DU releases the result of its mascot survey -- and the decision is no decision

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After months of study by the 76-member Pioneer Mascot Steering Committee, which included an online survey sent to 78,032 members of the greater University of Denver community, the committee just released its decision on the hunt for a new mascot. Is the school's new symbol for the Pioneers the Elk? The Jackalope? The Mountain Explorer? Or has the banished Denver Boone been given a reprieve?

None of the above. DU is basically going back to the drawing board.

A recap of the action: Denver Boone, based on a character created by a Disney artist and personified by an assortment of people in scruffy costumes, had been adopted as DU's mascot back in 1968, then booted in 1998. An attempt to replace him with Ruckus the Red-Tailed Hawk was short-lived, and in 2008, Chancellor Robert Coombe said the school would allow Boone's faithful supporters to bring that mascot back at sporting events and other functions -- unofficially, at least.

But in February, after complaints that the school needed a more inclusive mascot, the student government decided to hunt for a new one, creating a commission to lead the search. And, as Coombe noted, Denver Boone was not eligible to be reconsidered for mascot, no matter how ardent his fan club might be.

By early this summer, the committee had narrowed down mascot possibilities to the Elk, the Jackalope and the Mountain Explorer, and sent surveys to the greater DU community.

Over the past month, the committee has been compiling the results of the surveys submitted by 8,173 people -- alums, students, parents of students, staffers, faculty members and DU ticket-buyers. And this morning, it posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

DU Students to Focus on strengthening Pioneer Pride

Recognizing the need for school unity during mascot selection

DENVER -- After several months of both quantitative and qualitative research, the University of Denver mascot development committee has learned a great deal about the community's attitudes and opinions regarding a new, official University mascot. With more than 8,000 community members participating in the survey, over three times the expected number of completions, the community has demonstrated a high level of engagement in the University's spirit program.

The research shows that nearly 70 percent of the University community is either receptive or neutral to moving forward with a new Denver Pioneer mascot, but at this time the community as a whole is not aligned on what that character should be.

The data shows three distinct preferences among the community. Half of those surveyed want a character that is simply a good fit/good performing mascot: an engaging character that appeals to all groups. Meanwhile 35 percent of those surveyed prefer a character with distinctly western dimensions, and the remainder prefers a non-western character.

While the Mountain Explorer and Elk performed the best, neither gained a consensus among the community. As a result, the 75-member Mascot Steering Committee recommends that none of the characters should move forward as they are currently designed.

"We are thrilled by the number of respondents, and too have learned so much about our University community," said Sam Estenson, co-chair of the Mascot Steering Committee. "This shows that school spirit is strong and we are excited to further strengthen our bond as Denver Pioneers and celebrate that spirit."

The committee's plans for the fall include enhancing the University's current spirit program, engaging the incoming students during the weeklong Discoveries Orientation and continuing dialogue for further mascot concept development.

"We will still have a working committee dedicated to reviewing the research data and how to best utilize the results in the future," said Will Guy, fellow co-chair of the committee, "with our current focus being on energizing the community and building upon our Pioneer Pride as we get ready to celebrate our sesquicentennial."

The committee will also be working on ways to recognize the University's past mascots, perhaps retiring them to a place on campus that identifies their historic context as a part of the University's history and traditions.

More from the Calhoun Wake-Up Call archives: "Once again, state tourism boosters have gone back to the drawing board."

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