If you were bothered by the lack of a costumed character roaming the sidelines at Illinois football and basketball games, your troubles are over.
University of Illinois chancellor Barbara J. Wilson announced during a campus meeting Monday that the school is beginning the process of choosing a new mascot, according to a report from the Champaign News-Gazette's Julie Wurth.
Mind you, this isn't signalling the return of Chief Illiniwek, who wasn't a masoct anyway, the university classifying the Chief as a symbol. No, this is something new, and the result would figure to be more in the vein of the cartoonish figures celebrating touchdowns and crowd surfing at football and basketball games.
Wilson endorsed the recommendation from an Illinois Student Senate ad hoc committee that recently urged the campus to move forward with a mascot. She met with the group on Friday.
She plans to form a committee of 10 to 12 people that will draw up a process and a timeline. It will include representatives from all the stakeholders involved — students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.
Wilson, who had already signaled her support for the student effort, said last week that any new mascot would embody the values and traditions of the campus.
Chief Illiniwek was retired in 2007 amid concerns that the costumed performer was offensive to Native Americans. The Illinois marching band still plays the music the Chief used to perform to, and people wearing the costume have appeared in the stands during games while the music played. All that, of course, is unofficial, and while many Illini alumi and fans continue to hope the university will bring back Chief Illiniwek, they will have to settle for whatever this new mascot ends up being.
Certainly, Wilson seems aware that this is a sensitive subject for many.
UI's Wilson on mascot: "It's not going to be easy going forward ... there are lots of opinions on this." #illini— Julie Wurth (@jawurth) May 2, 2016
Illinois is currently one of just three Big Ten schools without a costumed mascot, Indiana and Michigan being the others. Iowa boasts Herky Hawkeye, Maryland has Testudo, Michigan State has Sparty, Minnesota has Goldy Gopher, Nebraska has Herbie Husker (and Li'l Red), Northwestern has Willie Wildcat, Ohio State has Brutus Buckeye, Penn State has the Nittany Lion, Purdue has Purdue Pete, Rutgers has the Scarlet Knight and Wisconsin has Bucky Badger.