Mascot revamp sparks mocking and bewilderment

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The new Billiken mascot was unveiled at last to anxiously awaiting fans in between the men’s and women’s soccer game on Sept. 20, and in an online video posted by SLU. Its redesign matches SLU’s new logo, which was redone last November.

But while most of the campus may have adjusted to the two-dimensional logo, the physical mascot received some especially harsh feedback. SLU students did not hold back their comments, especially on social media. Facebook, Twitter and other sites blew up within minutes of the reveal. An online petition requesting that SLU bring back the “old” Billiken received nearly 1,500 signatures.

It has been a long time since the original mascot appeared over a century ago. Te Billiken began as a Japanese good luck charm and was then brought to life reflecting similarities to SLU’s football coach, John Bender. Many models have been created over the years, but the newest one is at the forefront of Billiken fans’ minds.

“I was pretty confused (about the new mascot). How’d this scary mascot with a disproportionate head size and strange coloring get past a focus group?” sophomore Julianna Curley said.

Corinne Murphy, a graduate student, revealed that while she was not fond of the former Billiken, the newest iteration has impressed her even less. “I was never a fan of the Billiken. I think it’s weird. However, SLU made it more creepy and scary, and I miss the old Billiken, which I never thought I’d say.”

Junior Joe Faerber agrees with the resistance to change. “It’s a classic example of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ There was nothing wrong with the original Billiken,” he said. “As you can see on social media, it’s gotten awful feedback. I see what they were trying to go for, but I think they took a shot and missed badly.”

Many programs and universities revamp their look anywhere from every eight to upwards of 25 years. This week marks the Billiken’s first facelift since the early 1990’s. It was intended to conform to a fresher and more geometric look that many other schools were beginning to sport.

Some critics see the change as an effort to fit the mold of more intimidating and modern mascots of bigger programs. “Coming from Omaha where they changed Creighton’s mascot to try and contend with big schools, I wasn’t surprised when the Billiken looked fierce and uninviting, but I hoped SLU wouldn’t resign to conformity,” Curley said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted SLU President Fred Pestello about the reveal. “We feel particularly blessed because our mascot is so unique,” Pestello said. “(Students) pushed for a Billiken that was more contemporary. More aggressive looking, but still smiling and giving that knowing wink.”

Students, alumni and others across the country think that the once cute and quirky face is now too aggressive for what the Billiken represents.

Even Sports Illustrated commented on the change. “Mascots are always creepy. A person in a plush suit always looks unnatural, but SLU has created one of the most unnerving mascots ever. The new Billiken is not ‘things as they ought to be.’ It’s a monster.”

Deadspin’s headline for their article speaks for itself: “SLU’s new mascot is hungry for your soul.” They further commented, “Responses to the university’s Twitter rollout of the Billiken have been universally negative. I hope the winking demon has mercy upon those who speak against it.”

The SLU community is still buzzing about the updated mascot, but Curley thinks heated feelings will die down quickly and acceptance may be on the horizon. “The SLU community got used to the new mascot being painted on the fields, courts and apparel, so I have a feeling once everyone voices how much they hate the new mascot, it’ll go back to normal,” she said. “While I would love to see SLU’s administration take our criticism seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if things stayed the same.”

The next day, the Billiken personally responded to his haters with a video on his twitter account, @The_Billiken, which depicted him looking disappointed and frustrated at a computer screen, evidently scrolling through the volatile comments about his new appearance. He then slams the computer shut and leaves to go interact with students around campus. The video concludes: “The first day on the job can be rough, but at the end of a long day, it’s still great to be a Billiken.” With opinions continuing to float across social media and through the gossip chain of SLU’s campus, Billiken followers will be interested to see how the administration chooses to respond and whether the newest Billiken is here to stay.