Thunder the Elephant ends a 17-year period without a mascot


Simpson Athletics

Thunder is Simpson College’s new mascot after a 17 year period without one. Thunder was unveiled on Sept. 11.

by Morgan Flynn and Riley Fletcher

The history behind mascots at Simpson College is a complicated story. Prior to becoming the Storm, the college had four different mascots, including its newest addition: Thunder the Elephant. 

In 1910, Simpson’s athletic teams were known as the Red and Gold. 20 years later, the name was shortened to “Redmen”  – a derogatory word paired with a caricature of a Native-American man as the mascot.

After some controversy surrounding the name, the mascot was changed once again in 1985 to Rowdy Rooster, a red rooster with a gold Simpson sweater. The Thundercat was also a mascot at the time, giving Simpson two to pick from.

Then again in February 1992, changing the mascot was on the radar. 

A ballot was handed out to students and faculty that contained 27 names for potential mascots, including Crusaders, Maples, Red Devils, Red Raiders, Saints, Sodbuster, Zenith, Wolf Pack and more.

The Storm was not one of the names on the ballot.

In April of 1992, Simpson’s new mascot, Stormy, a superhero with a lightning bolt on his chest, appeared. The superhero was quickly changed to a storm cloud, and Simpson’s famous Storm was born.

The Thundercat was later chosen – again – as Simpson’s mascot. However, the Thundercat was unable to be used due to copyright and Simpson has been mascot-less ever since.

In 2004, after years without a mascot, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee was responsible for coming up with mascot replacement ideas. The final ideas – a lightning bolt, a thunder hawk, and Zeus the Greek God of Lightning – were sent to SGA, which was supposed to make the final decision. 

In past years an unofficial squirrel mascot has also been utilized on campus

17 years later, the Storm has gained Thunder the Elephant as the newest mascot. 

Thunder was revealed at the all-campus tailgate prior to last Saturday’s football home opener. At the same time, a video featuring the Storm’s newest mascot was put out on social media.

Simpson College Campus Activities Board did a poll on Twitter, finding 68.8% of students who voted, did not like the new mascot. 

Students, alumni, and community members took to social media to express feelings about the new mascot. 

Student Tatum Clayburn commented, “Y’all spent more time making this than implementing change. Embarrassing.”

Director of Athletics Marty Bell explains the reason for picking an elephant to represent the Storm primarily has to do with the symbolism attached to the elephant.

“When you look up the symbolism of elephants, they symbolize wisdom, working as a team, intelligence–things that I think are embodying our mission and who we are as a college,” Bell said.

Bell also cites the thundering sound of elephants in a stampede to be a contributing factor to the decision to make Thunder the new face of Simpson.

Bell is still new in his role, having been welcomed to campus in January of this year. He felt that implementing a mascot was important to turn over a new leaf at Simpson.

“I’m trying to start a new day, a new vision, a new direction,” Bell said. “I’m trying to elevate school spirit coming out of COVID. There’s lots of reasons right now where we could use our spirits being uplifted.”

Plans for a new mascot began late in the spring semester of 2021 and into the summer. Once Bell felt they found the right fit for the mascot, various constituents on campus were polled to gather opinions about the choice.

“I made presentations on campus, and I pulled a sample of student-athletes and a couple of folks from student government and whatnot just to get feedback,” Bell said. “We polled some students; we polled some faculty. It was a small sample size, but nonetheless. We also polled the cabinet and different groups on campus. I didn’t make the decision in a vacuum.”

Bell attests that the unveiling of Thunder is beyond athletics; Thunder is a symbol for the school as a whole.

“When making this decision, we were looking for things that would symbolically fit our mission,” Bell said. “Thunder was where I was at. It was the best way to play off Storm. So when I started looking at thunder and thinking of the thunder sound, the elephant came to mind.”

What events Thunder will be at is currently undetermined until there are permanent people to sport the costume. Tryouts will be held to determine who will assume the role of Thunder. Bell wants Thunder to be at every event possible, which is why Simpson invested in two costumes.

“We might have multiple events going on at the same time, one on the athletic field and the other across campus,” Bell said. “We want to make sure we have Thunder’s presence wherever we can.”