UMKC swaps to new mascot, University opts out of legacy marsupial

In a closed session with the UM System Board of Curators March 25, it was decided that the University of Missouri- Kansas City would be parting ways with its beloved Kasey the Kangaroo.

Chancellor Leo E. Morton announced during a press conference on Friday that the new mascot will be Penelope the Pygmy Hippo.

“We feel this is a better representation of the potential UMKC has,” Morton said. “See, hippos are actually very dominant, aggressive creatures. So with the implementation of the pygmy hippo as the new mascot, it symbolizes the University’s determination to become a force to be reckoned with.”

Although the kangaroo has been UMKC’s mascot since 1936, there was an abundance of support for the transition. A committee was created through UMKC’s Strategic Marketing and Communications in November 2013. It was charged with deciding what the new face of the University would be, finding support in the form of donations and creating a publicity plan.

The Student Government Association has had numerous discussions during the academic year posing interest in a new mascot. SGA submitted a letter of support to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Mel Tyler advocating for the pygmy hippo to be chosen as the new mascot.

“This is the type of change SGA has wanted to see for a long time,” said SGA president Ben Campero. “Hopefully this will bring attention to the mascot and elevate school spirit. Students will not be able to ignore this.”

Representatives from UMKC met with the Board of Curators during Spring Break to discuss the logistics of changing the University’s mascot. The administrators voted unanimously in favor of the pygmy hippo.

According to the committee, other ideas pitched during the brainstorming process were an elephant seal, a narwhal or a manatee. The committee relayed its final decision to Morton in January, insisting that the pygmy hippo would draw the most positive response.

Penelope the Pygmy Hippo will be adopted immediately, according to Morton. The next step to filtering out the kangaroo includes completely rebranding the sports teams. During Morton’s press conference, he addressed concerns about the cost and time it would take to give the uniforms, venues and merchandise a complete makeover.

“We are pleased to acknowledge two new partnerships with the University that will accelerate this process,” Morton said. “First, the Kansas City Zoo has promised a substantial grant as a promotion for its own hippo exhibit.”

The zoo will be hosting a reception event later in the semester to celebrate the partnership. Students, faculty and staff will be invited to an official reveal party and get to interact with the adult hippos.

“In addition, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature has ensured full renovation of Swinney Recreation Center and will be providing a top-notch pygmy hippo mascot suit,” Morton said.

All sports played in the spring will still be competing under the guise of the Roo, but sports taking place in the fall should expect to start donning the new mascot name.

“This is an exciting move for the University,” said Director of Athletics Carla Wilson. “I’ve spoken with some of the athletes, and though there are some mixed feelings about how this will be viewed by other teams, the general consensus is that this is a strategic choice.”

With the looming potential of switching conferences in the future, UMKC could benefit from leaving the WAC and entering the Missouri Valley Conference with a brand new image.

A national search for an official, trademarked illustration of the new mascot is currently underway. The University colors will remain the same, although there was discussion of changing to hues of coral and lime green. The bookstore has already started planning mass orders of new apparel, but must wait until a finalized graphic is chosen.

UMKC will become the first university to display a hippo of any kind as its official mascot. In 1996, The George Washington University claimed a hippo as an unofficial mascot after then-President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg gifted a bronze hippopotamus statue to the Class of 2000.

But UMKC doesn’t plan to let Kasey leave with a walk of shame. The University will be retiring the mascot in a special tribute during this year’s commencement ceremonies. The mascot suit will be put on display taxidermy-style in the Student Union.

2 Comments

  1. SJ

    April 17, 2016 at 8:29 PM

    Do the students not get a say in this? The kangaroo is a selling point and although hippos may be aggressive in nature, that is certainly not the first thing someone without more than basic knowledge of hippos would think of. Kangaroos are known for boxing and even though that may or may not be accurate, it is the idea that if you mess with us that we will fight back that KC the kangaroo gives our university. Our mascot is unique and loved by everyone here. I think it is a mistake to rebrand our school ESPECIALLY without even taking this idea to the students. It should be everyone’s decision, not just the people at the top and I suggest before doing anything, at least to make this decision official, please email out some sort of survey to see what the students think– Please. Thank you for your time.

    • SJ

      April 17, 2016 at 8:35 PM

      Okay, I just realized this was an April fools joke. My bad. :)

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