I’ve been to Lafayette, Indiana, and the Purdue campus many times to work sports broadcasts. When I think of Purdue, I think of two things:
1) Gene Keady’s hair.
2) A dreary, featureless campus and city straight outta an early ’70s Buddy Ebsen-starring sitcom. (Thought about early episodes of Rockford Files. Too contemporary.)
One of the few, if not only distinctive things about Purdue has always been its mascot, Purdue Pete. So I was perplexed by the school’s recent announcement that it planned to “update” the look of perhaps the best campus caricature in college sports.
The reason? Cue Purdue assistant vice president for external relations Chris Sigurdson:
“Purdue Pete is not going away, but it is time for an updated image. It’s been 25 years since the last one. Modern fans, new century, probably deserve a little bit more modern Purdue Pete. But, the old Pete will still be around.”
So does being a Georgia Bulldogs fan classify me as prehistoric? Or just woefully out-of-style because we would never conceive of messing with our mascots?
Now that you’ve heard the carefully-crafted p.r. statement from Purdue on why the mascot will be overhauled, time for the real reason.
Teri Lucie Thompson, vice president of marketing for Purdue, to the INDIANAPOLIS STAR:
Thompson said the design process has started. The focus is not so much on props as on expressions.
“It’s more about the eyes and the mouth,” she said. “He has a very square jaw and kind of cleft chin. Does that stay? The fear could be coming from his eyes. How do you balance that intensity, keep the competitive fire in the eyes, but also make sure there is approachability?”
Translation: Purdue Pete was scaring too many people.
Morgan Burke, Purdue Athletic Director:
“Look, I’m the one who gets the phone calls from parents who say that big face scares their 3-year-old.”
Question: What “big face” doesn’t scare a 3-year-old?
The scariest thing in the history of Purdue is Gene Keady. There’s never been anything remotely “modern” about his regrettable grooming and appearance. (Besides the space-age polymers developed from nano technology by Purdue University chemists to keep Keady’s starched lettuce intact.)
Hell, dude scared me on a few occasions. Yet have you ever heard one word about “updating” Keady’s ‘do?
To their credit, most Purdue fans are giving the proposed mascot change the thumbs down. From WLFI:
“I feel like he looks pretty good the way he is. He seems pretty ripped. I don’t really see what they could do any different,” said James Henke.
“I don’t think he should change at all, he’s what everyone knows and he’s good the way he is,” said Keala Anderson.
“I don’t see a need for the change at all at this point,” said Gene Lamberson.
“I think he’s fine the way he is. I wouldn’t change anything,” said Vicki Hedrick.
“We don’t think he should change. We like the traditional Purdue Pete,” said Jason Hedrick.
This reminds me a little of the University of North Dakota going through with dumping the iconic “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo though one of the local Sioux tribes has no problem with it.
The Purdue Pete thing, in the end, isn’t that big a deal. But would it be unreasonable to suggest the move by the Purdue admin as another case of the “Tyranny of the Few” infecting our schools?