Who will replace Wally?
The senior gift this year is going to help pay for the creation of a new UP mascot
By Katie Schleiss
Senior Joe Coulter remembers the day when Wally, the long-serving school mascot, was laid to rest. He described the ordeal as a very solemn memorial, kind of like a mock funeral, with mock eulogies and mock crying. The mascot costume was placed in a casket, covered with a University of Portland flag and carried down to the Willamette River as though it would be dumped in the river.
"That was one scary mascot. It was a terrible costume," Coulter said. "The eyes were way too big and the smile looked like he was going to kill someone. Kids would run away from it during basketball games."
Since this day in the fall of 2005, the University has not yet replaced the mascot. However, the goal of this year's Senior Gift Committee is to raise about $5,000 to pay for the new and improved mascot. ASUP president Kyle Bunch said when the original mascot was taken away, it was with the intention of bringing a new mascot in the near future. However, this has been low on the University's list of priorities, until now.
"The Senior Gift hopes to raise about $5,000 to pay for the new mascot, with costs going to a designer and the actual materials used to create the costume," Bunch said. The committee is planning a fundraiser to help raise enough money.
One event planned is "A Night on the Town," which will take place on Feb. 13. Bunch hopes that this event will raise around $2,000. Admission will be $15 and there will be music, beer, food and giveaways.
The event will take place at Sameunderneath Clothing Company on Mississippi Avenue, which is owned by one of the members the Board of Regents who approached the Senior Gift Committee and offered to host the event.
"We are hoping that the sale of what senior T-shirts will raise around $1,000, and that donations ?and letters sent to parents will raise the remainder of the money needed," Busch said. "If we raise enough money, the new mascot should be in the process of being designed by the end of the semester."
Trish Miller, athletics marketing director, said that the primary reason for getting rid of Wally was because the image wasn't exciting enough. She said that there wasn't any spirit in terms of inspiring the fans or contributing to the game atmosphere. She described Wally as nothing more than a foam head on a body.
"It was almost embarrassing," Miller said.
The actual design of the new mascot has not been decided, Bunch said, but some possibilities include a redesign of the original Wally the Pilot mascot costume. Right now, Bunch said that once the committee is confident that they have raised enough money, they will be able to go through the design process.
"For something like this, I would imagine it costing around $10,000," Miller said. "It's really expensive, which is why this project has been on hold. The intent would be that the Athletics office would pay for half and the other half of the funds would come from fundraising."
Bunch said a committee formed from individuals working in the Athletics Department will decide what the mascot will be, but students will also have many opportunities to provide input. Although Bunch said that there are no definite plans yet, ways that students could give feedback would include voting online, and suggestion boxes should be installed around spring break.
"Do people want the old Wally image back, a quirky pilot type of guy, or something else entirely? I'd love to see the students involved and voting. I want this to be a student project and student driven," Miller said.
If the whole process runs smoothly, Miller projected the University could expect to see the new mascot up and running by the next basketball season.
"Ultimately, the point of a mascot is to excite the fans, rally them as a leader, and represent the Athletics Department. We should be proud of it," Miller said