We’ve previously broken down the list of ten potential mascot names for the forthcoming UT-RGV campus in South Texas and assessed the pros and cons of each name on the list. But the Mascot Mania in the Valley continues unabated over the past month, as a quirky exercise in branding has turned into a heated debate over power and regional identity.
The ten names on the initial list failed to excite many people. In addition to featuring downright lazy choices in the narrowed-down selections (“Bears,” y’all?), nitpickers in the community have found reason to find fault with every single potential name. Petitioners have lobbied to have “Green Jays” added to the list of finalists, after the native bird that brings countless twitchers to the Valley every year. And various legislative bodies in the Valley have passed resolutions arguing for their favorite names.
The point of contention here mainly stems from questions about whether the new school, which will merge the University of Texas Pan-American in Edinburg and UT-Brownsville, while adding a teaching hospital campus in Harlingen—the city roughly equidistant between the two in the Valley—will truly be a new school.
UTPA’s student body is twice as large as that of UT-Brownsville, which has stakeholders from the Lower Valley concerned that they’re merely going to be folded in to the existing UTPA identity. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the Edinburgh city council passed a resolution last month urging UT-RGV to keep the existing mascot name, the Broncs, for UT-RGV:
The Edinburg City Council has approved a resolution urging the University of Texas System to preserve the Bronc Mascot. During the regularly scheduled meeting of the Council on Tuesday, members voted unanimously to join the growing movement to try to save the beloved mascot.
The University of Texas System is currently considering 10 names submitted as a possible new mascot for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. However, Mayor Richard H. Garcia and City Councilmembers say a new mascot is not needed because Bronc has served as a powerful mascot. Valley children have grown to view the Bronc as a symbol of a better future through higher education since 1927.
Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, a UTPA graduate, says the Bronc mascot carries an established presence in the region and the allegiance of thousands of alumni spread across the world. He added that the Bronc is also associated with a National Title dating back to 1963 when the Pan American College Bronc Basketball Team won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Title.
All of that’s well and good for UTPA, and none of it is untrue—but the new school isn’t UT-Pan Am, opponents argue, and keeping that school’s mascot name diminishes their own accomplishments. A Change.org petition in favor of the Broncs has over 3,400 signatures (a Facebook group has nearly that many members), and between the Edinburg council’s actions and the Internet fervor, the student government at UT-Brownsville has responded:
Students in Brownsville made their opinion known Monday. The UTB student resolution reads “with the creation of the new university, the UT system in support of UTPA and UTB acknowledge that there will be a new name and a new beginning through their consolidated institutions.
“The SGA does not tolerate the actions done by UTPA alumni and the city of Edinburg to keep Bucky as the mascot for UTRGV,” UTB SGA Vice President of Administration Phillip Martinez read from the resolution. “The online petition done by UTPA alumni and the resolution passed by Edinburg City Council are unfair to UTB students and alumni.”
It’s worth noting that the UTB resolution doesn’t call for the new school to be called the Ocelots, the Brownsville school’s current mascot—they’re cool with change, they apparently just don’t want to become Broncs after decades of living in the shadow of the larger school in the Upper Valley.
Of course, bickering between Brownsville, which has its own history as a UT-affiliate campus, and Edinburg, which is clearly proud of its heritage as the Broncs, makes some sense. But the new school isn’t based in just the two cities that have already had UT campuses. So what does Harlingen think about all of this? Earlier this week, the City Council there contemplated a resolution opposing the Broncs, as well:
“The creation of a new mascot for the new University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley is a great opportunity for us here in the Valley to begin to think and act regionally,” the proposed resolution states.
“Just as the new university creates a path forward to a higher plain for higher education in the Valley, a new mascot can point the way to the new symbols and institutions around which our entire region can rally.”
The resolution says that whatever the new mascot might be, it must be new, like UT-RGV.
“It needs to be a new symbol for a new beginning, so that it can point the way into the future era of higher education and the development and prosperity which that vision can bring to all of us,” the proposal states.
That seems like a reasonable position here, and it’s one that even some longtime Broncs seem to take. Zen Faulkes, a professor in the department of biology at UT-Pan Am, makes the argument on his blog for “Why Bucky Must Go,” referring to the Bronc mascot:
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is a new university, the first new American research university of the twenty-first century. It needs a new team name, a new mascot, and new colours. UTRGV can’t be stuck in the past.
Ultimately, this will come down to power and politics, as much as anything, which is presumably why the anti-Bucky crowd is concerned: UTPA is the larger and more powerful of the schools, and Edinburg is by a substantial margin the wealthier of the two communities, compared to Brownsville (Edinburg’s median household income is more then 30% higher than Brownsville’s). The war for the hearts, minds, and fuzzy animal costumes of the future UT-RGV students is ongoing—and, at least until a final decision is made, it seems likely to remain heated.