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Why your mascot sucks: Illinois State University

Just a basic bird...

Syndication: DesMoines Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen

We’re back at it again with another collegiate football season, meaning with back at it with some new mascots. First up this season is Reggie Redbird, the mascot for Wisconsin’s first opponent, Illinois State.


Originally, Illinois State was known as the Teachers. While that is an essential career, which sadly is underpaid and not respected the way it should be… it does not exactly work as a collegiate mascot.

Although it would provide some good headline possibilities…

‘Homework too much for the Buckeyes, Teachers win’

‘Teachers hold Gophers back’

‘Hawkeyes get detention’

‘See me after class, Teachers rout Cornhuskers’

‘An apple a day keeps Teachers in the win column over the Hoosiers’

Illinois State athletic director, Clifford E. ‘Pop’ Horton, did not see the wordplay possibilities and thought it would be best to make a change. Horton teamed up with the Daily Pantagraph’s sports editor, Fred Young in 1923 to change the school nickname.

Horton’s choice was the Cardinals, as the school’s colors were already cardinal and white. However, Young changed the name to Red Birds, as to not cause any confusion in the headlines with the St. Louis Cardinals, of Major League Baseball. The school went as the Red Birds for about 10 years, until the two words combined to make Redbirds.

Makes sense, because you can’t put peanut butter and jelly on a shelf together and expect them to not mix… because someone is going to eat a sandwich…

The Redbird mascot first appeared in the 1960s and four generations of Redbird mascots have cheered on ISU athletics.

Reggie, got his name in 1981, when the Junior Redbird Club coined him ‘Reggie Redbird,’ after Reggie Jackson, who enjoyed a 20-year career in the MLB.

A passion for Illinois State athletics has been passed down from Reggie to Reggie over the years, with each Reggie following in his father’s talon steps while living in a nest above the scoreboard in Redbird Arena.

Seems like a freeloader to me...

Reggie, along with his free room and board, even got a bust of his head put up in Redbird Plaza in August, 2017. The bust is made of bronze and sits on a 350-pound base, made of sheet bronze.

The bust is about 54 inches tall and was constructed in a way so that anyone would be able to rub Reggie’s beak for good luck, a common Redbird tradition.

It’s a great-looking bust, but why go and add teeth to it?

Birds don’t have teeth.

There is also a petition online on, that 80 people have signed to have the Reggie Redbird bust replaced with one of Chief Keef, who is a rapper.

Because... why not?

And if the school bends to the 80 people’s will, Reggie has another statue on campus. I mean, how many do you really need?


Reggie, like most mascots, is an anthropomorphized version of a Redbird.

While there have been many iterations of Reggie, I think my favorite is this version from 1976.

That bird looks like it has seen some shit.

And his plumage… it’s just magnificent. You’re drawn to it… you just wanna ruffle them feathers.


The current version of Reggie is your typical, run-of-the-mill Redbird or Cardinal mascot. Big yellow bird feet, a tail, the typical black and red face design, it’s all very underwhelming.

The wings are too flaccid…

The whole design needs more detail and a little more character. The yellow boots could use a lot more detail. They could learn a thing or two from Cy the Cardinal, Iowa State’s mascot. His feet have far more detail with the textured design and the inclusion of talons.

Cy’s face has more character, but he has teeth, which I cannot get behind – not now, not ever. Birds don’t have teeth.

Cy’s wings are also another good example of what a bid mascot’s wings should look like.

Reggie’s just needs more… while I’m not sure they need to go as far as the St Louis Cardinals went… they need to take the next step forward.

I’m still not sure if Fredbird is terrified, excited, or… what?

While I appreciate Illinois not falling into the usual trap of including teeth on Reggie, they just need to do more - give him more expressive eyes, make the costume look more toned, make his feet more detailed, just do something more.

With his current design, Reggie is just... Reggie is just a basic bitch. Not shocking considering the mascot reigns from a town called Normal, Illinois.