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The Eastern Echo Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

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Charlie the Cardinal; A bobblehead that altered the importance of winning against Ball State for Eastern Michigan athletics

There are things in life that sometimes have to wait their turn until it becomes something of worth. You receive things, honor them for the time being, and then they end up in a dusty old box in your storage while you have no idea it still exists until you go deep cleaning on a boring Sunday. 

For EMU Athletics Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee, that's exactly how he discovered a bobblehead that would ultimately alter the meaning of defeating his alma mater. 

A college graduate of Ball State University, Wetherbee attended a basketball game one night as a student where they passed out Charlie the Cardinal bobbleheads, the school's mascot.

The bobblehead wasn't of much significance to Wetherbee at the time, until 30 years later when he was going through old boxes in his basement and found Charlie the Cardinal from his college days. Charlie was just sitting there all alone, untouched. 

“When I found it and brought it in, I knew I had to come up with something to do with this bobble head,” Wetherbee said. 

On a mission to find a destiny for Charlie the Cardinal, Wetherebee presented Charlie to Adam Martin, a facilities employee with EMU Athletics at the time. Martin then presented to Wetherbee an ancient, wooden Eagle. 

“I showed him and told him we’ve got this bobble head, but I want to do something, like we’re beating it up,” Wetherbee said. 

After sparking an idea, Martin took it home and did some creation. After glue jobs and adding a bloodstream out of Charlie’s beak, Wetherbee’s wish was fulfilled. 

“I loved it. It’s just corny and silly enough that it means something,” Wetherbee said. “I didn’t want to go pay for anything or go to a trophy shop, this is what makes it cool.”  

Once the masterpiece was complete, Wetherbee would share it with the EMU Athletics’ coaches exclusively at a staff meeting for fun. 

At those meetings, the coach who was able to beat Ball State University would take the trophy and not pass it on until another coach of a different sport was able to defeat the Cardinals. 

“At first I wouldn’t share it with the teams, it was really just a coach thing,” Wetherbee said. “For me, I told the coaches, this is the team we want to beat the most, it’s my alma mater.” 

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EMU Athletics Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee presents the 'Crush the Cardinal' trophy to the EMU Tennis team after defeating Ball State University.

The coaches then started to pass the story of the trophy on to the student-athletes. It put a new passion behind the importance of wanting to beat Ball State. They would call it 'Crush the Cardinal.'

Wetherbee even recalls when the Eastern Michigan University football team had beaten Ball State this past season on Homecoming, 24-10. The locker room and the players honored the trophy during their celebration. 

"I brought it into the locker room and we were dancing around with it…the players were holding it up like a Super Bowl trophy,” Wetherbee said. “It’s kind of selfish, but it’s fun.” 

With any rivalry, you have to have a trophy or some piece of regalia to flaunt after you secure the victory. But this isn’t a rivalry, it’s just a fun gesture of defeating an old friend. 

Just like that local group of dads in their fantasy league who pass on a championship belt every year a new winner is crowned. 

“It’s a rivalry for our coaches to know it’s a team I want to beat when we play them,” Wetherbee said. “When we do that, we’re going to have some fun and give them the trophy.”