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Evangel University retires Crusader mascot

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 12:13 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited New Release/KY3) - Evangel University’s Interim President Dr. George O. Wood, its Board of Trustees, and the Evangel University President’s Cabinet unanimously decided to retire the university’s Crusader mascot.

The Crusader has been the official mascot since the school’s inception in 1955.

“Today, we recognize that the Crusader often inhibits the ability of students and alumni to proudly represent the university in their areas of global work and ministry,” said Dr. Wood in a written statement.

This decision was the result of a lengthy and thoughtful review process, including ad hoc committees and focus groups consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alumni going back as far as 2007. The overwhelming recommendation of the groups was to retire the Crusader mascot.

University leaders admit, there’s never a great time to make a change, but said it’s the start of a new season for the school. Dr. Wood said a new president is coming in soon and overall, students and staff are in support of a new mascot.

One senior student-athlete said she’ll always consider herself a crusader.

“Whether the name is there or not, I’m a crusader,” said Desirie Smith.

Smith played basketball at Evangel University and is about to graduate with a social sciences degree.

“Being a crusader, you view it as, you’re going out there to fight and to win,” she said. “That’s something I take with me and I’ll forever cherish.”

As a future history teacher, Smith knows her school’s mascot dates back to the 11th century.

“Soldiers going out, going into the holy lands and trying to reclaim that from Islamic religions and things like that,” she said.

In the classroom, she said, she mainly teaches about the success rate of those crusades, which wasn’t high. Smith said people in other parts of the world, though, remember crusaders as offensive, oppressive and violent, which might be off-putting if a missionary from Evangel comes to tell them about the gospel.

“They view it as something that was very, very traumatic because there was a lot of slaughter and things that went on in that,” Smith said.

Wood studied at Evangel in its earliest years when the crusader mascot was adopted.

“In those days, the word crusader really symbolized someone who had a noble purpose, a noble mission in life,” he said in an interview.

Wood said the decision to change the mascot has nothing to do with “cancel culture.”

“Our purpose is simply to align the mascot more with the mission and values of Evangel University,” he said. “We felt that ‘crusader’ no longer served that purpose, although, in the early days, when the word had a different meaning, it served that purpose, but it doesn’t serve that purpose now.”

Athletic Director Dennis McDonald said his department will have to make some changes, but it will be worth it.

“When you look beyond the crusader name as just a mascot you’ve played under, the mission of the university, I think that’s where the understanding comes in,” McDonald said.

McDonald said since this change was expected to happen at some point, he has been careful about buying uniforms or signs that say “crusaders” in the last several years. Most just say “Evangel University.” However, he said, some emblems on the basketball court and scoreboards will be changed. He said discussions about that will happen soon.

Smith admitted she’ll be sad to see the legacy of the crusader fade away, but as a follower of Christ, she knows what is really worth fighting for.

“This world is just a small sliver of what we’re going to go through and what we’re going to experience because Heaven is eternal,” she said. “If that’s what we’re trying to win souls for, and if getting rid of a mascot is what we have to do to do that, then why wouldn’t we do it?”

The Evangel University community will have the opportunity to offer suggestions on a new mascot, and a committee comprised of students, alumni, faculty, and athletic staff will be created to guide the process.

For a list of FAQs related to this decision, visit evangel.edu/mascot.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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