Northwestern’s first mascot was a live caged bear cub, named Furpaw, from the Lincoln Park Zoo. The bear cub was driven from the zoo to the stadium each week to greet fans before each game. However, following a losing season, the team decided that Furpaw was the “harbinger of bad luck” and decided that they needed a new mascot.
The roaring 1920s… a time of people owning cars, radios and telephones for the first time and when blaming your cute cuddly mascot was easier than working harder…
These wrestling bear cubs are un-bear-ably cute pic.twitter.com/dTm4he5BE9— BuzzFeed UK (@BuzzFeedUK) September 25, 2019
Furpaw’s ousting led to Northwestern becoming the Wildcats in 1924 after a loss to the University of Chicago Maroons. A writer for the Chicago Tribune said that, even in defeat, Northwestern looked like wildcats that had come down from Evanston.
Hooray for nicknames given to you in defeat!
Months later, the university board made the nickname official.
Willie the Wildcat was born in 1933 when the athletic department and an advertising firm created the first images of the mascot. However, it was not until 1947 that Willie made his first appearance when the Alpha Delta Fraternity dressed up as Willie for homecoming.
The students designed the head while their mothers sewed the back of the costume. The suit took two people to operate – one for Willie’s front and one for Willie’s back end.
In 1948, two female co-eds wore the costume to a game at South Bend Stadium when the Wildcats played at Notre Dame. However, Notre Dame had a rule in place forbidding women from being on the field.
After a lengthy discussion, officials gave the women special permission to access the field.
A year later, while playing Purdue, the two women wearing the costume were picked up by some Boilermaker male cheerleaders and thrown into the Boilermaker mascot. It wasn’t until the women began to yell, that it was realized who was in the costume.
This seems familiar…
Did you know that more than 25 schools have the nickname of ‘Wildcats?’
And Northwestern isn’t the only major conference school with a purple and white color scheme along with a Wildcat mascot named Willie.
Not only that, K-State’s Willie also first appeared in 1947. However, it looks like Northwestern had the idea for Willie first, as K-State’s first wildcat mascot was a live bobcat named Touchdown.
I also have to give the nod to Northwestern, as its mascot is way better than K-State’s adaptation. K-State’s Willie is just a guy in regular clothes, wearing a wildcat head…
Northwestern's Willie the Wildcat: cuddly, benevolent yet spirited feline friend, 10/10— Patrick Andres (@PAndres2001) April 6, 2019
Kansas State's Willie the Wildcat: ridiculously terrifying, otter-looking thing, 0/10 pic.twitter.com/WoajEVD5c7
And I would prefer to not compare willies any further; this is a family site.
Northwestern often refers to itself as Chicago’s Big Ten Team. However, Chicago doesn’t really care for Willie…
In a March 2019 Chicago Tribune article, Tim Bannon and Phil Rosenthal ranked the Big Ten’s mascot’s and ranked Willie No. 7. They also ranked Brutus No. 1, so, clearly, they have no clue what they are talking about.
(Leave the mascot pieces to the professionals, Chicago Tribune…)
But still, how do you not rank “your” mascot in at least the top three?
Willie is an anthropomorphized wildcat who roams the sidelines of Ryan Field (awesome name, crappy stadium) clad in Northwestern garb. He often matches his uniform with uniform of the team he is cheering on.
As mentioned earlier, Northwestern is one of many schools with Wildcats as their mascot, and Willie is the least menacing of all of them with large white tufts of hair on his cheeks and on the top of his head.
He is the Mr. T of the mascot world.
Willie has a smiling yet surprised look on his face. He looks so much like… *thinking thinking thinking* … the lion from the movie, Madagascar. That’s it!
Hey #B1GCats it's #NationalStudentAthleteDay— Willie the Wildcat (@WillieWildcatNU) April 5, 2019
Consider a gift to yours truly! Follow the link below and write in WILLIE THE WILDCAT in the "OTHER" box. https://t.co/6DTlopmzOC pic.twitter.com/WcmYHM4C8T
However, my biggest problem with Willie is what kind of cat is he? Wildcat is just such a general term unless you are talking about a European Wildcat or an African Wildcat, but Willie doesn’t look like either. My guess is bobcat, but I can’t be sure.
Also, Willie is a cat, yes? We can all agree on that, but where is his tail? Cats famously need tails for balance. Willie doesn’t look like a Manx, which is a cat that famously has a stub for a tail, or no tail at all, due to a naturally occurring mutation of the spine.
Besides, Manx are domestic cat, not wild, so what gives?
Wilbur T. Wildcat, Arizona’s mascot has a tail.
The Kentucky Wildcat has a tail.
Where is Willie’s tail? I need answers.
Lastly, why does Willie have a tramp stamp? I get it, the school wanted his uniform to match the team’s uniforms, but, even then, that raises a bigger question. Why did the football team need to have tramp stamps?
Willie was hired as Pat Fitzgerald’s assistant for a short time, a job that he failed at….
OK, I know that this was a promotional commercial, but why were they so mean to Willie with the laser pointer? He’s a cat, what do you expect?
Not to mention, Pat seemed a bit stiff with his acting. Dad Coach would have given the performance of a lifetime in that role…
Willie better leave the office jobs to Bucky.
Coincidentally, the mascot Bucky is looking at is Wilma Wildcat, a wildcat mascot... WITH A TAIL.
I rest my case.