Why Champ? How the mascot's name came to be

Illustration by: Will Madison

Illustration by: Will Madison

Imagine being inside Amsoil Arena on a brisk, fall night. Our favorite hockey squad is wailing on the competition when, suddenly, someone shouts at the school mascot.

“Hey look, it’s Killer!,” they say. “Let’s get a picture!”

Before UMD changed it to Champ in 1997, Killer was the familiar, yet unofficial name for that goofy bulldog we all know and love. But, the question becomes, why Champ? Before that can be addressed, though, let’s take a look at what this campus used to be like.

According to UMDs website, until the year 1947, UMD’s school colors were actually (brace yourselves, Vikings fans) green and gold. In fact, the school wasn’t even recognized as UMD, instead they were known as the Duluth State Teachers College, and the mascot was dubbed the Peds, short for Pedagogues, until 1933.

The term pedagogues essentially means teachers, which, suffice it to say, was not an ideal image for the program’s athletic teams. The tag didn’t stick around for long, and thus the name Bulldogs took over, chosen by the athletes themselves. Now the school had a brand new identity. The name has been in place ever since, and Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Bob Nygaard has been able to observe the many changes to the school mascot since he started working here in 1983.

“For the longest time, we had a bulldog mascot with really no name,” Nygaard says.

He says the primary reason for the name change in the late ‘90s was partly due to the fact that UMD was undergoing an athletic director change, but also from the graphic nature of the name Killer.

“They basically called this mascot a murderer,” said Nygaard. And he has a point. The name Killer is simply  too violent for a school mascot, especially if the costume is seen as representative of the University. Something needed to be done.

“They decided to hold a survey with students and vote on [the new name], and I think Champ was the overwhelming favorite,” Nygaard said.

The mascot, according to Nygaard, should really be more for the kids anyway, not the students. In turn, it was the kids that ultimately tipped the scale in favor of the name change. Even though Killer may have been a strong, intimidating name for the athletes to go by, it became inappropriate when young Bulldog fans started using it. Around campus, it’s clear that the name Champ is more than just a name to some, like UMD Freshman Colyn Davidson.

“To me, it signifies a winner, and somebody who’s going to give you their best day in and day out. A person who never quits on their team.”


The evolution of the Bulldogs mascot through the years. Courtesy of Bob Nygaard

The evolution of the Bulldogs mascot through the years. Courtesy of Bob Nygaard

VoicesAndrew Becker