Purdue spent a full year revamping its oversized Boilermaker mascot, Purdue Pete, and for good reason. The old Pete hadn't had a makeover since 1989. His oversized head made him look angry, and his normal human legs looked weak. He looked too much like a high school mascot. The school itself admitted fans found Pete "cartoony," "confused" and "not personable or welcoming." Frankly, he scared the children. As athletic director Morgan Burke said last year, "At some point, the poor old guy has to come into the 21st Century."
That point was last Saturday, when the old Pete officially passed the hammer to his successor at the Boilermakers' spring game. The new Pete was designed to make for all of his outdated, 20th Century failings: The traditionally hard-shell head had been replaced by a softer, more Muppet-like lid, featuring "a deeper tan to represent more ethnicities." The revised getup also came with a full-body suit, allowing females to play what had previously been an all-male role, and was also scheduled to lose the traditional sledgehammer, deemed "too violent" for a mascot. Five-thousand fans were on hand for the official debut.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue Athletics has announced it is retiring the new Purdue Pete and will bring back the familiar Purdue Pete in response to requests by students, alumni and fans.
"The fans have spoken, and we are listening. They like the Purdue Pete they've known for the last 30 years, and that's the one we're going with," athletics director Morgan Burke said. […]
"Fan passion trumps prototype. That level of passion is synonymous with athletic success, and we're all for that," Burke said. "Fans can see the unretired Purdue Pete in Ross-Ade Stadium Sept. 3."
I would venture that New Pete's one-game reign is the briefest in recorded mascot history, but that's giving him a little too much credit. It wasn't even a real game. He lasted one sparsely attended scrimmage.
Restoring the old Pete to his position isn't as easy as returning his sledgehammer. One of the more practical reasons for makeover was that the professor who oversaw the class that manufactures the five-pound composite that serves as Pete's head is no longer at the university, and constructing the head is no longer part of the class curriculum. Faculty in the Department of Aviation Technology has agreed to construct two heads using instructions left by the professor at a cost of $2,700 apiece while the university searches for a manufacturer, a plan that could result in some … interesting results of its own. But the people have spoken: When it comes to upholding the fixed, unblinking face the fans know and love, no price is too high.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.