Shortly before the administration of Interim University President Colette Irwin-Knott left office at Valpo, the decision was made to officially remove The Crusader from campus life following several years of gradual reduction of the mascot’s influence. Since the 2018-2019 season, the university athletic department has referenced the teams simply by “Valpo”, but also explained their inability to officially renounce the icon on a local podcast.
“Changing the mascot is not a conversation that athletics is part of,” Athletic Director Mark LaBarbera said to the “Union Street Hoops” podcast in 2018. “It is not the place of the athletics department to decide how the university wants to be identified.”
While the change is largely well received by students and fans alike, the main critics of the change include university alumni and donors. Many members of these groups are largely upset because they were seemingly left out of the decision. The university sent a survey to all alumni and students on file, but many didn’t notice the email, or missed the deadline to respond. Valparaiso alumni makeup more than 50% of the university’s donors, so ignoring their wishes may reflect poorly on future funding.
Local NWI Times writer Paul Oren, who has reported news from around Valparaiso for more than 20 years, recently compiled a list of 5 potential new mascots for the university, along with greatly interesting descriptions of why they’d be a good fit for the small town campus community. While Oren pitched a few seemingly humorous possibilities, such as the Kernels and the Koalas, he did provide several ideas that would be hard for anyone to dislike.
In particular, the DuneHawks seemed particularly intriguing to many fans and readers. This is not only because of the regional relevance of the Dunes National Park and that a hawk shares the campus colors of Brown and Gold, but also because the name was previously unofficially used by local sports radio stations in the 1940s.
Prior to World War II, the icon of Valparaiso was the Uhlan, which is defined as a cavalryman, but more specifically one of German descent. Without giving a history lesson, The United States became involved in a large scale conflict with Germany in the early forties, which pressured the university to make a change much like today, just with some added Blitzkrieg and Bonzai.
Several years went by without an official decision by the university, so many radio personalities decided to take creative liberties with referring to the school. The general consensus settled with the DuneHawks, but the university was not going to have that. Revolted by the idea of the media having leverage over the decision, the campus board quickly settled on the Crusader, but many still remember the DuneHawk and feel that this is the perfect opportunity for it to build its nest on campus.
Current Campus President José D. Padilla is now responsible for finding an official replacement for the Crusader name. Currently, Padilla is requesting suggestions for a new mascot. If you would like to see the DuneHawk become the new mascot, or if you believe that you have a better idea for a mascot, an email address has been assigned to the committee purely for student and fan suggestions. Send your pitch to @ideasforvalpo.edu, and Padilla may decide it is a worthy replacement.