Pioneers Welcome Big Red

Feb. 9, 2007

For the past four years, Sacred Heart University's sporting events have been missing something. Something big. Something red. Something fuzzy. They've been missing a mascot. All that changed on Saturday afternoon when Sacred Heart introduced its newest Pioneer, the big, red mascot named--appropriately enough--"Big Red."

"Lately the students were struggling with not having a mascot," said Denise Tiberio, SHU's associate dean of students. "So we worked to create a new one."

Tiberio created SHU's first mascot, Bucky, who reigned the Pioneer sidelines from the early 1990s to 2002. "Bucky served its purpose," Tiberio said, "but we retired him about four years ago because the students weren't really connecting with him."

This time, students spearheaded the design--specifically, Student Body President Jim Daly. "This is something I've worked on since I was a freshman in Student Government," said Daly, a senior. "I set a goal to help SHU get a new mascot before I graduate."

Daly--along with a committee comprised of five representatives from the Student Athletic Association and the Student Senate--created Big Red in consultation with Street Characters, the company that created mascots for the NFL's New England Patriots, the NHL's New York Islanders the Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers.

The specifics of Big Red's appearance were kept secret until Saturday's unveiling (not even the university's administration was able to see the final version), but Daly said the costume stands 6-foot-7 and utilizes SHU's red colors and Pioneer identity. "It has the kind of look that college students will accept and younger kids will like, too," Daly says. "It's not totally goofy-looking, but it's not scary-looking either."

The design also takes into consideration ergonomics and flexibility. "Some mascots' costumes don't allow you to move around much, but Big Red is going to be able to do just about everything," Daly said. "Dunk, ice skate, run around--you name it, Big Red will be able to do it."

Big Red will also have other duties at the university. "We hope to have it become part of the fabric of our home games, but also a key part of our public relations program," said Mark Adzigian, SHU's associate athletic director. "It gives the university a recognizable figure that can go out into local schools and hospitals, and meet kids and represent the university in a different way, which is something that we've been lacking."

Big Red's unveiling will be celebrated with raffles of iPods and other prizes, and T-shirt and towel giveaways. The Sacred Heart cheerleaders, dance team and band will be present, as will members from all Pioneer athletic teams.

"People are really looking forward to the day, because they aren't quite sure what Big Red is--they're coming to see what the hoopla is about," Adzigian said. "A mascot is a staple at a school, so this is the beginning of a brand new tradition, which is pretty exciting."

The women's basketball game will be played at the Fairfield campus' William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center at 2 p.m., followed by the men's basketball game versus Wagner College at 4 p.m.

The games will be preceded by two additional events, one to celebrate women in sports, another to celebrate one woman in SHU sports.

Eight of the Pioneer women's teams will host a multi-sport clinic to coincide with National Girls and Women in Sport Day. "Young girls in the community will have a chance to experience different sports they haven't seen before, and to talk to some of our female student athletes," Adzigian said. The clinic is free, and runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pitt Center.

Immediately before the women's basketball game, senior Amanda Pape of Stamford, Conn., will be presented with an award recognizing her as the all-time leading scorer in SHU women's basketball.