Much ado about mascots at local schools
September 27, 2005
GYPSUM – Eaton Reds. Arapahoe Warriors. Palmer Terrors. Alameda Pirates. Lamar Savages. Monte Vista Demons. Those are a few of the more controversial Colorado high school mascots, along with the Eagle Valley Devils, the downvalley high school. American Indian mascots are vanishing across the nation and Colorado. In Arvada, a high school changed it name from the Redskins to the Reds and use a red bulldog for a mascot. The Eaton Reds, from a high school near Greeley, have chosen to stay with their mascot – an American Indian.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s executive committee recently considered banning all American Indian mascots – and did so for post-season play – but ultimately decided that it was up to universities and colleges to choose their mascots.Tradition and history are usually behind the choice of a mascot. Often, students are stuck with what generations of students before them picked. Upvalley, Battle Mountain’s Husky draws no controversy. In 1958, The Red Cliff High School Panthers and the Minturn High School Bulldogs consolidated into Battle Mountain High School. Students chose “Huskies” over “Wildcats” by a landslide, and the black and gold Huskies remain.Eagle Valley’s Devil falls into another controversial category, one where religion – not ethnicity or race – is the focus. “There are better mascots, but as I look at it, it’s a cute little guy with horns,” says Winsor Stough, minister at the Eagle Valley Community Church.Stough says songs that celebrate or emphasize Eagle Valley’s devil should be eliminated and the school should take a more lighthearted approach to the mascot, focusing on ‘Eagle Valley’ part of the school’s name. Parent Cathy Strickler says she agrees. “I understand how important tradition is, but it would be nice to have a mascot that highlights the valley’s history, like the eagle,” says Strickler. Daughters not ‘damaged’In 1960, the Gypsum High School Pirates and the Eagle High School Eagles consolidated into a larger high school in Gypsum. The student body voted between the black-and-white Devils and the green-and-white Trojans, and the devil won. Eagle Valley Middle School in Eagle are now the Pirates, and somehow the unfortunate eagle mascot got left in the dust. The pirate has also caused controversy. “About a decade ago, we discussed the possibility of changing the pirate mascot into something else,” says Jerry Santoro, Eagle Valley Middle School’s principal. “The overall feeling at the time was that ‘traditions’ were important and that previous generations had gone through school with the pirate as a mascot, and no once actually saw us or our teams as trying to emulate pirates,” Santoro says. As a result, the school toned down the image considerably – taking the knife out of the mascot’s mouth, for example. Santoro has two daughters – one an Eagle Valley High graduate and one currently at the home of the Devils. “The choice of this mascot probably would not have been first on my list when it was originally chosen,” Santoro says. “I also recognize that I wasn’t here when that choice was made, and have learned not to criticize that which I know little about.”Both of Santoro’s daughters have participated in numerous sports at the school and worn the Devils uniforms. “I recognize that some people find the use of this mascot offensive, but in our situation neither of our children have expressed a desire to change the mascot, nor do they seem damaged by this experience,” Santoro adds. Toning the Devil downAt Glenwood Springs High School, the administration catches flak every few years or so for their demon mascot. “There are better mascots out there – you can’t do much with our mascot,” says Steve Cable, the school’s athletics director . “We don’t have any demons in our building and Glenwood is on our football jerseys and other uniforms.”Despite the controversy, there is no push to change the mascot. “I guess you can make an issue out of anything,” says Cable, who’s been at the school for 28 years. Glenwood’s demon is much scarier than the Hotstuff Devil at Eagle Valley, which is probably why the devil is more visible throughout the building. Because of that, Eagle Valley Athletics Director Dave Scott says it would cost about a half a million dollars to change the mascot.”Regardless of the mascot, the representation of the mascot is what’s important,” says Mike Gass, the Eagle County school district’s director of secondary education. “I think Eagle Valley has done a good job of toning down the intensity of the mascot.”Eagle Valley High Principal Mark Strakbein says he agrees. “I haven’t seen where our mascot has influenced the moral or religious behavior of our students,” says Strakbein, who has been a Papoose, Indian, Mountaineer, Husky and Devil throughout his school years. Vail, Colorado