BYU-Idaho is a rarity. It is a school without a mascot.
When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints transformed the school from a two-year college to a full-fledged university in 2001, it also took away its athletics programs. But the change from Ricks College to Brigham Young University-Idaho stripped the Rexburg, Idaho, school of more than just sports. It also wiped out its identity.
Vikings no more
With its academic metamorphosis, BYU-Idaho elected to remove all reference to its former mascot, the Viking.
Gone is the beloved Thor statue. Empty and nameless is former Viking Stadium, past proving grounds for aspiring Division I football players. Only echoes remain of raucous basketball games in the John Hart Building.
Sadly, many of the school’s alumni are unaware of the fact that the school no longer has a mascot. And while those stalwart grads of the past will likely always consider themselves proud Vikings, those on the chilly campus today or anytime in the last 13 years are left to call themselves just plain BYU-Idaho students.
None can blame the LDS Church or the institution for making a decision to focus the school’s monies on academics. After all, fans and media alike collectively lambaste the NCAA, conferences and schools across the country for paying only lip-service to the academic needs of campus compared to athletics.
BYU-Idaho boasts a unique academic mission, a unique religious focus and a unique campus environment, all helping it deliver amazing results that were the subject of a book that caused serious buzz in the academic world. By all accounts, the move away from traditional campus life has been a heralded success. Few would argue for altering that course.
But could the school enrich students with the solidarity and spirit that comes with athletics without changing its academic and religious environs?
Rise and shout?
Outside of Utah and Idaho and the church, very few truly understand the difference between BYU in Provo and BYU-Idaho. They recognize the BYU part and lump them together — for better or worse.
So, why not embrace that?
Would BYU-Idaho students, alumni and the greater Rexburg area support being Cougars? Ricks College graduates of the past will probably always consider themselves Vikings, and rightfully so. Would current students and recent BYU-Idaho alumni, however, be willing to raise their colors high in the blue? And would BYU down south welcome them with open arms?
Steve Davis, Director of Alumni at BYU-Idaho, has organized large gatherings where students and alumni can watch BYU sporting events together.
“We are always excited to celebrate the positive events happening at BYU and are grateful we share the name of the flagship university for the church. It is safe to say that a majority of our students and alumni love to follow, cheer on, and even rise and shout with our Cougar friends,” Davis said.
A large portion of BYU-Idaho students and alumni have parents, siblings, friends and others who have attended BYU in Provo. Many of these students grew up Cougar fans or describe themselves as such already, so the support isn’t a big surprise.
Lisa Welch is a communications student from Belle Mead, N.J. who grew up rooting for the Cougars before attending BYU-Idaho.
“As a BYU-I student, I would love it if we adopted the Cougar mascot and BYU athletic teams to root for," Welch said. "I already feel like many of the students do that because they have friends or family that go to BYU and they feel attached to BYU athletics by going to a BYU sponsored school.
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