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Why your mascot sucks: University of Iowa

Herky is the best mascot in Iowa.

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NCAA Football: Miami (Ohio) at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Herky The Hawk, Iowa’s mascot for the last 70 years, is a hawk, of some sort and proclaims on his Twitter that he is the “best mascot in the State of Iowa!”

Weird flex, bro...

Also, I don’t know if I would go that far...

OK, maybe he is...but still it’s a weird brag for your Twitter profile.


Before Herky, came Burch the bear. Burch was a live black bear that served as the school’s mascot from 1908-1910.

Burch traveled with the team to road games, wrestled with the players and roamed the sidelines. Head coach Mark Catlin acquired Burch, when he visited his father’s ranch in Northern Wisconsin.

Burch arrived at the University of Iowa by train, in a box addressed to the team’s assistant coach. A note on the box read, “Mr. Expressman, I am going to be a mascot. If you find a little time and milk and water, please give me some. Your’s truly, Burch.”

Iowa got off to a great start in Burch’s first game, winning 92-0 at home. However in Burch’s first road game, things got a bit hairy.

Offensive lineman, Fat Johnson, yes THAT Fat Johnson, led Burch around the stadium and the crowd teased Burch and one individual went as far as to poke the bear.

I am guessing this is where the commonly used phrase comes from, but I cannot confirm.

Burch grabbed the person’s leg and held on and a city marshal threatened to make an arrest if the bear wasn’t muzzled. No arrests were made and no one was harmed.

Burch had another incident in 1909, when he broke free from his chain and headed for higher ground, during flooding. John Griffith, who was the head coach at the time and others, were able to capture Burch and he was then relocated to Iowa City’s City Park Zoo.

Later in 1909, when the football season started, Burch was no longer the size of a dog, he was a full-grown bear.

Now, most people would not bring a full-grown bear into a metal box on wheels with people, but not Iowa.

Oddly enough, bears refer to buses full of people as “lunch boxes.”

On a road trip to play Mizzou, Burch drove the entire squad into one small corner of the bus on the way to the game.

I imagine that bus ride was similar to Jackie Moon vs Dewey the Bear.

After that, Burch stayed in a cage at Iowa Field.

In February of 1910, two Iowa newspapers reported that Burch was dead.

However, a couple weeks later, it was reported that Burch was just hibernating. Talk about #FakeNews.

On March 3, 1910 students and reporters were finally allowed to see Burch and when they got to his cage, he was nowhere to be found. What they did find was twisted bars, torn netting and a hole in the cage, with bits of fur on the sides of the hole.

Reports came in that Burch was seen along the edge of the Iowa River, which is where he was ultimately found dead.

On March 9, 1910 Burch’s lifeless body was found floating among dislodged ice in the river. Some theorized that Burch must have been walking along the frozen river, seen a crack in the ice, attempted to drink from it and then fallen in.

RIP Burch.

Burch’s body was given to the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History to be taxidermied, but due to his condition, he could not be. However, his head could be salvaged and mounted and is said to be hanging in the athletic section of the museum.

His skull is said to have been given to the zoological department at UI.

While Burch is gone, the groundskeeper was not so sure that he would not return in spiritual form... he went as far as to tell the Daily Iowan he feared “Burch’s ghost, like those of all who die violent deaths, would return to haunt the scenes of his bearhood days.”



In 1948, a professor at Iowa, Dick Spencer III entered a contest to create a new mascot for the school, thus creating Herky.

The name was settled on following a statewide contest, which was won by John Franklin, a former UI student.

However, I do have one question for John… why? What kind of name is Herky? I mean seriously. It was like Iowa got a couple of suggestions and saw “Herky,” and just said, “whatever, let’s just use it, it’s not going to last.”

Herky was first seen at a football game in the mid-1950s, with a black leather head and gold felt feathers.

In 2014, Herky received a makeover, replacing the long-standing appearance, Iowans knew and loved and the rest of us sort of tolerated.

As Iowa City Press-Citizen writer Josh O’Leary said at the time, “Gone is the glossy-faced, bobble-headed Herky of past seasons, with his painted-on eyes, open beak and enormous helmet. He’s been replaced with a fuzzy-faced, thick-browed Herky, with teeth perpetually bared in what could be seen as a half smile or half grimace depending on the scoreboard.”


Part of the reason for the update was due to Herky’s fiberglass head. Not only was the head heavy, weighing 30 pounds, but it required a lot of maintenance, needing to be re-painted weekly.

The new Herky is also a beefier version, as the previous Herky wore loose fitting clothes and tight football pants.

Herky’s current physique is more toned and fluffier.

A professor at the school has even called for a change to the newly updated Herky. Resmiye Oral, a professor in the medical school emailed the athletic department, complaining about Herky’s appearance.

“I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” Oral said in an email. “Our campus community is doing a great job in that regard when it comes to words. However, Herky’s angry, to say the least, faces conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence are not compatible with the verbal messages that we try to convey to and instill in our students and campus community.”

I mean… c’mon… if anything, he looks uncomfortable and or constipated.

How is that not welcoming?


The University of Iowa Hospital and clinics adopted Perky as their mascot in 2002. Perky makes monthly visits to the Children’s Hospital pediatric floors, as well as other special appearances.

Perky is also Herky’s cousin.

If you are unfamiliar with the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital, they take part in one of the best traditions in college football, where everyone in Kinnick Stadium turns and waves to children in the Hospital.

I’m not crying, you’re crying….


Aside from Perky and all those kids... Herky’s name is dumb and again, and I cannot stress this enough, birds don’t have teeth. Not to mention, many Iowans don’t like the updated Herky, including his own coworkers... well one professor.

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