The University of Toledo will soon be unveiling a second mascot.
A female version of Rocky the Rocket will make her debut Aug. 31 at the school’s 2011 Music Fest pep rally at the Centennial Mall on campus.
UT students and supporters can vote on a name for the female mascot at utoledo.edu/mascot through July 31, with six suggestions listed on the site: Rachel, Ricki, Rochel, Rochelle, Rockelle and Rocksy. There is also an option for write-in votes.
Rocky the Rocket will still represent UT at sporting events, athletic director Mike O’Brien said Monday, while the new female mascot will be restricted solely to community and nonathletic campus functions, at least for the time being.
“This is more of an institutional branding piece than an athletics item, per se,” O’Brien said. “We do not foresee having two mascots on the sideline at one time. This an opportunity for the university to increase its branding and to address all of the requests we get for Rocky.”
Larry Burns, UT’s vice president for external affairs, said the idea for a female mascot for the Rockets came from a female student who is the primary Rocky at UT.
An artist’s rendering of UT’s new mascot looks nearly identical to the current Rocky the Rocket, except she’s wearing a midnight blue and gold skirt and has a ponytail coming out of the back of her space helmet.
The Milwaukee-based Olympus Group designed the new mascot with input from the UT marketing office and division of external affairs.
“In today’s world, mascots are a wonderful way to reach out to middle schools and grade schools, to represent your organizations at a hospital, to meet people and things of that nature,” Burns said. “And so by having a secondary [mascot], it gives us a lot more ability to bring UT out to the community. That’s the driving force behind this.”
The Mud Hens and Bowling Green State University already have female mascots that have become ingrained into their respective team histories.
Mudonna has become just as popular as Muddy since her debut at Fifth Third Field in 2003, while Frieda has been Freddie’s counterpart at BGSU athletic events and campus functions since 1966.
Mudonna and Frieda are often seen roaming the sidelines and interacting with fans at their home fields and arenas, but that won’t necessarily be the case with the female mascot at UT.
“At this point, we don’t see the secondary mascot playing a role in athletics,” Burns added. “Maybe over time they will, but we’re not planning that immediately.
“With starting something new and respecting tradition and that, I just want to make sure we move at a pace that everyone is comfortable with, and I want to see how active this new mascot will be in the community. I don’t want to overcommit her time, if you will, since we want to use her for community outreach. We’ll try that first and see where that takes us.”
UT is developing a Web site for Rocket fans to visit and request an appearance from one of the two mascots at their event.
To address the influx of extra work that a second mascot requires, UT is also rehauling its mascot program to attract more students to suit up as Rocky or his new female sidekick. Students who perform as Rocky currently receive a $500 stipend per semester, but Burns would like to see that increased.
“In my opinion, it’s unfairly low right now based on the work that many of the students put into it,” Burns said. “Some of them put in if not hundreds of hours, certainly dozens of hours.”
Burns also said the initial reaction he’s heard and read about the new female mascot has been mostly negative; however, for those he’s been able to talk to and explain the reasoning for a second mascot, it’s been mostly positive.
“Most people don’t have a full understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Burns said. “This isn’t about creating another athletic mascot.”
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.