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The Battling Bishops … and other UM mascots


7:00 A.M. EDT July 14, 2011

The “Battling Bishops”of Ohio Wesleyan University. Photo courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan University.
The “Battling Bishops”of Ohio Wesleyan University. Photo courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan University. View in Photo Gallery

In the colorful world of mascots, United Methodist-related schools are at the top of the class with unique and historic “spokespersons.”

The award for the best church-related mascot would have to go to Ohio Wesleyan with the Battling Bishops. A recent Internet posting placed the bishops up there with the Fighting Okra from Delta State University and Sammy the Slug at University of California, Santa Cruz.

The mascot is a svelte, stern-looking bishop dressed in a red robe who has been giving the evil eye to all competitors since 1925. The website states the university in Delaware, Ohio, has produced many of the church’s bishops, thus the origin of the mascot.

There are 121 United Methodist-related and owned institutions in the United States. Tucked among them are some mascot standouts:

Peruna, the Shetland pony, Southern Methodist University, Dallas: A Shetland pony has pranced across the football field since 1932. It was during Prohibition when the pony got its name from a popular alcohol-laced, over-the-counter medicine called Peruna Tonic. No one can say SMU doesn’t have spirit.

Skeeter the Catahoula, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport: Skeeter, a real Catahoula Cur, was rescued from an animal shelter in Houston. The Catahoula Cur, or Louisiana leopard dog, is famous for its hunting abilities. Teddy Roosevelt and Louisiana Gov. Earl K. Long both owned Catahoulas. Though Centenary’s sports teams are officially known as the Ladies and Gents, Skeeter is the school's on-campus mascot presence.

Chuck the Pioneer, Spartanburg Methodist, South Carolina: This down-home country boy with a really, really big moustache says his favorite pet is a squirrel while his favorite food is rabbit stew. A bit disturbing. His top entertainment choices are Bonanza, Charlie’s Angels and Dances With Wolves.

“Peruna” of Southern Methodist University. Photo courtesy of Southern Methodist University.
“Peruna” of Southern Methodist University. Photo courtesy
of Southern Methodist University. View in Photo Gallery

Starsky the Ram, Oklahoma City University: OCU believes in its ram, calling it a “commander, headman, innovator and catalyst.” This United Methodist-related school is one of the few that offers mascot scholarships. Currently five students are “star” rams.

Otto the Orange, Syracuse University, New York: Syracuse has experimented with a number of different and not-so-successful mascots since abandoning its Native American mascot in 1978. The warm and woolly orange that represents the school today beat out other suggestions like “The Dome Ranger,” an insurance agent in an orange cowboy outfit; “Dome Eddie,” a gnat-like figure in orange sweats wearing Elton John glasses (no, I’m not making that up); or a pilgrim shot full of arrows. So if you think a giant orange with feet is silly, consider the alternatives.

North Carolina has a fondness for whirling dervishes like the Tornadoes of Brevard College, the Hurricanes at Louisburg College and, of course, the Blue Devils at Duke University.

In the animal/insect category, there is Rhett the Boston Terrier at Boston University and an angry Wasp at Emory and Henry College in Virginia.

Tough guys seem to be a favorite.

The “Blue Devil” of Duke University. Photo courtesy of Duke Photography.
The “Blue Devil” of Duke University. Photo courtesy
of Duke Photography. View in Photo Gallery

The University of Evansville’s Ace Purple started out as a turn-of-the-century riverboat gambler based on the southern Indiana school’s location on the banks of the Ohio River. At one time, Ace carried a gun and a club with a spike through one end—not really a good image for a school. He got a makeover and his rougher side was banished. Today he is more of a cunning, daring, quick-witted fellow who blogs about the campus and athletic teams.

Bob the Blue Raider, Lindsey Wilson College, Columbia, Ky., carries a sword and the Flying Dutchman of Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa., greets competitors with a snarl and raised fist.

Perhaps the Battling Bishops could inspire a mascot for the 2012 United Methodist General Conference: one that speaks softly but carries a Bible and a big Book of Discipline.

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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