The last Bradley University mascot survived just six basketball seasons.
On Jan. 22, 1994, Bradley introduced the Bobcat as the university mascot. This was after the Native American mascot Brad E. Lee was retired following the 1987-88 season, due in part to its racist nature and to its decreased popularity among students.
So Bradley chose a Bobcat. Yes, a Bobcat, which has seemingly no connection to the university besides the fact that both “Bradley” and “Bobcat” start with the same letter.
According to a Sept. 1, 2000 Scout article, former University President John Brazil chose the Bobcat from more than 60 recommendations for “its aggressiveness, the fact that it lives on a hilltop and that the sex is not easily identifiable.”
Unfortunately for the Bradley Bobcat, students didn’t care that it was androgynous, and it was retired in 2000. In the same Scout issue, an online poll showed that 72 percent of students were happy with the Bobcat’s axing.
“There were no friends of the Bobcat,” said former University President David Broski, who made the decision to ditch the Bobcat while starting his tenure at Bradley. “I would argue that even with the Bobcat, we never had a mascot.”
Which brings up an interesting question for the Hilltop of 2014. Do we have a mascot?
Kaboom! debuted at the men’s basketball game Saturday night, amidst a cloud of smoke and pyrotechnics. Once the smoke cleared, we were left with a character that was somehow fierce yet huggable, charming yet awkward and a lot of mixed reviews.
A January 1994 Peoria Journal Star article by Dave Reynolds said the Bobcat faced “scattered boos” at his debut, which is something that also happened with Kaboom! during his reveal. Either that, or choosing a mascot nickname with the word “boo” in it wasn’t the smartest decision.
Also similar to the Bradley Bobcat, many students feel disconnect with the name Kaboom! And we do too.
We realize now that the name is a nod to Dave Snell, the voice of the Bradley Braves men’s basketball team since 1979, but it took us some researching to figure that out. We think it’s a classy gesture from the university to honor Snell.
But there are a few problems with that. One of which is that students do not generally know who Snell is, especially if they are not from the Peoria area. It’s important to pay tribute to someone who has represented our team for 35 years, but isn’t it also important for the students to know where the mascot’s name comes from?
The second problem, which is the bigger issue, is that the name solely reflects the men’s basketball team. Members of the mascot branding committee stressed that the mascot, would be present at all athletic events, as well as campus events, graduation and visit days.
Kaboom! does not apply to any of those things, except men’s basketball.
As for the choice of a gargoyle itself, we like it. There’s more meaning behind it versus a Bobcat, that’s for sure. And while Kaboom!’s eyebrows are a little overdone, we can’t complain about it too much.
But this still doesn’t answer the question of if we have a mascot or if Kaboom! will end up being a “non-mascot” like the Bobcat was.
The most important aspect to remember here is that the branding committee should have taken current students’ opinions into consideration first.
Does Kaboom! please today’s students? We’ll find out if he makes it through six basketball seasons.