Rowdy remains fan-friendly with new look
The lights went dark at the Show Me Center. A final video showed Rowdy the Redhawk in physical therapy and reconstructive surgery. “The Return” flashed brightly on the jumbotron. A cloud of smoke hung in the tunnel entrance, and Rowdy ran out with his beloved “Bleacher Reacher Pro” T-shirt cannon with a new look to a raucous crowd reaction, with fans cheering and rising to their feet to try to get a look at the new and improved Rowdy.
That was a special addition to halftime festivities during the men’s basketball game against Eastern Illinois Saturday, Jan. 26.
The narrative that played out was that Rowdy wanted a “Bleacher Reacher Pro” T-shirt cannon for Christmas, but after he tested it out, the T-shirt bounced around the Show Me Center and smacked him in the face, landing him in the hospital. The “injuries” he sustained required reconstructive surgery, hence the excuse for a makeover.
It’s all been part of the publicity stunt surrounding the expected makeover in the mascot at Southeast.
Athletic director Brady Barke said inspiration for the update came largely from the Redhawk logo, which is a profile of a red hawk face with a silver beak and a menacing look in his eye.
“The objective from my standpoint was to be able to try and have a mascot that is still very much kid- and fan-friendly, that is a better representation of our logo and is able to interact with our fans and be more engaged than what the previous mascot was,” he said.
The new costume has a closer resemblance to the Redhawks logo, with the beak and eyes appearing nearly identical to the logo.
Barke said considerations for a new costume began in Spring 2018 when the three old Rowdy costumes began to look worn and in need of replacement. Instead of keeping with the same style, Barke and a small team decided it would be a good time to make the change.
The new Rowdy has a whole different look, appearing much slimmer and much more fierce than the old one. With a gray beak and a dark black outline around his eyes, Rowdy appears much more intimidating than his predecessor.
“Is our mascot what everyone expects it to be, or are there opportunities to maybe tweak that,” Barke said.
Rowdy made a few laps around the court before handing his “Bleacher Reacher Pro” to Southeast’s president, Dr. Carlos Vargas. Rowdy went down to a knee and Dr. Vargas knighted him with the T-shirt cannon.
He said the athletics budget for the year included expenses for new costumes. According to Barke, the cost of the new costume is $7,091 per costume, including the design plus carrying bags. The cost per new costume is approximately the same as it would have been to order a replacement of the old design.
Rowdy was first revealed on Jan. 22, 2005 after Southeast changed their mascot from the Indians to the Redhawks. According to the Southeast news bureau, the five potential names were Rowdy, Rudy, Rally, Ricky or Rocky. The name was voted on during Homecoming Week 2004 and the results were presented before the men’s basketball game against Austin Peay.
Barke said no changes will be made to the Redhawks logo.
Ideally, Barke and his team wanted the new Rowdy to be complete in time for the Family Weekend football game against Dayton Sept. 8. The process of purchasing and production of the costume and getting the pieces was a tight timeframe, so they pushed the reveal date back to the Hall of Fame weekend and the EIU doubleheader.
“We feel like we’ve taken our time and haven’t rushed through it just to have something different,” Barke said. “I think we’ve done it the right way.”
The Athletics Department hinted to an impending makeover in a series of 11 videos ranging from Rowdy wanting the T-shirt cannon for Christmas to his injury and recovery in the hospital videos for social media. The videos gave viewers an address to send get-well cards for Rowdy. People ranging from local elementary school classrooms to St. Louis Blues mascot Louie sent shoutouts almost daily to Rowdy.
“It’s hard to carry on a storyline for a couple of months and still keep it interesting for people,” Barke said. “I think each video has shown us that people are still engaged with what’s going on or still looking forward to the next video.”
Barke said only about 15 people saw the costume before the reveal. The ones wearing the costumes didn’t even get to see it beforehand. Barke said the first time any of the people inside the suit will see it will be as they are putting it on.
Rowdy can be seen at all Southeast athletic events, including the men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader against Tennessee Tech Thursday, Feb. 7.