of I, then we can think of a mascot,” said Tilo Lamken, who is a freshman. “Nothing too cheesy, nothing that’s going to offend anybody. Something that’s going to bring support to our games.”
“I’d probably say the squirrel or corn, because it’s Illinois,” said Kayla Bibbs, who is a senior. “I don’t think it really matters because right now, we don’t really have one and we’re doing fine.”
People say now may be as good a time as any, with all the other changes in athletics lately. But there still are a lot of people who love the chief and don’t want to replace him.
The committee is planning to invite people from the community to give their input next Friday at 5 PM. They want to meet somewhere on campus, but they’re still working out the location.