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Bring back The Bison

The Hoosiers have plenty of problems, but they can start solving those by bringing back their large, furry son.

Look at this face. Just look at it.
IU-Bloomington Archives

We’ve reached that point of the season. You know, that one. The one where IU football is mired in a losing streak in the midst of their Big Ten schedule and the focus hasn’t fully shifted to basketball yet because it’s just begun and the teams that they’re playing are awful.

This is the point in the season where people start to get an itch for change. Perhaps a new quarterback is the fix for IU. Maybe the coach is in trouble. I’ve decided to think bigger. With all the issues the Hoosiers are facing, with their backs against the metaphorical wall as they come down the home stretch of the season, there’s just one thing that can turn around this program—a mascot. Not just any mascot though. IU’s large, furry son, The Bison, should make his return to the sideline ASAP.

Originally introduced as IU’s mascot in 1965, The Bison roamed the sidelines for a period of time in Hoosier football history that wasn’t terrible. In the Bison era the Hoosiers went 22-28-1 overall for a winning percentage of .431. Is that good? No, but this is Indiana. In all non-Bison seasons the Hoosiers have an overall record of 436-625-37. That’s a win percentage of .397. Yikes!

The Bison era also saw three (3) consecutive seasons in which IU appeared in the AP poll (1967-1969). The only other time this has happened in Indiana football history was from 1944-1946.

The Bison has logical reasoning behind it as well. As the state’s flagship university, IU takes part of its identity from Indiana itself. A recent example is the state flag-inspired helmets worn by the football team, but The Bison falls in this category as well. The Bison originates from the seal of the state of Indiana, which features a bucking bison.

TAke a look y’all: IMG_4346.jpeg.

The issue with The Bison came mostly from the costumes. The original costume was...uh...something. Imagine a person wearing a onesie made of your grandmother’s shag carpet from a million years ago topped off with a weird plastic bison helmet that looks like it was either bought at Party City or stolen off the top of a totem pole. The quality of this costume shockingly didn’t sit well with alumni, leading to a change.

The second rendition of The Bison was better, but still pretty odd. It featured a more realistic head and fur, but didn’t have armholes. Without arms for the mascot it just looked like the back half of the bison was missing, which wasn’t exactly ideal.

In a 1967 Indiana Daily Student article Dave Thompson, a student who wore the costume, said that the bison costume held in a lot of heat, and that he had to hold his head in a specific position for the mask, making the job painful.

There was another issue with the costume as well. The wearer couldn’t see through the mask, so the mascot had to be led around the field with a rope tied around its neck by a cheerleader. These issues led to the end of the bison mascot in 1969, as nobody would volunteer to wear the costume. If you don’t have anybody to be the mascot, you can’t really have a mascot.

Recently a CQ commenter said that the bison is “nightmare fuel.” Let’s make a quick comparison. Ahead of the current NHL season the Philadelphia Flyers announced their new mascot “Gritty”, who instantly became a trending topic across the web. Grittymania reached far and wide, including our resident Philly sports fan Ben:

Now if you thought a simple bison was creepy, what would you possibly think of this?

That’s the offspring of Justin Turner and the Grimace, but with googly eyes and you know what? People love him!

With this in mind imagine the reaction a well-executed bison reveal could garner for the Hoosiers. It’d be a positive turn in the news cycle for a team that could use one right now, it could drive some merchandise sales, and it could finally give IU a darn representative in those Big Ten Conference commercials/social media posts that feature the rest of the mascots.

On a similar note, a mascot could provide some entertainment value when things know (*eyeballs box score of IU vs Iowa*). On the flip side, imagine the potential added joy of the bison in victory!

(Scene) The Hoosiers pick up a big win and Tom Allen rushes over to the student section. He’s jumping up to high-five the Hoosier faithful and then what does he do? Kick over a trash can? No, that’s so last month. Instead, he chest bumps The Bison in celebration, creating enough content for this site to run for a year at least.

All of this ignores one simple fact regarding the bison’s place in IU history. The Hoosiers have made one Rose Bowl with a bison on the sideline. They’ve made zero without one.

Bring The Bison back.