OU is facing a major mascot crisis. Currently, the school has two pigs, or dogs, or horses or whatever they are as the face of university athletics. No one likes them and no one wants them to hang around.
Fans and supporters of the university are talking loudly about the mascot problem, but no one seems to be listening.
OU wants a mascot that can be universal. A mascot that is not just at football games or exclusive to basketball games, so they attempted unify all sports with the two stuffed horse-things.
It isn’t working.
Solution: Bring back Little Red.
On April 17, 1970, OU president J. Herbert Hollomon banished Little Red, the unofficial mascot who danced the sidelines of Owen Field. Though he wasn’t ever the official OU mascot, the American Indian dancer had become a traditional part of the games since the 1940s. Little Red actually preceded one of college football’s most recognizable mascots — the Sooner Schooner.
Little Red would be incredible at football games running alongside the Schooner. Heck, he already was. Can you imagine having him at basketball games pumping up the crowd? Or dancing on top of the dugout at a baseball or softball game? I get chills just thinking about it.
But why can’t OU bring back Little Red? Oklahoma prides itself on being “Native America.” Those words are on every Oklahoman’s license plate. “Oklahoma” literally means “red people.” American Indian heritage is something that is more prevalent in this state than any other in the nation.
Would it be so wrong to have Native American imagery representing “Native America?”
But having an American Indian mascot would be offensive. Why? It makes sense to me that it would be an accurate description of the state. OU athletics are probably the most visible thing from Oklahoma, and Little Red could serve as a reminder of the state’s history and heritage every time OU takes the field or court.
There are more Indian casinos in the state than Starbucks. There are Indian trading posts lining Interstate 40. If you want to go to Idabel, you drive on Indian Nation Turnpike. The state flag is an American Indian shield with a peace pipe across it, for crying out loud. But, to have someone dress up as an American Indian to represent the state’s university would make folks feel uneasy? Nonsense.
The current mascots are embarrassing. They don’t represent the university in any positive way. They don’t have any traditional value. And they look awful. Little Red could fulfill everything that OU needs in a mascot.
Accurate representation of the university? Check. An understanding of the history of the state in which the university is located? Yep. A mascot that looks cool and everyone will remember? You bet.
Sports Illustrated polled American Indians a few years back to get their opinion on the issue of American Indian nicknames and mascots. And the results? They don’t care and in fact, a lot of them appreciate them. Asked if high school and college teams should stop using Indian nicknames, 81 percent of the Indian respondents said no. As for pro sports, 83 percent of the American Indian respondents said teams should not stop using American Indian nicknames, mascots, characters and symbols.
The stats speak for themselves.
Of course Little Red would need to be done in the most tasteful and respectful way possible. There should be no intention to shed any negative light on the American Indian culture. But if done properly, Little Red could honor the heritage of the state, the school and the culture in a great way.
Does OU have the gusto to stand up to the NCAA and defy Big Brother? Not a chance. The university needs to get the backing of all the major tribes in the state and go before the NCAA and make it happen. Although, if the tribes don’t want it, then forget it.
But something has to be done about the mascots. Little Red is the most sensible solution.
Royce Young is a journalism junior.