An eagle with an attitude

Joanne Bello

The Kent State mascot has had many incarnations through the years, including a silver fox, golden palomino horse, a cartoon character and even a live eagle. Now a slightly less lifelike eagle, Flash, represents Kent State at sporting events.

Credit: Ben Breier


Top 10 Most Active College Mascots

1. Monte: Montana

2. Hairy Dawg: University of Georgia

3. Cocky: University of South Carolina

4. Big Red: Western Kentucky University

5. Herbie: Nebraska

6. Aubie (tiger): Auburn University

7. Scratch: Kentucky

8. Hokie Bird: Virginia Tech

9. Wings (hawk): St. Joseph

10. Gus (gorilla): Pittsburg State (Kan.)

– New York Times

Fans at the football game cheered and beer cups were crashed together as the Kent State mascot, Flash, made his way into the stadium. Some students even gave Flash high-fives as he visited the stands.

When Flash makes an appearance at an event, fans of all ages want their chance to meet the giant eagle.

“It’s cool to see him,” said Jonathan Collins, a former Kent State student who came back to watch the Homecoming football game. “He gets you pumped up, and you get to feel like a kid again.”

Mascots were originally created to entertain kids while their parents watched the game. Today, mascots are being taken more seriously.

“Flash is great to have around,” said Gail Moseley, director of athletic marketing and promotions. “He’s a great PR person.”

This year, the university hopes to have a full squad of Flashes. They want to have at least three to four different people for Flash. The need for so many different Flashes comes from the mascot’s popularity.

The mascot has become so familiar that he now goes out into the community – to birthday parties, sporting events, fundraisers and competitions. Flash even has props and does skits.

While at sporting events, Flash motivates students to cheer, participates in game activities, such as basket contests at the basketball games, and interacts with fans by passing out hugs, high-fives and handshakes.

At this year’s Homecoming game, several students auditioned to be the next Flash. Judges watched as participants interacted with the students and fans. During the third quarter of the game, Flash even tussled with the Miami University RedHawk.

“We’re looking for students who have a big love for Kent State,” said Steve Flaughers, a former Flash. “They have to have a lot of energy, which isn’t hard because they have nothing to lose once they put the suit on.”

Flaughers spent four years as Flash, assuming the role until he graduated last fall. He now volunteers to help train the new Flashes.

Not only does Flash motivate the fans, but he or she also takes a lot of abuse from some fans.

“Mascots take a lot of punches,” Flaughers said. “I don’t get it. Why do so many fans want to beat us up?”

Being abused by students isn’t the only way a mascot can be injured. Flaughers recalled a time when a safety pin from the uniform came unfastened and stuck into his kneecap.

Heat is another problem mascots have to deal with. Some students who try out say they don’t mind the heat, but once they’ve worn the costume for a while they change their minds about auditioning, Flaughers said.

Flaughers put a thermometer inside the head of the costume and found the average temperature to be around 140 degrees. Despite high temperature inside the suit, the guy or girl who plays Flash always finds a way to gear up the crowd.

“It is very, very, very hot in the suit but awesome,” said one student who will be portraying Flash this year through an e-mail interview. “You are just a big, real-life cartoon character in the suit, and you can do whatever you want. Nobody knows who is doing that crazy stuff.”

Mascots are getting so popular that they even have a national competition put on by the Universal Cheerleading Association. Every spring, the competition is held at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

“Flash will be in nationals this year,” Flaughers said. “I’m that confident.

“To get to ‘nationals’ the mascot must make a 2-minute ‘skills’ tape,” he said. “This must include scenes of crowd participation, skits, community service and sports footage. The tape is sent in around October and you are notified in December. Universal Cheerleaders Association only takes the top 10 ranked mascots in the United States. They review your tape and give you a score. That score counts toward 40 percent of your total score that you receive if you make it to the top 10 competition.”

On a national level, some school mascots are facing criticism for their name. Schools with mascots with names such as “Redskins” or “Indians” have made some people unhappy.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights has even issued a statement asking for an end on Native American names being used by non-native schools.

In a press release, the National Collegiate Athletic Association recently placed the University of North Dakota on the “list of colleges and universities subject to restrictions on the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery at NCAA championships.”

Although Kent State has never had a problem with their mascot, the university has gone through several mascot name changes.

The first president of Kent State raised Silver Foxes, so they decided to have the foxes become the first official mascot in the early 1900s.

Starting with the Silver Foxes in the 1910s, the university has been the “Golden Flashes,” “Flasher,” “Grog,” “Golden Flasher” and “Golden Flash.”

In 1985, Kent State used a live eagle for the mascot.

The eagle wasn’t the only live animal the university used as a mascot. A golden retriever that wore a cape with the name Flasher on it represented Kent State from 1951 until 1975.

During the late 1960s, Kent State also had a cartoon character named “Grog” representing it. The character was made of paper hair and plaster.

“Golden Flasher” was a golden palomino horse and masked rider in blue and gold. This mascot was around for the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

In the late 1990s, the university mascot was changed to what students know it as today: the eagle with an attitude.

“Flash has been so recognizable because of our logo,” Moseley said. “When we went to the Elite Eight tournament, everyone loved our T-shirts.”

Contact features reporter Joanne Bello at [email protected].