TAHLEQUAH - A little more than a year from now, Northeastern State University will be sporting a new mascot.
NSU President Dr. Larry Williams announced today that the state's oldest institution of higher learning will begin the process of finding a new mascot this summer. Williams' decision to form a task force charged with guiding the selection and implementation of a new mascot to represent NSU's athletic teams follows an extensive study of how logos and the name Redmen are used throughout the University.
In a campuswide email to NSU students, faculty, and staff, Williams said, "I am quite confident that NSU has been responsible, respectful, and consistent in our usage of the name. However, after listening to leaders within the American Indian community and hearing from many of our alumni, I have concluded that it is in the best interest of NSU to find a new mascot that will generate respect across the wide spectrum of individuals that make up the alumni, faculty, staff, students, friends, and supporters of this great University."
During the past several years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has requested all colleges and universities with American Indian mascots to review the use of their mascots. NSU's use of the Redmen nickname - the institution does not assign a mascot to symbolize the moniker - has been under scrutiny by the athletic governing board for several years, although NSU has not been asked to make a change.
Several institutions across the United States have made headlines in an effort to comply with NCAA guidelines and some have been forced into decisions to avoid team penalties. Although Northeastern's use of the Redmen mascot has not been classified as "hostile or abusive" by the NCAA, restrictions connected to the use of American Indian nicknames could affect future NSU athletic competitions unless the University takes the initiative to comply before the Redmen name becomes an issue.
Williams indicated a new mascot would be unveiled before the start of the 2007-08 academic year, which begins in August 2007.
During the next fifteen months, a task force appointed by Williams will solicit input through focus groups, develop a plan for selecting the new mascot, and implement steps for a smooth transition to a new identity.
"I believe that designating a mascot is a matter that should be the responsibility of stakeholders in the University, not driven by pressure from a national governing body," Williams said. "By starting now, we have the opportunity to decide on a mascot that everyone connected to the University can rally behind and cheer to victory."
University records indicate the Redmen mascot was officially adopted in October 1924, chosen by a vote of the faculty to replace the name "Warriors." Several characters have been introduced through the years to depict the Redmen mascot, but now are part of NSU history and lore, found only in yearbooks or in the University's archives.
With NSU's 17-month Centennial Celebration starting in August 2008, University officials hope to identify a mascot "symbolic of the institution's history and inspiring for future generations," Williams said.