Rowdy the Riverhawk, NSU's new mascot, runs along the football field.
Picture courtesy www.nsuok.edu.
NSU’s most recent mascot change may have been the most lengthy and controversial in the school’s history, but it was not the first.
While most students on campus have only witnessed the furry green mop-top known as Rowdy the Redman cheering on our players at sporting events, there is a wide and somewhat unusual array of mascots in the school’s history.
After roughly 22 years on campus, Mike Brown, art instructor, recalls more than one of the school’s old furry friends.
“When I came to campus the whole Banana mascot thing had just taken place,” said Brown. “You know, ‘NSU is very a"peel"ing!’ And while a student here, a man began dressing up as a gorilla and coming to the NSU soccer matches. He became, kind of, the un-official mascot and began showing up at other athletic events. "Go Ape over NSU" was heard more than once during that time frame.”
The banana mascot was born in the fall of 1981, and was a public relations gimmick for the school, hence the cheesy catch phrase that accompanied it. The original “man behind the peel” was an un-named faculty member, but he was later replaced by a student who is now a faculty member himself.
The Tom-a-Hawk mascot that once represented NSU fights with a mascot from another school.
“I was approached by this instructor for my ‘outgoing craziness.’ I couldn’t pass it up. The ‘man behind [the peel]’ was very hush-hush. Few people knew who it was, including my now wife of 26 years,” said Kevin Stretch, instructional materials designer. “Most people disliked the Banana immensely. During parades and games I would get heckled by NSU fans, and objects thrown at me. "
"Have you ever been hit by a micro-waved banana? It is basically liquid goo on the inside and, until it hits you, the goo’s all contained inside its skin! Yuck!”
Along with the banana and the gorilla came an array of short lived mascots, some traditional and some even stranger than the banana.
“During the early ‘80s I remember various takes of the whole, dare I mention, Redmen mascot,” said Brown. “There was a warrior-like person on a horse, a couple of identifiable Native American young people in ribbon shirts that were visible on the football sidelines, but nothing really permanent. Soon after, then President Roger Webb came back from a trip to Harvard, and we began hearing the first rumblings of a new mascot. Everyone talked about the Hawks, and before long a huge Hawk character began to grace the sidelines of football games. It seemed very popular, although, most didn't understand why a Hawk for a team called the Redmen.”
Along with the Native American students in traditional dress on the sidelines with the cheerleaders and the hawk mascot who graced the school’s football field, Kevin Stretch remembers someone running around in a home-made prune outfit for a short period of time as well.
After all the crazy creatures and food items that called NSU home came the most recent retired character that current students still remember fondly. Rowdy the Redman, although somewhat strange looking, was well loved by students on campus. Derrek McGowen, one of the students who donned the mop-haired Rowdy head, thoroughly enjoyed his time as the mascot.
"I was Rowdy during the last part of fall 2005 and al of the spring 2006 semesters,” said McGowen.
Derrek McGowen donned the Rowdy the Redmen suit during its last year as NSU's mascot.
“To be honest, I loved to scare little kids while in the uniform. I was at an educational conference once and I kicked a kid in the stomach. It was a really short kid, and I didn't see him coming.”
Through the years the mascots have been created for publicity, humor, heritage and school pride. The most recent change included not just the costume on the field, but the name of the mascot and the school’s logo.
“The power of school pride transcends the image of any mascot,” said Stretch. “RiverHawks is an excellent choice for the mascot as it is unique, projects a powerful image and is both respectful to and representative of the geography and culture of the area. The RiverHawks quickly became accepted by the NSU community and no discerning comments are heard. It’s a very welcome and positive progress.”
What started out as a controversial battle over the change has now become the accepted image of the school, but whether or not the new mascot will stand the test of time remains to be seen.