Despite Spike’s youthful glow, Truman State’s faithful bulldog mascot is older than some might think. This spring, the University is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the bulldog as its mascot. To honor this momentous occasion, the Index took a look back at the history of Truman’s most famous canine.
Throughout the years the University’s mascot has taken many shapes and forms — from live bulldogs on the sidelines of games to the costumed mascot now seen at events across campus.
Alumnus Winston Vanderhoof, Publications Office senior graphic artist, said bulldogs first were referenced in regards to the First District Normal School’s football players during 1908 by coach O.C. Bell. But Vanderhoof said there wasn’t much mention of bulldogs again until 1915 when a committee was formed to figure out ways to revive school spirit after a win-less football season during 1914. Students and faculty were polled to pick a mascot and Vanderhoof said he thinks the bulldog likely was a common answer.
“[The] bulldog is tenacious, his ability to hold on and fight desperately until the end … The bulldog does not quit even though the going gets tough and dangerous,” Vanderhoof said. “I kind of always liked that.”
The baseball team adopted the mascot during 1915, followed by the football team the year after, Vanderhoof said. Live, privately owned mascots were seen for years at sporting events, he said.
One famous live mascot was Sixty, a gift to the 1956 freshmen class, who named him after their anticipated graduation year, according to “Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University,” by alumnus David Clifford Nichols. Sixty loved chasing basketballs, and on one occasion began growling and wanting to chase the ball when it rolled toward his corner of the court during a game, which caused a member of the opposing team to back off and stop following the ball, according to the publication.
The first appearance of a cheerleader in a bulldog costume was during the 1979 homecoming game against Central Missouri State University, according to “Founding the Future.” The idea came from a student, alumnus Don McCollum, who had seen a costumed mascot at a Kansas State University basketball game, according to the book. The first costume was sewn by Jo Newman, wife of then-Director of Financial Aid Wayne Newman, and worn by alumnus Rich Smith, according to “Founding the Future.”
“Smith was known for his antics at games, which included sliding on his stomach across the basketball floor during halftime, chasing young fans around the court and lifting his leg at referees and opponents,” according to the publication. “His one rule was never to interfere with the game — a rule his canine predecessor never learned.”
Newman said when McCollum asked her to sew the costume, she never had done anything similar before — she said she’d only made Halloween costumes for her kids. Newman said she used an old army helmet as the foundation of the head, and although the body of the costume was easy to make it took several weeks to get the head right. Even then, she said she wasn’t completely happy with the result and thought the head looked more like a bear than a bulldog, but she said McCollum was pleased.
The first female to act as our costumed mascot was alumna Julie Preisack during 1984, according to “Founding the Future.” Preisack was a member of the cheerleading team and Jane Davis, then-Northeast Missouri State University cheerleading adviser, said it didn’t matter whether a man or a woman was in the suit because you couldn’t tell the difference once the head was on, according to “Founding the Future.”
Previously, there have been female versions of Truman’s mascot, including “Simone” during 1993, according to “Founding the Future.” Another version was “Spikette,” according to a photo caption in the 1991 Echo Yearbook. The name “Spike” also appears in the photo caption and this might have been the first year the costumed mascot was given a name, according to “Founding the Future.”
Senior Sydney Slavin, the Student Activities Board member who spearheaded the 100th anniversary celebration efforts, said she discovered the anniversary while looking up dates SAB might want to celebrate with an event. She said she thought it would be an interesting piece of history to celebrate and said getting to work with the football team, cheerleaders and other organizations has been a highlight for her.
“I think it’s just a testament to how much everybody really loves Truman and how much we love Spike, and how active and excited we are to get involved in this,” Slavin said.
As for the future of our mascot, Slavin and Vanderhoof said they think Spike still will be around for the next 100 years of Truman State University.