It’s been 13 years since the University of Illinois had an official symbol/mascot. In the wake of the Chief’s departure, the University decided not to take a hard turn to some other mascot unlike other schools facing mascot controversies, and instead left a void, which allowed controversy to keep festering. So we intend to fix that, and though there are definitely bad ideas in brainstorming, that’s not going to stop us from still trying to make a case for them.
We started big in our first installment with the Great Pumpkin. Well, let’s get even bigger.
The Case For a Blue Whale as the University of Illinois’ Mascot:
It has no natural predators.
This idea was spawned when my sister and I attended the 2019 Sugar Bowl, the one where Texas’ Big Cow let everyone know that it did not like Georgia’s fainthearted little dog. My sister and I decided that any mascot the Illini use should be practically indestructible, which naturally led us to the biggest animal.
Blue whales are too big to have natural predators. They’ve been hunted to near extinction by whaling, but Hartford’s hockey team is no longer a threat, being as they are neither collegiate nor existing. Young ones are susceptible to shark and orca attacks, and Ole Miss’ landshark specifically doesn’t operate in water, so we’re safe there. The only other threat is collisions with ships, so outside of Navy, Vandy, and maybe ECU, it’ll be fine.
Otherwise I’d put the Illini Blue Whale toe to toe (fin to fin?) with just about any mascot. On land, Bevo would only be able do the equivalent of a paper cut on Blue before it would roll over and turn the big cow into a patty. On water, it’d be a massacre.
It matches school colors.
Illinois crowds do an excellent job at wearing almost exclusively orange to every game. We have hailing the orange covered. Everyone give yourself a pat on the orange-clad back, your wardrobe is splendidly garish.
As for the second line of Alma Mater, we don’t really focus on blue. Having a blue whale as a mascot would be an easy and clever way to show our appreciation for our other school color.
Even when it’s time for the inexplicable Hail to the Gray game, there are options. The athletics department could do a temporary switch to a gray whale or just realize that a blue whale is actually blue-gray.
Alright, time’s up. If you said the Jacksonville University Dolphins or the Long Island University Sharks, congratulations, you were right! Not exactly premier programs, those two.
Nothing can be perfectly unique, but we shouldn’t be too concerned about being in the mascot realm of just two lower Division I schools.
I could get residuals from this.
I haven’t seen anyone else suggest a whale as an Illini mascot, and I want to get my beak wet. After consulting with TCR’s lawyers, as long as I put TM after BlueTM and Blue WhaleTM from here on out, I can get some sort of payment if the athletics department adopts it as a mascot. This also means I get paid if there’s any sort of Blue WhaleTM-related pun published anywhere, including but not limited to Road KrillTM or Pod-castTM (and yes, I already have a cease-and-desist letter for Jeremy Werner written up and ready to go). That’s how copyright law works, right?
What will I do with the money? I plan on eventually getting my name on the Orchestra Rehearsal Room in Krannert, and hopefully they’ll give me a discount because they already have the stencil made to put my name on the stands in there.
Possible Issues, along with my counterarguments:
It’s not the Chief.
If you are making this argument, I don’t know how you are perceptive to know that a Blue WhaleTM isn’t Chief Illiniwek but can’t see the many, many obstacles that make a return of a Native American mascot in this day and age impossible.
Blue WhalesTM are not native to Illinois.
Yes, Blue WhalesTM haven’t been found in Lake Michigan (yet), so they aren’t here and it wouldn’t make too much sense as a mascot. A strong argument, but sports, and college sports particularly, don’t really make sense. Northwestern’s mascot is a wildcat even though those aren’t found anywhere near Evanston since one in the general area would lower property values. The premiere college football powers are located out in the Southern holler. Sean May didn’t foul out. Multiple schools had live bears as mascots in stadiums in the past century. We (theoretically) trade a turtle back and forth with Ohio State. Purdue Pete is allowed to stand on the sidelines despite his dark past. Giorgi is a person that exists and goes to school at Illinois.
Nothing makes sense, and that’s part of the reason why people love college sports. Why not steer into that skid? Make it as weird as possible, because deep down, this is all for fun.
You know the creative minds at the athletic department will come up with some terrible thing about it living in “the oceans of corn” or something as cringe-inducing to make it make some semblance of sense. But that’ll happen with just about any mascot.
Blue WhalesTM have no history with Illinois.
It is a bit difficult for an animal to have a history in a state it’s not native to. Also, our marine biology program isn’t exactly the most extensive. Illinois shares a Sea Grant with Purdue, which they use mostly to study the (theoretically) Blue WhaleTM-less Lake Michigan.
History has to start sometime though, so why not now? It may be the catalyst that jumpstarts the U of I marine biology program from just a class to maybe some sort of degree.
A live mascot would be impossible.
The original plans hatched on the streets of New Orleans after the Sugar Bowl called for replacing the horseshoe in Memorial with a giant aquarium for BlueTM, but Blue WhalesTM are kind of big. Even moving around a Blue WhaleTM carcass would be a logistical nightmare as well as a general bummer. So we’re gonna have to get creative.
The University of Illinois has two things we can work with here: 1) a bunch of open space between the south endzone and the horseshoe and 2) the nation’s best engineering department. So let’s build a giant animatronic BlueTM and get it in Memorial. Put it on a trailer so it can go to hypothetical bowl games. Give it the ability to thrash about or have a spout of water come out of its blowhole after a touchdown. Make its eyes glow. Again, the weirder the better.
Again, this is probably a fruitless exercise because the pro-Chief crowd is very vocal and will shoot down anything that isn’t the Chief, so instead I’ll compare it against my previous offer. BlueTM doesn’t quite have the same connection to Illinois as a pumpkin, but it certainly is more unique. I think it comes down to which would win in a fight: a giant gourd or the biggest animal ever to exist on Earth? I think I’d put my money on the mascot that isn’t inanimate.