On Aug. 10, Valparaiso University President José Padilla announced that Valparaiso University’s (VU) new nickname would be ‘Beacons.’ The change would take effect immediately before the 2021-2022 academic year.
Many expressed confusion at the fact that Beacon was referred to in the announcement as a “nickname” instead of a mascot. According to VU Athletics Director Mark LaBarbera, the mascot is still undetermined.
“It [Beacons] is our nickname and we’re not sure what our mascot might be yet. There's a lot of opportunities. A mascot could be a lot of different things,” LaBarbera said. “One thing I tell people is there will not be a lighthouse with legs walking around.”
LaBarbera noted that a nickname and mascot do not have to necessarily correspond to one another.
“One of the best examples I can use that most people understand is, University of Alabama’s nickname is ‘The Crimson Tide,’” LaBarbera said. “Their mascot is an elephant. There is no direct connection to those two.”
Despite Beacon now being the VU’s nickname, LaBarbera cited that as the ‘Valpo’ name is nationally recognized, it will remain the focus of the university’s image.
“So athletics for the last four years or so have been branding pretty heavily with Valpo and the shield. And we've been doing that because Valpo is very much a nationally recognized brand in athletics,” LaBarbera said.
In addition, Mascot Recommendation Chair Steve Janowiak said that the Valpo Shield will still be a part of VU.
“The shield is still a symbol at the University. It’s been around for a while and it’s going to stay around,” Janowiak said.
Now that the Crusader has been retired, VU is looking to re-identify itself with Beacon imagery. Parts where the Crusader logo was prominent will be renovated. According to LaBarbera, the process will take a couple of years.
“There's places where the mascot is very public. That logo is in the athletic facilities, so those are in the process of being changed,” LaBarbera said.
One of the athletic facilities that will be renovated is the Arena Floor. However, LaBarbera said the field’s look will still be consistent with the other Valpo teams’.
“I would tell everybody that when they see the Arena Floor, it's gonna look like the football field or the baseball field. In the middle of it, there's going to be the shield with ‘Valpo’ over the top of it. We’re going to see consistency in the way our facilities look,” LaBarbera said.
Although the current logo for the Beacons, a lighthouse, will remain the primary design, Janowiak noted that variations are in the works.
“The university’s Marketing and Communications Team will work on this over time,” Steve Janowiak said. “The primary symbol that was there was sort of the first, but there will be some others, as well, which people can use in different settings, whether they be athletic or otherwise.”
In the realm of athletics, many of the reactions from students, coaches, and administration have been a mixed bag.
For some of the veteran athletes, the news came as a bit of a shock, especially the ones that were here when Valpo was associated with the Crusader mascot.
Sixth year athlete Eron Gordon commented that some of his veteran players like Brock Pappas and Luke Morrill were shocked upon hearing that ‘Beacons’ was the school’s new nickname.
“My teammates couldn’t believe it,” Gordon said. “My teammates absolutely could not believe it, especially the ones that have been here.”
For Gordon personally, he had Beacons high up in his suspicions. Even though it was not his personal vote, he highly suspected that the nickname was the choice to be.
“I was definitely for it,” Gordon commented. “I'll be honest, It wasn’t my personal vote, but I definitely like it. It is definitely very unique and I think it is something that we can represent our university well with.”
For other athletes, the new brand creates an element of surprise that can catch you off guard.
“I think it is kind of cool that they named us something outside of the box, instead of just a normal anvil name from here and there,” senior football running back Robert Washington said.
LaBarbera understood the same notion, knowing that the mascot would stick with the athletes that came before.
“When we announced that the Crusader was going to be retired, I think they were just interested in what it was going to be,” LaBarbera said. “All of them, with the exception of the incoming freshmen, were Crusaders for part of their career. That's not going to change.”
As the school year is set to begin, creating a new mascot will be a task that administration will bring students into as a collaborative effort.
“The mascot is going to be something we ask the students to really participate in choosing or designing,” Janowiak said. “[We’ll] probably ask students with creative majors like art and other areas to be involved in this. Right now, we have something going for the indoor courts.”