Sept. 9, 2020
After a thorough review, Carthage College has retired its longtime athletic team names and will soon begin the search for a suitable replacement.
Acting on a recommendation from President John Swallow, the Carthage College Board of Trustees voted in late August to cease using the nicknames Red Men and Lady Reds, as well as the College’s mascot, Torchie. These changes are now in effect.
“While we deeply respect our history and the generations of Carthage student-athletes who competed under our former team names, the trustees believe a change is appropriate,” says board chair Jeff Hamar ’80. “This provides an excellent opportunity to brand our college and athletic program in a positive, inclusive, and dynamic way.”
President Swallow made his recommendation after reviewing the findings of a broadly representative Task Force on Team Names and Mascot. Citing widely held concerns about the connotations for racial and gender equity, the group concluded that Red Men and Lady Reds were “not unifying symbols for our community.”
Almost 3,000 Carthaginians shared their perspectives in a survey in February and March, and dozens more elaborated on their perspectives via email and an online form. By a significant margin, respondents expressed their desire to adopt a new team identity.
As part of a periodic review, Mr. Hamar formed the task force last November to evaluate whether the College should retain its team names and mascot. Chaired by the Rev. Paul D. Erickson, a Carthage trustee, the panel included alumni, administrators, faculty, staff (including coaches), students, and other board members.
Delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the task force resumed its work this summer. Six central questions guided the group’s work:
- Is this team name unifying for the Carthage campus and larger Carthage community?
- Does it represent positive qualities, ideals, or associations around which people can rally?
- Is it broadly relevant across the Carthage community, student body, and among generations of alumni?
- Is it representative of the Carthage experience and/or history, either generally or specifically?
- Does it work equally well for women’s and men’s sports teams?
- Does it have the potential to translate in a visually pleasing manner?
A member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, Carthage competes in 27 NCAA Division III sports. Student-athletes make up nearly one-third of the undergraduate enrollment.
The athletic program has raised more than 120 banners over the past three decades, each signifying a conference championship or a top-eight national finish. In addition, Carthage student-athletes have won 18 individual national titles.
Last month, the College welcomed a new director of athletics: Nate Stewart, who previously worked at Centre College in Kentucky. He brings a track record of success as an administrator, coach, and fundraiser.
A new chapter
Carthage sports teams had been identified as Red Men (or Redmen) since the early 1900s at the previous campus in western Illinois. Women’s teams, once known as Lady Redmen, took on the Lady Reds nickname in 1988.
Like the Blue Boys from a rival team, the moniker originally reflected the color scheme of the Carthage team uniforms. However, the program later incorporated Native American imagery, including a previous mascot and a feather that remained part of the athletic logo until 2005.
Symbolizing the flame of knowledge, Torchie isn’t directly tied to the outgoing nicknames, yet feedback from the community expressed equally strong support for a mascot change. Portrayed enthusiastically by students in costume, the character has gone through multiple iterations since its introduction as Carthage’s mascot in 1997.
Athletic teams will compete simply as Carthage College in 2020-21, as the College undertakes a collaborative process to pick a fresh team name and mascot. In the coming weeks, the task force will reach out to a wide range of Carthage stakeholders to gather ideas.
Leaders anticipate the board making a final determination in time for the 2021-22 academic year.