From the beginning the University of Kansas City has done things a little differently. And a prime example of that is the university’s mascot. Not only is a kangaroo perhaps an unusual choice for a mascot it also became the university mascot even before the university had any sports teams!
The story of the kangaroo began in 1936 with a series of articles in the Kansas City Star about the Swope Park Zoo acquiring two baby kangaroos. A group of students began suggesting that the university should have a symbol and a kangaroo would work well since the word kangaroo rhymed with KCU. The students additionally suggested the kangaroo could be the mascot for the Debate Team since the young university did not have any athletic teams.
In April 1937 a group of enterprising students debuted a “humor magazine” which they titled The Kangaroo. Despite the name, a kangaroo did not appear on the magazine cover until the second issue in May 1937
following within a year was the most often re-circulated Kangaroo humor magazine cover – one drawn by Walt Disney himself featuring Mickey Mouse shaking hands with a kangaroo. This artist coup was accomplished when Disney was visiting Kansas City for a short time and the enterprising Kanagroo staff contacted him, asking for a drawing.
Later in 1938 an unidentified student took inspiration from Disney’s version of the Kangaroo and produced the design seen here:
It was also around this time that the kangaroo mascot gained his name – “Kasey” – meant to rhyme with K.C.U. (alternately the name has been spelled “Casey” as well over the years).
The 1940’s saw another change in design – this one incorporating more of the school’s colors of blue and gold:
The 1950’s saw more changes including one of the first images to incorporate a joey – or a baby kangaroo – in a pouch. Oddly enough, this would make Kasey a female instead of a male.
Another 1950’s era image is odd due to the fact that the two kangaroos shown are playing football – a sport that was never played at the university:
As UKC began it’s athletics program in the 1950’s it also began the practice of Letterman jackets. Here we have a felt patch which was likely meant to be sewn on a Letterman jacket. “Kangies” was a nickname used for the UKC basketball team during that era.
This emblem, from the 1960’s, was in use at the time of the 1963 merger with the University of Missouri System as is evidenced by the fact that is goes from UKC to UMKC.
An Athletics Department Kasey image from 1966 also reflected the sports mascot costume at the time – which featured a young man in a kangaroo costume wearing boxing gloves. Both were inspired by the athletics tag-line of the “Fighting Kangaroos”. It also tieed into the natural defensive fighting style of kangaroos in the wild which has long been described as “boxing”.
In the 1970’s UMKC operated a publicity campaign that encouraged potential students to “Think Marsupial”:
Not long after, in 1976, the Think Marsupial campaign continued but the design of the kangaroo changed drastically:
As the 1980’s came around the Kangaroo began to change. This design from the Athletic Department showcased all of the sports that were played at UMKC at that time. In a throwback to the 1960’s Kasey is depicted in boxing gloves again.
The 1984 basketball emblem definitely had elements in common with the previous image – the kangaroo design was similar and the boxing gloves remained.
Throughout Kasey’s history the mascot has been depicted as male or at least gender neutral. Not so with the 1986 volleyball team’s version of Kasey…
1987 though saw the debut of a more stylized and less cartoonish version of the kangaroo with the “Flyin’ Roo” design.
The “Flyin’ Roo” would continue throught the 1990’s and into the 2000’s with only slight variations.
No matter how much the kangaroo design changes as years go by though it still remains your UMKC mascot. Fighting Roos, Flying Roos, A vital part of their community Roos.