Eastern Michigan University’s mascot of 20 years has been a cause of much debate. The eagle that was chosen to replace EMU’s Native American mascot attends football games, parties and events on campus. Swoop stands still and smiles for pictures, hugs children and runs around during sports games. Yet this merry mascot was not always the cause of happiness.
On Feb. 1, 1991, the Echo announced “Goodbye Hurons; logo ousted,” commenting on former EMU president William Shelton’s decision to change EMU’s mascot. Students were quoted stating that they disliked the change and found the whole debate of changing from a mascot representing a Native American tribe unnecessary. In 1994, there was the question of primarily using Swoop as EMU’s mascot, over Edie and Eddie, EMU’s former junior eagles.
In 2010, Echo writer Michael Cassar commented on the overuse of eagles as a mascot, saying
“According to my count, based on a list compiled by Adam Joshua Smargon, there are no fewer than 59 different colleges using the eagle as a nickname.”
Then of late, not only the Eastern Echo, but also the Ann Arbor News, The Detroit Free Press and Fox News have been covering President Susan Martin’s decision to represent all three mascots (Normalite, Huron, and Eagle) on the marching band uniforms.
Through all of the debate, no one has ask Swoop how (s)he feels. No one has taken the time to get to know Swoop.
One of the problems of getting to know Swoop is separating the character from the people who wear the eagle suit. For instance, there are two boys and two girls who represent EMU’s mascot currently.
Tyler Jones, assistant director of athletics marketing, said, “For the mascot, we recruit students … It’s a pretty strenuous process. They have to be great students; they have to balance both their school work and being the mascot.”
Not only do the students have to be academically focused, but they also have to look the part. As Jones pointed out, it would be fairly obvious if one of the students wearing the suit was 5 feet tall, while another was in the 6-foot range.
“One interesting thing about Swoop is that we have a height requirement,” Jones said. We try to keep them within a couple inches of each other … We try to keep them between the 5’5” [and] 5’7” range.”
“The thing about Swoop that’s pretty cool is that Swoop is pretty busy,” Jones said. “It really doesn’t matter if you’re a male or female, it maters how they act in the suit, how well you adjust to being the mascot. It’s very very difficult because you can’t speak, you have to be engaging without speaking.”
Similarly, Courntey Hough, graduate assistant for marketing and athletics, said they test out student trying out to be Swoop by sending them to one of EMU’s smaller events. There, the marketing and athletics see how well the student playing Swoop interacts with the audience.
The people representing Swoop have to remain consistent in his/her enthusiasm and dedication to the role, since Swoop is still a character and unit unto him/herself. For instance, here are ten facts you probably didn’t know about Swoop the character, according to Hough:
1) Swoop showers at Frog Island.
2) Swoop’s secret nest is in the water tower.
3) Swoop enjoys interior designing and designing his/her nest.
4) Swoop is asexual.
5) Swoop does daily cardio at the rec center.
6) Swoop spends his/her free time playing golf at the Eagle Crest golf course and watching movies at the Student Center.
7) Swoop is vegan (and as quoted by Hough, “Swoop can’t eat his/her own eggs, that’d be gross.”).
8) Swoop likes to play tetherball, crocket, bad mitten, and ultimate Frisbee.
9) The real life eagle that you might see at football games is Swoop’s cousin; they like to hang out after games.
10) Swoop’s major is aviation.
Even though Swoop has been the cause of a lot of debate over the years, (s)he is still a character that is meant to represent the life and energy of EMU’s students, faculty, and alumni.
“Swoop does a lot of great things,” Jones said. “Our mascot is all over Metro Detroit doing different things … Swoop is not only at our sporting events, but also throughout the community and throughout the entire state … No one’s upset when the mascot comes.”
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