COLUMN: Navigating both sides of the mascot coin

by Malcolm Butler

Louisiana Tech’s announcement Wednesday afternoon that its female sports — excluding women’s basketball — will be immediately adopting the Bulldog mascot brought a variety of reactions.

Basically, it was a mixed bag of athletic balls.

It didn’t surprise me.

I have been a proponent of maintaining the Lady Techster mascot across all nine of the female programs at Tech. I have pushed back against any talk of it for a long time. That is until recently.

Trust me when I tell you this has been discussed internally for more than a decade. The main voice to this movement has come from the student athletes themselves. As a longtime Tech fan and athletics administrator, I was opposed to making the change for a long time. And I was very vocal about it internally.

I am a traditionalist by nature. I grew up on the Lady Techsters and Bulldogs.

And for a quarter of a century, I have done my best to promote it and protect it. If I had a dollar for every discussion about maintaining the original mascot of Tech female programs, I could have retired many moons ago.

But in the last few years I have slowly changed my stance. I do have the luxury of being behind the curtain. I have daily interaction with our student athletes and coaches. I may not always fully understand motive, but I do appreciate there is another side. And I have listened to understand.

And I support the new direction.

We live in a day and age of college athletics where student athletes have a broader voice. Every university has a Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) made up of representatives from each sport. This isn’t a committee by name only. It’s recognized on the NCAA level, conference level and school level and is an important part of the footprint of college athletics.

SAAC representatives from the women’s programs have been voicing a desire to make the change to Bulldogs for many years now. And in recent years that movement has been beating the drum even louder.

Roughly 15 years ago a straw poll was taken from the female teams to find out the temperature of each program. My memory is that it was about a 50-50 split back then. It’s not 50-50 anymore.

The only program that I have not heard the desire to change is women’s basketball. And having spent 20 years as the SID and play-by-play voice, I was around the players and coaches a ton.

But outside of women’s basketball, there has been a strong push. And although the decision wasn’t made until now, the change has been coming down the tracks for a while. It was just a matter of time.

For the record the change has nothing to do with the word Lady in front of the word Techsters. It simply has to do with a desire to be Bulldogs. I don’t claim to always understand the mindset of this age group, but we have heard a consistent message from them for more than a decade.

Recent years has seen many of our female student athletes and teams start using Bulldogs in chants and on their own personal social media accounts and in other ways. One of the first things incoming freshmen are taught during campus orientation is how to make the Bulldog gesture with their clinched fist. Bulldogs is everywhere.

From a brand engagement standpoint, the move makes brand identity and licensing sense. Yes. There are still multiple marks, but now you have just the Bulldog head and the Columbia blue Lady Techster script (before you had a reflex blue Lady Techster script as well).

Personally, I believe having 15 programs called Bulldogs and one program called Lady Techsters provides less confusion, not more. Trust me when I tell you our women’s teams outside of basketball get called Bulldogs all the time on the road.

As I explained to our softball student athletes Wednesday afternoon in a group message, it’s important that they understand that there are 40 years of Tech softball alums and fans. The same can be said for the other female programs (even if the years may differ). And based on the feedback I received and saw following yesterday’s announcement, many are fine with the change. Many are not. And both sides have their reasons. And neither side is wrong.

My request to our softball players was when interacting with fans and alums who bring up the subject to listen with an understanding ear. Then respectfully communicate why they — as current student athletes — are excited about the new direction. At the end of the day we all bleed red and blue.

We are all a part of the LA Tech Athletics Family, regardless of whether we played, coached or cheered with Lady Techsters across the front of the uniform in the past or Bulldogs in the future.