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Willie the Wildcat
Willie the Wildcat Impresses a Young Wildcat Fan
Willie the Wildcat Impresses a Young Wildcat Fan
University Kansas State University
Conference Big 12
Description A student bedecked in an oversized Wildcat head
First seen 1947
Official website Official Site

Willie the Wildcat is the mascot for the Kansas State University Wildcats. He is not to be confused with the mascot for Northwestern University, also named Willie the Wildcat.

Contents

History

At the start of the 20th century, Kansas State's athletic teams first acquired the nickname "Aggies." This name lives on in the entertainment district that abuts the University, Aggieville.

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Adoption of the nickname

  • 1906-1909: A black Labrador named Boscoe represented K-State at baseball and football games.
  • 1915: Prior to the football season, new coach John Bender gave his squad the nickname "Wildcats."
  • 1917: Under Coach Z.G. Clevenger the school teams became known as the "Aggies."
  • 1920: Coach Charles Bachman took over the football program, again renaming the team the "Wildcats." This time the nickname stuck.
  • 1922-1978: A real bobcat named Touchdown (I-XI), donated by a family from Smith Center, Kansas, served as team mascot at games (while kept in a cage). The current "Touchdown" can be found at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan.[1]
  • The Manhattan zoo ended the "Touchdown" line of bobcats in the 1980's due to health concerns for the animals [2].
  • Coach Clevenger did not name the team "Aggies" he named the squad the "Farmers" [3]. The Touchdown line of mascots was not a continuous blood line. Touchdown I was captured in Idaho and donated to K.S.A.C. The animal though did not see a college football game as it died from injuries received from a porcupine it got in a fight with before it was shipped to Manhattan. Touchdown II soon replaced TD I and was at K-State for 14 years [4].

Costumed Mascot

Willie the Wildcat at a baseball game

The first costumed Willie mascot appeared in 1947. Since this time Willie has changed many times, and currently has an appearance that is heavily influenced by the team's Powercat logo.

  • 1947: K-State's first costumed mascot, "Sparky," appeared at the September football game against Oklahoma A&M. This was by Manhattan High student Andrea Simmons Andersen during halftime performing gymnastics for the crowd in a red-brown wildcat costume with black stripes and a tail. Lack of winning games resulted in fans replacing the young girl with a college student. She was to be the only female to be a K-State mascot. (First Generation)
  • 1960s: Fraternity members took responsibility of wearing the Willie Wildcat costume and cheering at games. The original K-State Willie costume, which debuted in 1964, was purple in color with large ears that somewhat resembled Mickey Mouse. (Second Generation)[5]
  • 1967-1980: Sculptor Jim Hagan created a new, "meaner-looking" Willie head with coyote and wolf hair. Last worn by Alan Stetson, 1980 alum, who was Willie Wildcat from 1978 to 1980. (Third Generation)
  • 1980-1993: A second Willie head made in 1967 by Jim Hagan is used.
  • 1985: The "beefed-up" Willie appeared while still using third generation style head. (Fourth Generation)
  • 1994-1996: Last pre-Powercat Willie (Fifth Generation)

  • 1989: Powercat logo introduced by football coach Bill Snyder, wanting a new logo for his team. Tom Bookwalter, a Kansas native, created the logo. Contrary to popular belief, Tom Bookwalter did not create the Iowa Hawkeye logo. The logo was originally disliked by the surrounding community, but is now one of the most recognizable logos in collegiate athletics.
  • 1997: The current "21st Century" Willie was created, it has gray fur with two white stripes to resemble the Powercat logo. This head includes an internal, electronic cooling fan and weighs five pounds. Willie can be seen at various K-State sporting events, often dressed as an athlete. (Sixth Generation)

Personality

While the student inside the mascot costume (whose identity is kept secret) changes every few years, the persona of Willie has remained the same throughout.[6] Willie likes crowd-surfing and does one push-up for each point on the board for K-State when the Wildcats score a touchdown or make a field goal.

References

  1. ^ "Kansas State Mascot History" (English). http://www.collegefootballhistory.com/kansas_state/history.htm. Retrieved 2006-09-27.  
  2. ^ Kristin Hermes, “Touchdown: Although K-State no longer uses a live bobcat mascot, Touchdown’s legacy lives on,” K-Stater Magazine, December 1999, 42
  3. ^ http://www.collegefootballhistory.com/kansas_state/history.htm
  4. ^ Amy Preston, “Willie the Wildcat at center of K-State athletic events; History of K-State’s mascot goes back to 1922,” Kansas State Collegian Gameday, October 31, 2003, 8
  5. ^ "Kansas State Traditions" (English). http://catzone.cjonline.com/traditions.shtml. Retrieved 2006-09-27.  
  6. ^ "K-State Traditions" (English). http://consider.k-state.edu/traditions/willie.htm. Retrieved 2006-09-27.  

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