VALAPARAISO — Valparaiso University will begin a search for a new mascot after campus leaders announced Thursday the school will abandon the Crusader nickname due to its association with hate groups.
The Lutheran university's faculty and student senates each passed resolutions calling for the change and the university's board of directors supported examining the appropriateness of the team name, interim president Colette Irwin-Knott said in a video posted online.
Irwin-Knott said hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have adopted and embraced the Crusades and its symbols. The Crusades were a series of religious wars in the 11th century between Christians and Muslims. Valparaiso's mascot is a helmeted figure that wears faux armor.
"In fact, a newspaper of the KKK carries the name 'The Crusader,' and this is not something we want to be connected with Valparaiso University in any way," Irwin-Knott said. "The negative connotation and violence associated with the Crusader is not reflective of Valpo's mission and values, which promote a welcoming and inclusive community."
Student body president Kaitlyn Steinhiser said many students are eager to see the Crusader mascot retired.
"Mascots are intended to help us show our school spirit and represent Valpo values, rather than be divisive and symbolize negativity," Steinhiser said. "There has been a growing concern from students on campus about how the current Crusader mascot represents us, as well as how it may impact prospective students’ views of our university."
A new mascot has not been announced by the university and leaders did not provide a timetable for when one will be named. The Northwest Indiana school has been known as the Crusaders since 1942.
Valparaiso is the latest in a series of professional sports teams and college athletic programs to examine and abandon team names and mascots amid a national discussion on the meaning of such symbols.
Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians announced in December a plan to drop the team name it has had since 1915. The Washington Football Team changed its name before the 2020 NFL season.