Chillin' With Dylan

Chillin’ With Dylan: What’s a Rambler? Hint: It’s Not a Wolf

You’ve probably wondered at some point what a “Rambler” really is.

If you think it’s a wolf, like our mascot LU, you’re wrong. “Rambler” has nothing to do with a wolf. Loyola’s mascot used to be a vagabond, and the university needlessly changed that mascot to the wolf you see today.

Loyola University of Chicago is the only university in the country that calls its students “Ramblers,” a name that dates back to the early 20th century. Until 1925, people referred to Loyola’s sports teams by the school’s colors, maroon and gold, according to Loyola’s Digital Special Collections.

In 1925, the university paired up with The Loyola News, the student newspaper at the time, and held a contest to name its varsity teams. “Grandees,” referring to the Spanish roots of St. Ignatius of Loyola, won, according Loyola’s archives. However, this name failed to stick with the students.

One year later, Loyola’s football team picked up a new nickname — the Ramblers — for traveling so frequently for games because it lacked a home field, according to the Digital Special Collections. That name stuck with the student body and fans, and Loyola officially adopted the name.

The university dropped its football program in 1930 when Loyola, along with many Jesuit universities at the time, decided to focus on making basketball a more prominent sport on campus. The administration thought football became too much of a celebrity sport and not an extracurricular, according to the university archives. But the name “Ramblers” stuck.

Bo Rambler, a caricature of a homeless man, became Loyola’s mascot in 1982. “Bo” was short for “hobo” and was a fan favorite, but the university later determined it needed a mascot more appropriate for a university of Loyola’s caliber, according to Loyola’s archives.

Bo Rambler interacting with Loyola faculty and fans.
Courtesy of Loyola University Archives and Special Collections.Bo Rambler interacting with Loyola faculty and fans. Courtesy of Loyola University Archives and Special Collections.

Jim Collins, the School of Communication’s convergence studio manager and a 1985 graduate of Loyola, said Bo Rambler crossed the line a couple times in his interaction with fans.

“[Bo Rambler] was a little more, for lack of a better word, irreverent,” said Collins, who is the director of Rambler Productions. “He would do [inappropriate gestures] towards cheerleaders … It’s amazing how things change in the 20 or 30 years [since then].”

Collins said although he enjoyed Bo Rambler as a student, he understands why Loyola parted ways with the mascot.

“Back then, you used to make fun of drunks,” Collins said. “That kind of stuff was fine. It was later on that you realized [the political incorrectness of Bo] … I think it’s probably a good thing … Do you really want your Ramblers to be known as [hobos]?”

Loyola introduced “LU Wolf,” the mascot that represents Loyola Athletics today, in 1990. It was an effort to better reflect the school’s wolf and kettle logo.

This was an unnecessary move.

A mascot is only as good as the man or woman behind the costume. A basic Wikipedia search clarifies that “hobo” is not necessarily a bum, but merely a traveling worker who never has a permanent home. So “Hobo,” in and of itself, is not offensive. Having something like Bo as a mascot is fine, given the history of how Loyola arrived at “Ramblers” in the first place. LU Wolf is a great mascot, but there was potential for a much more memorable mascot in Bo Rambler.

The old Bo Rambler costume was stolen by the swimming team in 1992, according to a Phoenix article from 2013. The same article said the costume has since disappeared, and no one knows its whereabouts. A better fate for Bo Rambler was impossible. If a hobo is meant to always move around, when it was time for Bo Rambler to go, he literally disappeared. If that’s not poetic justice, I don’t know what is.

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