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Why your mascot sucks: Purdue University

Pudon’t let Purdue Pete get anywhere near me or my family...

NCAA Football: Boston College at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue has two mascots, one is one of the scariest mascots in the NCAA, the other is a train/car hybrid, which is considered their “official” mascot.

However, this week, we will be going on a deep-dive into Purdue Pete, because let’s face it, train/car hybrids don’t suck.


Purdue Pete was first created in 1940 when the university book store owners Doc Epple and Red Sammons hired Art Evans, an artist to create the mascot as an advertising logo.

However, he did not get his name until 1944 when “Debris,” the school yearbook, wanted to use him on the cover. The editors of “Debris” approached the book store owners about using the character and asked what his name was.

Without thinking, Epple said, “Pete,” thus naming Purdue’s mascot.

Four years later, Pete took human form for the first time in the 1948 edition of “Debris.” Eight years later, Pete made his first appearance in person at a pep rally.

Purdue’s athletic director Guy “Red” Mackey gave the go-ahead to create a mascot that could inspire fans at football games and later on, and the first version of Pete was created. However, Purdue handled it a little differently than other schools would have.

Purdue named Larry Brumbaugh as the first Purdue Pete and then tasked him with the job of finding a costume to wear instead of Purdue furnishing the costume.

Brumbaugh luckily found a woman from his hometown that was able to make the costume out of papier-mâché, and she donated the costume to the school along with a mallet.

However, Brumbaugh was unable to do much in the costume because it did not fit well, so he found himself just following the cheerleaders around.


Over the years, Pete has gone through many changes.

The head of the costume used to be a smaller papier-mâché mask, then a larger fiberglass version that was more harness than head and now a smaller fiberglass version.

Thankfully for the wearers of the Pete costume, the head of the costume changed, as the first few Petes had nothing but trouble with the head of the costume.

The third Pete, John Knote, lost the head of the head of the costume when he tackled Bucky Badger after Bucky stole Pete’s hammer.

That Bucky, such a rascal…

The second Pete, David Hull, complained that when he raised his arms to cheer, his shoulder pads would move and the head would scrape his nose.

In 1962, the head was lost again, this time for good. The head flew out of the back of the Boilermaker Special on the way back from a game against Iowa.

I’m betting someone got sick of wearing it and pushed it out on “accident.”

In 1963, the school introduced a new head that would be used for 12 years. Much like the initial version, the head was difficult to move in, but this time it was due to the size of the head.

The current design was built in 1989 and was designed by students in the Aeronautical Engineering Technology department. The students make several heads throughout the course of the year and repair any damage that occurs.


Regardless of which version of the mascot you are looking at, each one is actually quite terrifying—and the masses agree with me. As you will see, of the 5,183 votes cast, 44 percent said that Purdue Pete is the scariest mascot.

It has to be his dead eyes.

And what is up with his head? Its 2019, can Purdue not have the head look as though it’s not just sitting on top? I mean, pretty much every mascot looks seamless, where Pete’s head is just sitting there—Not to mention, his body doesn’t match the head.

Iowa recently went from a hard mascot head to a plush one and the results have been well-accepted by the Iowa faithful. The Demon Deacon looks similar-ish to Pete, so maybe that is something Purdue could model off of?

Oddly enough, Purdue did trot out a new plushier version of Pete, in 2011 ahead of the Black and Gold Spring Game. Apparently the the old Pete and the newer and better Pete met, shook hands and then the hammer was passed.

However, there was outrage from fans, former Petes, donors and administration that thought the new Pete missed the mark. The new Pete lasted just weeks, if not days...


I mean, that is the perfect mascot... he looks friendly, his head isn’t just sitting there, he doesn’t have dead eyes and his body matches his head.


Even though they didn’t take a step in the right direction, at least they are far removed from the Pete that looked like the skin mask from Texas Chainsaw Masacre.

The Boilermaker Special

And no, I’m not talking about something you get on the fifth floor of the library, against that back wall… I’m talking about Purdue’s “official” mascot, the Boilermaker Special.

The vehicle is claimed to be the world’s fastest, heaviest and loudest college mascot. The Boilermaker Special travels to every away football game and it can go up to 75 MPH.

It is operated and cared for by the Reamer Club, which is dedicated to observing the traditions of Purdue, supporting major and Olympic sports and developing school spirit.

The Boilermaker Special was first dreamt up on 1939 when a pharmacy student at Purdue suggested that the school adopt a mascot to represent the school’s engineering heritage. The student originally suggested “Mechanical Man,” but that idea was thrown into the scrap pile, as they decided to buy a locomotive on an automobile chassis.

This allowed for both the school’s engineering and railroading heritage to be honored.

Not that kind of railroading… get your mind out of the gutter.

As the father to a son that is obsessed with trains, I have to admit that the Boilermaker Special is pretty sweet. It’s a car, it’s a train, it’s street legal and it can go 75 MPH!


That being said, I don’t think I would ever go near it for fear that Pete may be near by...

I really hope Purdue rethinks this and rolls out the mascot they briefly introduced in 2011. It’s such a shame that they have a much better mascot somewhere on campus, but they choose not to use it.

Mascot Suck Index

Suck Ranking University Mascot Mascot Suck Index
Suck Ranking University Mascot Mascot Suck Index
1 University of Minnesota Goldy Gopher 100
2 Ohio State University Brutus 94
3 Purdue University Purdue Pete 92
4 Kent State University Flash the Golden Eagle 90
5 University of Illinois Chief Illiniwek 89
6 University of Nebraska Herbie Husker & Lil' Red 86
7 University of Iowa Herkey The Hawk 85
8 Michigan State University Sparty 63
9 Northwestern University Willy the Wildcat 62
10 University of Michigan N/A 60
10 Central Michigan University N/A 60
10 University of Southern Florida Rocky the Bull 60
13 Purdue University The Boilermaker Special 10
14 University of Wisconsin - Madison Buckingham U. Badger 0