This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Maverick mascot at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When the campus community voted in the 1971 student government elections, they also cast their ballots to replace the old mascot with something that held more universal appeal. The new mascot was announced at that year’s Homecoming, with football and festivities to follow. The exhibit “Durango through the Decades” in Archives and Special Collections, located on the first floor of Criss Library, tells this history through a mix of photos, news clippings, and memorabilia.
We Were Nearly the UNO Unicorns
By the slimmest majority of 51 votes, the UNO students selected the Maverick over the Unicorn as the new mascot. Other less popular options included the Demons and Roadrunners. The Maverick, which is unbranded cattle, won the election with a total of 566 votes, becoming the final mascot in a long line of OU/UNO icons. In fact, there have been a total of 6 mascots over the course of UNO’s 113-year history.
The Many Faces of a Maverick
While the new mascot was selected in 1971, it would go through several names and visual iterations before settling on our current Durango, named in 1993. The first two mascots were live steer. Sudden Sam and Victor E. Maverick were often seen on the sidelines of sporting and campus events before they were declared too unruly. 1973 saw the first costume mascot worn by Jeff Gamble. Later versions of the costume would integrate varied styles and technology, including an inflatable Durango suit. The image of the Maverick has shifted between fierce and loveable, and from highly athletic to more scholastic as illustrated in the 1970s yearbook alternative publication The Breakaway. There was even a period where women’s athletics used their own version of the mascot and nickname, switching between the Maverettes, Mavericks, and Lady Mavs before returning to a unified Maverick image and name in the late 2000s.
While the Maverick is perhaps most frequently seen at athletic events, Durango is a central part of community events, like the annual Claussen-Leahy Maverick Run/Walk, which began as the Diet Pepsi UNO Women’s Walk in the 1980s, and student life such as the recent Durango Fireside chat during the COVID pandemic. The history and the varied illustrations of the Maverick are available to see in Archives and Special Collection through the end of May. Please stop by the department and join us in celebrating 50 years of being Mavericks by exploring this history, downloading Durango gifs, and seeing the many faces of Durango through the Decades.
The exhibit was curated by Claire Du Laney, Outreach Archivist. Special thanks to Angela Kroeger, Metadata Coordinator, for sharing their wealth of UNO mascot knowledge and resources for the creation of this exhibit.
Content Warning: This exhibit has items that reference but does not display the former OU Indian mascot. The Municipal University of Omaha/University of Nebraska at Omaha sports team name of “Indians” was abolished in May 1971, along with associated mascots, nicknames, and other references to Native American imagery or terms. The university now recognizes that the mascot and associated depictions is offensive. When the mascot was selected in 1939, Native American stereotypes were common. Many artifacts, names, and other material from university history depict Native American caricatures, and it is difficult to exhibit materials from this era without referencing this mascot. We accept this as a part of our history, as we accept that the 1971 mascot change represented a positive step for the university.
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Unless otherwise clearly stated, any views or opinions expressed as part of events, exhibitors, or presenters in the UNO Libraries (Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library and the KANEKO-UNO Library) should not be viewed as endorsements by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and do not reflect the official position of UNO or the University of Nebraska system.