UWO creates first mascot 67 years ago


Tommy Titan in the 1972 Homecoming parade on Main Street. (Courtesy University Archives)

Kylie Balk-Yaatenen, Arts and Entertainment Editor

This year marks the 150th anniversary of what is now known as the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. But the school didn’t have a physical mascot until 1954.

According to the University Archives, in 1937 the university adopted the name of the Titans as the official team name. In Greek mythology, Titans were strong giants who were children of Uranus and Gaea and ruled the Earth until they were overthrown by the younger Olympian gods.

The school chose the name through a student-wide naming contest held by the Advance, the name of the campus newspaper at the time. The Oct. 6, 1937 issue announced a “thrilling new contest” to name the school football team.

Tommy Titan poses in the 1960s with members of the Reeve Union Board. (Courtesy University Archives)

The name needed to be intimidating, unique to the area and be able to be used in school songs. The Advance received 68 entries. Thomas Lynch from the class of 1940 was declared the winner in the contest with the name Titans, winning $5 for his submission.

But a team mascot wasn’t created immediately. According to a 1954 article from the school newspaper, Tommy Titan was an emblem for UWO, designed by Shirley Webber and was to appear in “The Quiver,” the UWO yearbook.

According to archives, the original design was to look like a 1950s student with a light colored buzzcut and a letterman sweater. The image for the mascot didn’t change much, but continued to be used for the next two decades.

According to a 1966 issue of the Advance, students weren’t happy with the name and the team colors and wanted to change them in the mid 1960s. The Student Government planned a referendum to discuss changing the name.

The Mascot Committee Chairman Buzz Barlow wrote in a letter to the editor in the Dec. 2 issue that there was “an increasing interest within the WSU-O student body to change the school nickname.”

However, a week later in the Dec. 9 issue, Barlow was quoted as saying that changing the team’s name was not the best idea, and that the committee should call off the referendum and instead have art students create a new Titan mascot costume.

In October 1967, a new and unofficial “Tommy Titan” mascot costume debuted at a homecoming football game against St. Norbert College, according to University Archives. The new, redesigned mascot was created to look like the Greek mythology version of a titan, with a golden helmet and sword.

The design was created by art students and Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh alumni, who built the 4-foot Titan head to be worn by a student at sporting events. The head did not last long because it was created out of paper mache and was damaged from the different activities. The mascot didn’t appear at games after the early 1970s.

After the 1970s, students occasionally commented on the lack of a school mascot in The Advance-Titan.

A Dec. 8, 1999 article titled “Cheering on the Titans” quoted a student who believed the university needed a costumed mascot at sporting events to increase excitement. In the April 3, 1992 Advance-Titan, the need for a mascot was expressed in a satirical article that joked that the school should hire a middle-aged man to run around in a bronze-armored skirt and sandals at sporting events as a new mascot named Terry Titan.

A satirical advertisement in the Jan. 31, 2001 Advance-Titan, placed next to an advertisement for a mascot from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, read: “NOW HIRING-MASCOT! UW-Oshkosh is looking for a creative and energetic person to pose as a Titan for upcoming games and local appearances. Actually, we are just looking for anyone who knows what a Titan is or how to depict such a creature.”

In 2004, UWO 1995 graduate Bruce Mickelson created the logo using the traditional titan head referencing Prometheus and used the colors black and gold and a lightning strike.

Then Chancellor Richard Wells told the UW Oshkosh News Bulletin, “The logo represents not only our athletic excellence, but also the intellectual fire we seek to instill in our students.”

UWO commissioned Olympus Costume Company to create the mascot as a full-bodied version of the titan complete with a lightning bolt staff, skirt, cape and sandals.

The Northwestern asked the community in 2009 to name the mascot and some of the names up for vote were Clash, Lightning, Bolt and Caosh (a combination of chaos and Oshkosh).

Then Chancellor Richard Wells announces the name chosen in a contest for the new Titan mascot, Clash, during the 2009 Homecoming game. (University Archives)

Clash won the vote and was introduced at the 2009 homecoming game and is the mascot that is still used by UWO in 2021.

The history of UWO’s mascot is varied and has gone through many different adaptations, but one thing that will never change is what he stands for. He will always stand for UWO’s strength and resilience.