Today’s great universities face myriad challenging choices.
Shall we expand the college of engineering?
Are the changes in secondary school requirements necessitating changes in how we educate teachers?
What is the ongoing role of a classical liberal education?
My alma mater, the University of Illinois, Urbana, faces all these challenges but one even more daunting to its politically correct leadership: the choice of a new mascot.
I wrote about this early in the year (Messing with a Mascot). As I mentioned then, the university really never had a mascot; it had a symbol: Chief Illiniwek.
However, in an ill-considered fit of progressive mindlessness, the university did away with The Chief. He was replaced (sort of) by a big orange capital “I”.
A big orange “I” could stand for many things… Illinois… idiot… illiterate… idolatry… insanity. Such obscurity could not stand.
In response, the university has been accepting recommendations for a new (actually, its first) mascot. The frontrunner appears to be a fairly unimpressive bird called the kingfisher. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, there are important and obvious reasons why the kingfisher is a selection that is for the birds.
The indisputable and most glorious choice for University of Illinois mascot is the Tully Monster. I’m serious.
If you aren’t familiar with this prehistoric denizen then shame on you. After all, the Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium) is the official state fossil of Illinois and inhabited the waters covering the state some 300 million years ago. It was discovered in 1958 by Francis Tully.
Illinois State Geological Survey paleontologist Donald Mikulic lobbied the State Legislation to give Tully the honor, which the wise legislators did in 1989. Mikulic was lucky he got that done when he did; today Tully would be competing with Mike Madigan and Dick Durbin for state fossil.
Why would Tully be a great mascot?
- Tully Monster fossils have only been found in the Mazon Creek fossil beds of Illinois. That means it is Illinois’ fossil and nobody else can claim it.
- Lots of universities have mascots named after birds or furry animals, but they are hardly unique. No other school has a Tully Monster. (I should point out that Ohio State’s mascot is a nut, the Buckeye, which may say something about the school’s football fans.)
- The Tully Monster was a soft-bodied, highly flexible creature that grew as long as 18 inches. It was a voracious carnivore with a long jaw and sharp teeth. You would not have wanted to encounter Tully in the wild, prehistoric waters of Illinois. Tully was tough!
- It is easy to picture a vicious depiction of Tully on athletic uniforms and banners. At minimum, the unusual image would distract other teams and give Illinois teams an advantage. (We need all the help we can get.)
- Unlike Chief Illiniwek, Tully is unlikely to arose the ire of activists – although anything is possible. Maybe there are fossil-rights activists who have been dormant.
I know there are some who will point out that nobody alive today has ever seen a living Tully Monster. I don’t think that should be a deal breaker.
Notre Dame has a leprechaun as its mascot and despite legends to the contrary, nobody has ever really seen a leprechaun. At least we know that Tully was real.