On February 2, 2017, Clarke University administration announced that their athletic teams’ nickname – the Clarke Crusaders – would be changed to the Clarke Pride effective August 1, 2017. As a result, there has been both backlash and support among Clarke community about the new moniker.
According to athletic staff, there have been complaints by faculty and students about the name Crusaders for about 10 years. The community consistently questioned whether the nickname aligns with the mission and values of the university.
The main issue with the Crusaders moniker, and the reason for the recent name change, was rooted in the belief that the name Crusaders was too offensive as we are a Catholic institution. The Crusaders engaged in violent, deadly battles with Muslims over territory of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
Despite the good intentions that the Clarke administration had while discussing a new mascot name that more aligned with Clarke’s mission, some students are unhappy with the shift. At the same time, there is also indifference as well as support from students and athletic staff.
Regardless of the FAQ sheet provided on the Clarke Athletics website, questions and rumors are circulating around campus.
Most of the comments from students suggest that they feel betrayed by the University and that the name change decision was made without their input. Other student concerns relate to the cost of changing all of Clarke signs and uniforms that currently use the “Crusaders” logo. Additionally, there is also a lot of anger from alumni that the legacy of Crusaders is ceasing unexpectedly. This anger and frustration can be seen through comments on the Clarke University Facebook page on the post discussing the name change.
On the other hand, some students are expressing indifference. “It doesn’t matter what you call us, we are still Clarke athletes on the same mission,” said senior accounting major, and two sport athlete, Kayla O’Brien.
There is support for the name change from most of the coaches at Clarke. Jeff Lamb, head softball coach, expresses his support to his team. He said, “We have the opportunity to be the first Pride here. Let’s make it ours and do something great with it.” In an interview with Jeff Lamb, he expressed his frustration with the complaints and negative comments coming from students. He said, “Athletes should support the movement and make the transition easier for the Clarke community.” Lamb hopes that everyone at Clarke will be on board by the time the name change is in full effect.
With regard to admissions, Kelsey Meyer, Campus Experience Coordinator, stated that she is unsure of how the name change will affect future enrollment. In an interview with Meyer she said, “[the name change] might give students a reason to stop and think if this is really the school they want to go to, but I’m not sure if it will be a big enough issue to completely change their decision.” The admissions staff did not hear about the final decision for the name change until the email was sent out from the president’s office to the entire Clarke community.
As a non-athlete, Alli Reeder, junior class representative of Clarke Student Association, states “we had no idea of the change until the email from President Joanne Burrows was sent to everyone.” Her concern was mostly regarding the lack of communication between administration and students. She asked, “Why even have a student association if we aren’t given the opportunity to speak?” Reeder added, “I’m just not sure how many people will be proud to be a Pride.”
After an interview with both the Director of Athletics, Curt Long, and the Assistant Director of Athletics, Casey Tauber, they expressed their intentions and aspirations regarding the name change. Curt Long stated, “Disagreements evolved on the top 3 choices. When we finally decided, we thought that more could be done with the Pride concept and we thought Pride represented our campus more than the other choices.”
According to Long and Tauber, out of the original 111 choices that the group of athletic staff came up with, the decision was narrowed down to three final choices, The Golden Lions, Wild, and Pride.
Tauber added, “This is a topic that has been split for so many years now. The vote 10 years ago showed no consensus in one particular direction. We gathered our thoughts agreeing that, if the students were to be surveyed on the final three choices, the end result would be split between all three options.”
Tauber expressed his aspirations and high expectations for the new nickname. He stated, “The excitement is that it is something new that you can mold. Crusader was already made for you, but now it’s in the student’s hands to create what Pride is going to look like.”