Contest for New Illinois Symbol Goes a Bit off the Rails

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Contest for New Illinois Symbol Goes a Bit off the Rails
Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images
Just a reminder: Illinois did this for decades and was totally cool with it.

As the University of Illinois continues to distance itself from what has been at times a racially insensitive depiction of Native Americans, it has to decide what to do about the fact that its official symbol has been just straight up a Native American guy. The mascot name may never go away—more on that later, in fact—but at the very least the visuals are going to be more tolerable.

To that end, the school discontinued the use of the dancing "Chief Illiniwek" mascot, and now the school is considering a new logo to boot. To that end, a University of Illinois student organization is taking charge of a movement to present the University with some options for a new logo, and it solicited student suggestions. Here's more from the Daily Illini:

Of the 46 symbols that students can vote for, the top 5 will be presented to University administration by Campus Spirit Revival, a registered student organization.

Based on the results of this vote, the University will decide whether to continue on with the process of choosing a new symbol.

Only Illinois students can vote (here), but fortunately the University of Illinois student organization put all 46 candidates on Facebook for perusal.

Some of the suggestions are good and some are ridiculous, and some make it clear that the artist didn't understand the point that this was for a symbol and not a new mascot or school nickname. So while a giant mechanical block "I" on tank treads is certainly a creative idea, it's not really what they were going for. Same goes for the, um, "Fighting Abes," which must have been based off a of scene from Lincoln that never made it past editing.

Before we get into the decent choices, there's one in particular that we'd like to single out.

Why would we point out this bit of silliness? Well, for this:

via the "Campus Spirit Revival" Facebook page

It's easier said than done to give Illinois a mascot, however, because basically any interpretation of "Fighting Illini" in a mascot is going to be racially offensive (hint, hint, Illinois). Thus, [...] an anthropomorphized state of Illinois, with arms and legs and a face right around where Rockford is. Does that sound stupid and insulting to everyone's intelligence? Then it's a good mascot.

That's not from the entry's description of the "artwork," if that's what you want to call it; it's from our suggestion of a new mascot for Illinois from five weeks ago. Now we're not saying this is plagiarism—in fact, we wish we'd thought of the Lincoln hat on top of the state—but we are thus throwing our editorial support behind it, even though it's not at all in the spirit of the competition.

There are some decent ideas therein that you should check out—this one of a WWI soldier, for example, is more than a little terrifying, but at least it's grounded in history. If the term "Fighting Illini" was originally used to describe soldiers from the university who had been sent off to war, then that's at least more historically appropriate than the term "Chief Illiniwek," which is about as accurate as referring to Charles de Gaulle as "King Frenchy". (The short version of that: The "Illiniwek" were not a tribe with a chief, but a confederation that actually called themselves the "Inoka." The more you know!)

Moreover, the school already has a proud tradition of honoring its war casualties, naming Memorial Stadium after them and honoring them there with engravings bearing the names of the 181 such soldiers from the school who lost their lives in WWI.

So if a logo went that direction, it'd at least have some historical backing.

Do we have time for one more silly idea, though? Yes, of course we do. Behold:

via the "Campus Spirit Revival" Facebook page

Rabid the Squirrel...who is holding a basketball...which means either the basketball is teeny-tiny or our friend Rabid here is the most enormous squirrel ever by orders of magnitude. But where's the mouth foam? You have to sell us on the rabies, folks. Right now it just looks like Surly the Squirrel.

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