Loyola’s mascot changes from cheerful derelict to wolf

Courtesy of Jim Collins
Courtesy of Jim Collins

What is a Rambler? And why is it a wolf? Why does the school have such an odd nickname?

These are common questions Loyola students might ask.

Loyola athletic teams were originally known as the Maroon and Gold, representing a practice across the country before 1920 to name athletic teams after the school’s colors, according to the Athletic Department’s website. Some schools, like the Harvard Crimson, never abandoned that practice, but Loyola did. The football coach conducted a contest to name the football team Loyola had at the time and, in 1925, they became the “Grandees” after the old school newspaper.

That name failed to stick and after just one year, in 1926, Loyola teams became known as the Ramblers for good. That year, the football team did a large amount of traveling. They did enough that the media dubbed the team “the Ramblers” for the amount of rambling around the country they did. Even though football was discontinued at Loyola in 1930, the nickname lived on.

But while the teams had a nickname, they didn’t have a mascot until 1980, when then introduced Bo Rambler.

“He looked like a hobo with a big, giant head,” said Jim Collins, the video production coordinator in the School of Communication and a 1985 graduate of Loyola. “I just showed up to a basketball game once and he was there. Most of the kids, when I was in school, liked him and thought he was funny.”

Bo didn’t just look like a hobo; he was one. Even the name Bo stemmed from the word hobo. Bo was similar to many mascots. He would try to entertain the crowd alongside the cheerleaders. Collins remembered one particular moment between Bo and DePaul’s mascot, when the rivalry between the two schools was huge.

“Bo and Billy Blue Demon, or whatever his name was, got into a shoving match,” Collins said. “Bo went to a store not far from campus and borrowed a giant boxing glove and came back with it.”

While Bo didn’t pull a Muhammad Ali on DePaul’s mascot, he went down for the count in the early ‘90s. That’s when the university decided to change Loyola’s image.

“I guess the hobo wasn’t up to the standards of a Jesuit university,” said Pat Schultz, the assistant athletic director of operations and a Loyola alum. “They were pushing the new shield, which had the wolf and kettle.”

In the early ‘90s, the school conducted a survey to let students vote whether they wanted to keep the hobo or go with the wolf as a mascot. Schultz and his buddy, Eddie Slowikowski, one of only two Loyola athletes to ever run a sub-4:00 mile, both wanted Bo Rambler to stay.

“They held voting for students at a women’s volleyball game,” Schultz said, “And Eddie stood by the box and kept putting in votes for Bo.

Courtesy of library archives
Courtesy of library archives

We knew we had put more votes in for Bo than the number of other votes total.”

Yet university officials at the time picked the wolf to be the new mascot. Named Lu as an acronym for Loyola University, the wolf was created to be a more cartoonish character early on.

“He looked like Wile E. Coyote,” Collins said.

The more life-like wolf students know today came about in 2000, according to Schultz. The change coincided with John Planek becoming the athletic director and Fr. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J. becoming president.

“I loved the cartoon wolf better,” said Steve Sykes, an intern for the Athletic Department and a 23-year-old senior history major.

Sykes can be described as a close friend of Lu’s, interacting with him enough during games that he is thought of by some as the “wolf whisperer.” Different students, including Sykes sometimes, play the current Lu, something that has changed since Dr. Grace Calhoun became athletic director in 2011. Under the direction of Planek, a professional played Lu.

Schultz and Sykes agree that the purpose of mascots is to interact with the fans and generate school spirit. Sykes believes that every school should have a mascot. He used to attend Kansas State University where he said Willie the Wildcat was “loved and adored” by everyone, to the point that t-shirts are made of him.

The Phoenix/Brendan Bond
The Phoenix/Brendan Bond

The same has been true at Loyola.

“Students have always embraced the mascot, whether it was Bo or Lu,” Schultz said. “They’re also good ways of marketing the school and athletics.”

Lu has moved into the digital age quite well, blogging for The Phoenix and having a presence on Twitter and Facebook. But while the school takes to the wolf after twenty years, the question remains: what became of Bo Rambler?

“The outfit was stolen by the swim team … we had one then … back in ’92,” Schultz said. “Nobody knows where it is now.”

It appears that Bo is still out there, rambling on, befitting the nickname of the school he served.

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