CHENEY, Wash — The Inland Northwest is a unique place for college athletics.
We have four Division I schools, which is not super common for an area with our population size. Each one of those schools has their own distinct history, and as we’ll discuss over the next few weeks, their own distinct mascot. How did these colleges land on their mascot and how have they evolved over time?
In Eastern Washington's case, their mascot history may not be as fun or silly as some other schools in our area. However, it may be the area's most important as it provides us opportunity to learn from mistakes in our past. With that in mind, we want to warn you before going deeper into this article that some of these images are offensive.
EASTERN SELECTS THE SAVAGES
Students at the State Normal School at Cheney hat we know today as Eastern Washington University - started demanding a mascot in the 1920s. By November of 1923, after over 200 mascot names were submitted, a committee whittled the finalists down to eight names. Whoever originally submitted the winning name would receive a whopping $5, which is about $75 with today’s inflation.
Interestingly enough, one of the mascot name finalists was the Golden Eagles, but it was ruled out because it was too similar to Cougars? Not sure where that came from, but history is history.
Savages in that meeting was ruled out as well, but just a month later it gained momentum according to the school paper, and it was voted in by an overwhelming majority.
One of the reasons why Savages was chosen was because there were several Native American-themed traditions around the school, including the Passing of the Arrow, where an outgoing senior dressed up as Sacajawea and passed an arrow to a representative from the junior class. Let’s put it this way — Eastern definitely had an issue when it came to cultural appropriation.
For years and years, the school remained the Savages. What is bizarre is that there never was a single official depiction of the Savage.
There were a fair amount of different drawings and images, but there never one that was agreed upon.
In the 1960’s, Eastern got a human depiction of the mascot as male students began to play the Savage during games.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
In May of 1972 the Board of Trustees decided the Savage was demeaning and that the school should drop the name. Local tribes agreed with the decision.
By October of 1972, the student body was tasked with finding a new mascot name and was asked to send in submissions. Three names would go before the student body and alumni for a vote. However, that didn’t exactly go as planned as the final three names selected to vote on were the Braves, Appaloosas, and … Savages.
Savages won in a landslide when the student population and alumni voted, getting 950 of 1,041 votes. However, to put this in perspective, there were over 5,800 students on campus alone at the time.
The Board of Trustees did not accept the results of the vote and demanded a committee find a new mascot. During the winter and spring of 1973, students referred to Eastern’s teams as the no-names, which, I will admit, is pretty clever.
However, when the committee did find a new nickname, the Lakers, people were not thrilled. In fact, it was rejected by the board.
In July of 1973, the Eagles officially became the Eagles. But we’re not quite done with this story yet.
EVOLUTION OF THE EAGS
1987 was the first time the school had an actual Eagle mascot at games. Swoop, as he’s now known, has evolved over the years.
Here he is in the 90’s.
Then this version in 2002, which to be honest, can stay there.
Then there’s this version that patrolled the sidelines in 2004.
Speaking of 2004, the Savages mascot appeared again on campus that year, much to the dismay of some university officials and teachers. Students made throwback jerseys based off bricks that had a caricature of the Savage outside of the sports and recreation building.
Students wore the jerseys at a basketball game, but the jerseys were confiscated, and the students were ordered not to wear them again due to copyright infringement. Shortly thereafter, the bricks outside that building were sandblasted, removing the image.
In 2006, Swoop got a makeover that more or less remains the same mascot today.