As noted on the front page of The Ithacan sports section last week, Ithaca College has decided to re-brand its athletic department by creating a new logo for all the Bombers varsity teams. In my opinion, it’s about time for a change.
The current athletic logo, which features the word “Ithaca” in slanted, navy blue serif font and a large, yellow swoosh, is archaic and expressionless. This logo has never created a tangible image to associate with our athletic program, and I think that missing image is why none of our athletic teams’ uniforms look alike.
In the history of the college’s athletics logos, the word “Bombers” has remained just that — a word instead of an image. The name’s historical significance is just as ambiguous. According to the college’s archives, the school’s official sports name, “Cayugas,” was informally changed to “Bombers” in 1940 after local sports writer Harold Jansen began using the name frequently in his newspaper stories.
Since that time, there have been several colorful mascots trotted out at the Bombers football games, as the student body tried to decipher what exactly our name meant. From roosters and unicorns to Snoopy from the “Peanuts” comic strip, our makeshift mascots have embodied the offbeat flavor of our college and our city.
The Bomber name will not be changed, and so the challenge will be to figure out how “Bombers” can be visualized in a way that appropriately represents our school. The most literal definition of the word Bomber, involving a fighter plane, presents negative connotations of violence and death. To overcome this issue, we need to embrace our convoluted past. I’m nominating the Bomber Man, or perhaps the Bomber Woman, to be part of our new logo. The Bomber Man was a popular costume depicting a man with a goofy mustache, oversized goggles and a white scarf that was worn at many college sporting events between the early 1980s to the early 2000s.
Two years ago, a mascot search committee presented three options for a new visual representation for the college: a phoenix, a flying squirrel and a lake beast. I may have been one of the few who were on board with those options, because I saw them as a way for the college to differentiate itself from the several hundred collegiate athletic programs across the country. However, I also understood the criticisms voiced by varsity athletes and alumni, who feared opponents wouldn’t take them seriously with a winged rodent or an ambiguous water lizard on their uniforms.
Incorporating the Bomber Man into our logo would be a way to find a middle ground between these two viewpoints. His image could be playful enough to avoid the associations with war, while at the same time it would utilize the most popular representation of our confusing name.
When President Tom Rochon announced he was ending the mascot search in June 2011, he stated, “What began as an initiative to personify Bomber pride instead served as a wedge issue to divide us.” A Bomber Man logo would provide the community spirit for which Rochon was originally hoping.