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The Search for a DU Mascot

Mascot Research Results—Announced Aug. 9, 2013

After several months of both quantitative and qualitative research, the University of Denver mascot development committee learned a great deal about the community's attitudes and opinions regarding a new, official University mascot. With more than 8,000 community members participating in the survey, over three times the expected number of completions, the community has demonstrated a high level of engagement in the University's spirit program.

The research shows that nearly 70 percent of the University community is either receptive or neutral to moving forward with a new Denver Pioneer mascot, but at this time the community as a whole is not aligned on what that character should be.

The data shows three distinct preferences among the community. Half of those surveyed want a character that is simply a good fit/good performing mascot: an engaging character that appeals to all groups. Meanwhile 35% of those surveyed prefer a character with distinctly western dimensions, and the remainder prefers a non-western character.

Read the full statement about the research results.

the Mascot Steering Committee

The Pioneer Mascot Steering Committee comprised a mix of 76 students, alumni, faculty and staff from the University of Denver community. The strength of this team came in its variety. The goal of the group was to increase positive school spirit by helping to collaboratively craft our DU official mascot, while seeking to build transparency and two-way communication around the process. Membership, which encompassed the wide variety of mascot opinions among the DU community, was based upon a combination of peer recommendations and response to outreach.

Below is a breakdown of the group's demographics.

Steering Committee Members

Students (undergraduate, graduate and law school) = 38
Colorado Women's College = 1
University College = 1
Faculty/Staff =16
Alumni = 18

Chairs = 2 

TOTAL = 76 Pioneers

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Frequently Asked Questions

Goal of the mascot study:

As the University has been without an official mascot since 2008, the goal of this mascot initiative was to incorporate the input of the DU community—including students, faculty, staff and alumni—into developing a new mascot character to celebrate school spirit that is representative of our Pioneer community.

Q: What was the mascot study about?

Inspired by a desire to have an official mascot around which to rally school spirit, community feedback sparked a joint effort by students, alumni, faculty and staff to develop an image that represents our Pioneer community—past, present and future.

Q: What steps were taken?

Input from hundreds of our community members was taken into consideration to build a new mascot character. The research phase was completed by the end of spring quarter 2013. An online survey of final mascot concepts was sent to all DU students, faculty, staff and alumni for additional input and refinement. Following this, the mascot steering committee presented their findings to the University Board of Trustees.

Q: Were past mascots considered in the process?

The University of Denver has not had an official mascot since 2008. Our historical images shall remain in that role moving forward, but are not in consideration for our official mascot. Please note that plans are being made on how to honor all the positive things these characters have given our campus over the years.


We want and need the DU community's input and involvement. Please share your feedback through our public forums or by email.

If you have any questions or care to share a comment, please contact us at

Facts about the mascot development process

  • Not only students, but also faculty, staff and alumni had requested the development of a new mascot that represents the Denver Pioneer of today and the future. This new mascot is intended to create a unifying symbol of our University spirit and a sense of belonging for the entire University community.
  • We are, and will remain, the Denver Pioneers. Our identity as Pioneers has been in place since 1925.
  • Our school colors are, and will remain, crimson and gold.
  • Our current athletic logos, the Denver arch and interlocking DU logo will also remain a part of our visual identity. This has never been in question.
  • Denver Boone has not been our mascot since 1998. Boone, as well as our other historic mascots such as Ruckus, the Fighting Parsons and Pioneer Pete, have been a part of our DU Pioneer experience for generations. These characters will remain a part of our spirit heritage and will be honored in a historic context forever.  None of these images, however, are in consideration for our official mascot moving forward.
  • We have not had an official mascot since Ruckus was retired in 2008.
  • If a new mascot is chosen, the only elements of our spirit program that will change are the mascot costume and images of the mascot used on printed merchandise (such as t-shirts, mugs, etc.).

the research process

To develop the future DU mascot character, the University's Marketing & Communications division, along with the professional research firm Stratfix, followed a defined process to collaborate with groups across the DU community. This process was similar to the one that led to our successful new University "shield" logo.

As an extension of the student task force formed in January 2013, a new mascot steering committee was created. It consisted of alumni from several generations, faculty and staff representatives, and graduate and undergraduate student leaders from across campus. This steering committee guided the research process.

At the end of the process, the mascot steering committee hoped to recommend a final, tested mascot to the DU Board of Trustees for approval, but was unable to as a result of this research. The mascot concepts will need to be refined further.

The research project was broken into three phases.

PHASE 1, April 3 - 26: Exploratory Research and Concept Development
  • Through one-on-one interviews; in-person focus groups; Internet-based focus groups; and open forums including hundreds of alumni, students, faculty, and staff, the researchers gathered ideas from the community, as well as attributes that the community feels should be incorporated into the Denver Pioneer mascot.
  • Based on the ideas gathered, the mascot steering committee worked with the researchers as well as a professional graphic artist and writing team to develop initial mascot concepts. These were paragraph-long descriptions of different character ideas.
  • The mascot concepts were presented through more one-on-one interviews, in-person focus groups, Internet-based focus groups and forums for feedback from the community.
PHASE 2, April 28 - May 7, 2013: Concept Refinement

Based on the input received, the mascot steering committee and professional graphic design and writing teams refined the preferred concepts and further narrowed down the options.

PHASE 2.5, Mid-May to mid-June, 2013: Imagery, Sketch and Story Refinement

As this process as developed we recognized the need to truly enrich the imagery and stories proposed more.  Therefore further work continued during this stage to bring on new artists, hold focused discussions of back stories, and determine the future of the Mascot Steering Committee.

PHASE 3, Mid-June, 2013: Quantitative Testing, Refinement and Recommendations
  • The final refined concepts from resulting from the research process each included a narrative and drawing. They were tested via an online survey of all DU students, alumni, faculty and staff. Key community members also were surveyed. The merits of each concept was rated individually, not in relation to the other proposed concepts.
  • If the surveys had identified a successful final concept, the mascot steering committee and student government would have recommended the mascot to the chancellor and Board of Trustees for approval.
  • Because the survey results didn't indicate a successful candidate, the concepts will be refined further.