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University of Minnesota Duluth gives Champ new look

Champ, the Bulldog mascot, has a new mascot suit with a brighter yellow tone and a shorter jersey. Immediate reactions on social media were not positive.

Football player playing in outdoor stadium
Minnesota Duluth mascot Champ high fives fans on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Malosky Stadium in Duluth. This is the debut of the new Champ mascot.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Champ, the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs mascot, has a new look for his in-person appearances. Thursday afternoon on social media, the university shared a video of the former mascot suit transforming into a new one with one quick cut.

"The big dog's on campus with a fresh new look!" wrote the university on Facebook. On Twitter, the university's athletics department added, "New Year. New Style. @UMDChamp is ready to go!"

@UMDChamp, which as of this writing hasn't tweeted since 2019, was silent on the mascot's new look, but the athletics department posted a second tweet noting the suit was "designed after the UMD Standing Champ. A new era for the Bulldog."

A UMD media contact did not immediately respond to the News Tribune's request for comment on the new suit, which has been met with largely negative response on social media.

Several Twitter users noted the suit's similarity to Winnie the Pooh, sharing GIFs of the Disney cartoon. Some users ironically (but accurately) noted that the mascot used to be named Killer.

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In fact, the Bulldog mascot has taken multiple names, and forms, over the decades. As a mascot history published by the university's Kathryn A. Martin Library notes, a bulldog has been UMD's mascot since the days when the school was still the Duluth State Teachers College.

Two Bulldog mascot suits, one next to the other, standing on a football field. Mascot on left is grey in color, with number 67 jersey. Mascot on right is yellow, with blank jersey.
The outgoing (left) and incoming Champ mascot suits, as seen in a video posted to social media on Thursday.
Contributed / UMD

Hanging on as the school's mascot despite occasional challenges — on the basis that bulldogs aren't particularly representative of the Northland's customary iconography — the UMD Bulldog began to take its current form when a standard mascot logo debuted in the 1969-70 school year.

Killer was officially renamed to the more family-friendly Champ 25 years ago, in 1997. Nine years later, Champ lost his sometime partner the Maroon Loon, though memories of that supporting mascot continue to resurface.

"Bring back the Maroon Loon," wrote Facebook user Derek Iverson, commenting on the video of Champ's transformation.

Another user, Brian Den, replied: "Leave Winnie the Pooh alone."

Fans were primed to watch — with either excitement or trepidation — for the new Champ to make his public debut at Thursday night's football home opener against Southwest Minnesota State.

Football player playing in outdoor stadium
Minnesota Duluth mascot Champ high fives a fan on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Malosky Stadium in Duluth. This is the debut of a new design for the UMD mascot.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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