When the late Carl Head, professor emeritus of engineering, first referred to Millikin’s 1916 undefeated football team as “Big Blue,” he created a quandary. What type of creature could serve as the official university mascot? The obvious choices in the animal kingdom — bluebirds, bluegills, etc., — are not sufficiently intimidating. It’s hard to imagine a football team called “The Fighting Bluegills,” isn’t it?
So the search for a mascot has waxed and waned over the years. Occasionally, a group of students will tackle the issue, determined to find an official mascot for the Big Blue. In 1960, a nominating committee spearheaded a student vote among six potential mascots: bull/ox, ram, bear, fox, falcon and Scottie dog (in honor of James Millikin’s Scottish ancestry). The falcon eventually won the vote, but the bird of prey never managed to hook its talons into MU’s heart. In fact, just a short time after winning the vote, the falcon mascot seemed to be as extinct as the passenger pigeon.
But like the legendary phoenix, the falcon rose again, appearing at the 1983 Homecoming football game (see photo at right). As you can see, he was christened “Big Blue,” and appropriate license was taken with the color of his plumage. But Big Blue apparently flew off into history and has not been seen in quite some time.
In 2007, a group of spirit-minded students — the Big Blue Spirit Crew — raised the mascot issue once again. Yet despite their proposal recommending that an official mascot be named, Millikin remains mascot-less.
Perhaps an appropriate mascot has not yet been proposed. Some think we should be looking closer to home for this university representative. In fact, rumors abound that university founder James Millikin might be drafted into service, with a student wearing an oversized “Jimmy M” head crafted to look like the university’s namesake. This would presumably lend itself to promotional activities and lively interaction with fans at home games. If you find this concept hard to picture, watch this video. The Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball stage a footrace during the fourth inning of every home game featuring the “racing presidents,” as caricatures of former presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt and, inexplicably, William Howard Taft, struggle to balance their huge domes while running.
Another uniquely Millikin possibility is a replica of the Bronze Man statue, complete with oversized head and “bronze” body. Presumably, he’ll be doing something more lively than reading “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
So what do you think? Is it time for students to take up the Big Blue banner and select an icon to rally around? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!
Margaret Allen Friend is associate editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine.