TAHLEQUAH -- With the start of fall semester 2007, athletic teams at Northeastern State University will be known as the RiverHawks, University officials announced during a press conference Tuesday morning.
The selection of a new mascot resulted from a seven-month process that solicited input from NSU students, alumni, faculty, and staff, along with community members in the region served by the institution’s three campuses.
Among the six semi-finalists presented for public review in October, RiverHawks was favored by nearly one-third of those who voted for their top preference. With 4,204 votes cast online through the NSU website and during Homecoming activities last month, 1,345 preferred RiverHawks. In second place with 28 percent of the votes counted was the name War Eagles, with Wolves coming in a distant third at 17 percent.
NSU President Dr. Larry Williams said he was pleased with the way the selection process has been conducted and is confident the University’s various constituencies have had an opportunity to offer their suggestions and voice their preferences.
“I would like to thank everyone who took time to suggest names for the new mascot and voted for their favorite choice,” Williams said. “Throughout this process, we have been committed to letting individuals who have a vested interest in this institution guide the change. Members of the Mascot Selection Task Force spent many hours reviewing suggestions submitted online, and presented for public review the choices they felt were the best fit for NSU. Now that the majority of those who participated have selected RiverHawks as our new mascot, the task force can begin to implement a smooth transition to our new spirit logo.”
Last May, Williams formed a 40-member task force charged with guiding the selection and implementation of a new mascot to represent NSU’s athletic teams. The decision to replace the Redmen nickname -- the official moniker for Northeastern athletics since 1924 – was necessary to comply with National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines concerning the use of Native American mascots. The mascot task force is made up of NSU alumni, faculty, staff, students, and supporters, along with representatives from the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band.
The announcement of a mascot selection completes the second part of a three-phase process. On Aug. 15, NSU launched the first phase in the form of an online “suggestion box” through which students, alumni, faculty, staff, community members, and anyone interested in the mascot selection process could submit ideas. When duplicates were eliminated from the 1,372 responses gathered during a six-week period, more than 300 different suggestions resulted. Task force members carefully reviewed the submissions, choosing six that the group collectively agreed were appropriate for NSU.
The second phase began with paper balloting on Oct. 13 during NSU’s Homecoming 2006 celebration, and continued online at the NSU website through Oct. 31. Those who voted were asked to indicate their top preference, along with the reason for their choice.
In the survey responses, a significant number who chose the name RiverHawks cited the connection to the Illinois River (a traditional recreation area for NSU students since the school was founded in 1909). Along with the geographic reference, RiverHawks was popular because the name represents a bird that is “swift and courageous,” “master of its surroundings,” “a formidable bird of prey,” and “a fitting symbol of the readiness and strength that NSU affords its graduates,” among other similar reasons.
Many also liked the name because it is unique among institutions of higher learning. Currently, the University of Massachusetts Lowell is the only other college or University in the U.S. that calls itself the River Hawks (spelled as two words).
In phase three, NSU will begin the process of developing the brand identity for a spirit logo that will be unveiled before spring commencement 2007.
The Mascot Selection Task Force will work with Rickabaugh Graphics, an Ohio-based graphic design firm experienced in collegiate mascot transitioning, to create a new spirit logo for the RiverHawks mascot, as well as a unique typography to complement the icon’s image. While NSU will continue using green and white as official colors, a third color will be added as part of the new logo.
“In creating the look for the new mascot, Rickabaugh Graphics will consider the history and culture of NSU and the area we serve,” Williams said. “We anticipate RiverHawks will be depicted in a way that inspires pride in the institution, a competitive spirit among our athletes, and a unique identity that we can all support and rally behind.”
Once the logo is created and approved by the mascot task force, NSU will begin the transition to new signage on campus, athletic uniforms, and other visual representations of the new nickname. “Members of the Mascot Selection Task Force will continue to meet and discuss how we can insure a smooth transition to our new mascot identity,” Williams said. “The success of this effort can be attributed to dedicated individuals working together to insure the spirit of NSU is maintained.”
Williams noted that the change to a new mascot has been a difficult transition for the University and some of its alumni as well. “Our teams will remain the Redmen through the end of this school year. During this time, we as a University community and all of our supporters have the opportunity to unite under a new name. I urge everyone to remember it doesn’t matter what our name or our mascot is. It matters that we get behind and support our student athletes and our coaches who represent this great University. Our job as fans is to show we support them and appreciate what they represent to us, their hard work, and their dedication to making NSU Oklahoma’s premier regional University.”
Follow the mascot process online at http://www.nsuok.edu/mascot/