History in Focus: A mascot — An identity
There are 806 high schools in the United States that claim “Bulldogs” as their mascot. According to mascotDB.com, “Bulldogs” is the third most common nickname for high schools and universities. For being situated in such a unique region of our nation, Moffat County High School has a most common mascot.
However, until 1929, Craig High School was nicknamed “The Mavericks” which is, strictly speaking, an unbranded stray calf or yearling. Today, a maverick describes an unorthodox or independent-minded person, someone who refuses to follow conventions, customs, or rules of a group.
In 1921, the first edition of a Craig High School newspaper titled The Maverick was published. The mascot was chosen because, “it roams at will, being an expression of free speech. We attempt to keep it within the bounds of reason, but no definite line is drawn.” (The Maverick in Craig Daily Press, 8/2/2005).
In those still early years of our town, the Mavericks achieved one of the greatest feats in the annals of Colorado high school football. In 1926, the Mavericks were 7-0 and did not surrender a single point! In fact, the scheduled eighth game was forfeited by Hayden, so intimidating were our Mavericks. In 1927, the streak continued for another six games. Then, in a unique West Slope playoffs, Craig High defeated Glenwood 21-7, thus ending the shutout streak at 14 games. For some odd reason, the championship game was never played (Craig Daily Press, 12/17/18).
What a glorious achievement! Especially in that era of leather helmets, smash-mouth, three yards and a cloud of dust, and no concussion protocol mayhem! And all the while the moms and girlfriends were cheering on the boys!
Just as Craig High was on the cusp of creating a strong and vibrant identity as the “Mavericks”, the newly formed “C” Club pushed for a change. Made up of varsity letter winners, they took “as its first project the selection of a new nickname…” (Craig Empire, 12/5/1928). Candidates for the new mascot: Bull Dogs, Blue Devils, Oilers, and Pirates.
Other than the ferocious face of a lathered Bulldog, no specific reason for the change can be identified. Perhaps in the late 1920s, an era of Prohibition, bootlegging, and social and moral upheaval the idea of identifying our high school as a bunch of rule-breaking mavericks was out of line with the times. A Bulldog, while ferocious, was more respectable…and so popular it became blasé.
Starting a new era with a new nickname, the amazing 14 game shutout victory streak drifted into obscurity and went unrecognized for 90 years! Fortunately, in 2018 it was discovered, researched, and documented by Paul Knowles, Assistant Director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Due to these efforts, Craig is now the rightful owner of the CHSAA record for consecutive shut-out victories. Dare I say, in our era of high octane scoring, this record is unbreakable?
And as football has changed so has our society. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the identity our school mascot portrays to the larger world. In the 21st century it’s all about marketing and creating a unique “brand.” We value nicknames that speak to the identity of an area. In my years as a teacher and coach, I’ve come across some venerable high school nicknames: Beetdiggers, Meloneers, the Terrors (my high school alma mater) and my all-time favorite: “The Commanders” of John F. Kennedy High School.
As we seek a new identity in uncertain times, returning to our original mascot may be just the ticket. We are an industrial town in the “information” age. We burn coal to produce electricity for all and are viewed as a scourge to Mother Earth. We like motor sports, hunt with high-powered rifles, and eat lots of beef.
Yet, our tough, unorthodox spirit can become a neon welcome sign to the creative outcasts of the world seeking refuge and respite from the impersonal data-driven world, ever monitoring, compiling, and documenting; squeezing us to conform, purchase, and become statistical norms and averages.
Moffat County history is full of ruffians, outlaws, and tough men and women, and yes, we still attract our fair share of derelicts. But, as mavericks living in the “last frontier” we can be an inviting beacon for the world to fashion, once again, the free life embodied in the openness of the West and the idea of America.
I’m confident this identity would be worth two yards on a fourth and one late in the fourth quarter…
Special thanks to the staff of the Museum of Northwest Colorado for access to the museum archives.
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