Almost six years after Illinois retired the Chief Illiniwek mascot and symbol in 2007 because the NCAA ruled them hostile and abusive, a student group is holding a contest for to come up with a potential replacement.
Campus Spirit Revival, a registered student group at Illinois, began seeking submissions earlier this month.
Voting opened Wednesday and will continue until Friday, but it's only open to Illinois students. The five leading vote-getters of the 46 student-designed symbols will be presented to Illinois administrators, who will decide whether or not to choose one of them as an official logo.
Illinois assistant sports information director emphasized Thursday the school's athletic department is completely uninvolved in this project.
"There is no indication that a new mascot/symbol is being sought out," Neal wrote via email. "As far as a logo, the athletic department is currently working with Nike on a rebranding, but that does not involved a mascot or this contest in any way."
Since many Illinois students and alumni are still bitter over having their longtime mascot taken from them, there's a segment of the fan base that doesn't want a replacement ... and you can see why from some of the potential options. A few are pretty good. Many more are pretty bad. And a handful are downright laughable.
Below is a look at my vote for the best and worst student submissions for Illinois' potential new symbol. And click here to browse through all 46 options.
THE THREE BEST:
1. Fighting Illini Eagle Symbol: Of the potential options designed to be reminiscent of the school's former chief logo, this is by far my favorite. Other similar possibilities: "The Illini Wolf" (Not bad but the wolf looks too much like other logos) and "Illini Pride" (Nice idea, but the new Illinois logo probably shouldn't be hastily drawn in magic marker)
2. The Illini Owl / Grand Owl: The designer lists all sorts of reasons for going with an owl, from the fact that it's symbolic of wisdom, to the fact that it's a predator, to the fact that it's native to Illinois. Fair enough, all good reasons. I'll just be shallow and admit I liked the drawing.
3. The Fighting Abes: There are a handful of other Abe Lincoln options, including one with an axe and one depicting him as the "Commander in Chief." They all pale in comparison to this Honest Abe with his dukes raised. If you think Abe was tough on the South, wait until you see the damage he inflicts on Indiana, Northwestern or Missouri.
THE THREE WORST:
1. The Illini Panthers/Leopards: This one is lazy enough you can almost hear the conversation that created it. Artist: "What do you think of my submission for the mascot contest? I'm calling it 'The Illini Panthers.'" Friend: "Dude, it kind of looks like a leopard." Artist: "It does not!" Friend: "Seriously, dude, it does." Artist: "Well, what should I do?" Friend: "Don't start over. Maybe use a slash mark and write "Leopards" after it."
2. The Illini Totems: Believe it or not, this potential logo had one like on Facebook. My guess is it came from the mother of the eight-year-old who sketched it.
3. Colonel Kernel: A living, breathing musclebound corn cob mascot is probably better suited for Nebraska than Illinois, but that's not what lands this in my bottom three. The clincher is that it's clearly drawn on the back of a piece of scratch paper. Whatever the winning logo will be, I probably won't be able to read writing bleeding through the other side of the paper.
Dishonorable Mention: A Rabid Squirrel drawn in colored pencil? A hastily drawn tiger with an "I" on its forehead? An angry State of Illinois in a stovepipe hat and photoshopped boxing gloves? So many of these are just brutal that it's hard to limit the list to three.