Fighting Hawks mascot in the works

Student-led group in early stages of process to create a new public face for UND Athletics

Eric Gefroh

Eric Gefroh, a member of UND’s Student Government leadership team, addresses members of a recently formed UND mascot task force. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

“New name, same tradition.”

That’s been the message around the community in recent months to sum up UND Athletics’ revamped attitude and identity. That is — amid changes, UND is still winning in the classroom and on the playing field.

Now a group of students want to take that vibe to another level by developing an actual Fighting Hawks mascot to be the new public face for UND Athletics. A preliminary task force of student leaders has been meeting in recent weeks to talk about that very goal.

“It’s a very exciting thing,” said Eric Gefroh, a member of UND Student Government and part of the task force. “It’s also good to see that students want to get involved in the process — I think a mascot is good for the entire UND community.”

Erik Hanson

UND Student Body Vice President Erik Hanson, a member of the mascot task force, expressed the importance of reinforcing the University’s identity in a way that both current and future UND stakeholders can support and embrace. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Learning from past

Gefroh and his team hope to establish a selection process that’s inclusive and decisive, with an awareness of challenges that have impacted UND nickname decisions in the past.

UND Student Body Vice President Erik Hanson, another member of the task force, alluded to the difficult decisions and public process that helped the University select its current Fighting Hawks name and logo.

“We will try to utilize that information as best as possible to craft our own process; however, it also raises the bar on expectations this time around,” Hanson said.

Hanson added that the right kind of mascot presents an opportunity to build on the brand of the University on campus, in the community and beyond.

Gefroh said, though the process is student driven, input from multiple University stakeholders will be take into consideration, using techniques such as focus groups to help make important decisions.

“That way we can get their input on matters such as the name of the mascot as well as the final look,” he said.

Thunder the bleacher creature

UND hasn’t had a mascot – official or otherwise — among its athletic programs since “Thunder the Bleacher Creature” went missing in the early 1990s.

Early ‘mascots’

Since “Thunder the Bleacher Creature” went mysteriously missing in the early 1990s, UND hasn’t had a mascot – official or otherwise — among its athletic programs.

According to UND archives, when the University changed nicknames from “Flickertails” to “Fighting Sioux” in 1930, it was in direct response to the selection of “Bison” as a nickname by chief in-state rival North Dakota State. The induction of the Sioux nickname spawned many graphical representations, but none manifested in an official mascot.

Sammy Sioux — the University’s unofficial “mascot” until the 1970s — adorned buttons, cups, shirts and other such merchandise in the Grand Forks community.

Something to rally behind

While everything regarding the mascot’s development is still in the works, a request for proposal has been sent to potential vendors. Once an evaluation team of students and staff determine the best offer, work can begin on design proposals for the new mascot.

Gefroh said it’s a little early to know what the task force is looking for.

“Obviously we want something to go with the Fighting Hawks logo identity, but it’s pretty wide open as to how we want it to look,” he said.

The next big step will occur in March, when a proposal is awarded and campus groups are formed to figure out the design process.

Hanson says the work of students to develop a new mascot will have both immediate and far-reaching impacts.

“We hope to not only shift culture on campus with our current students and their perception of UND’s new identity but also to look at the next generation who will be in the classrooms we fill today,” Hanson said. “While change is difficult, we hope this project will help bridge the gap for the students of the future by having a physical identity in which they can rally behind.”