The Musketeer mascot was selected by Francis Finn, S.J., during a contest in 1925 to choose a name for University athletics. Yet it took 40 years before a swashbuckling version of Finn’s vision first appeared at a University game. And in the 40 years since, a lot about the mascot has changed.
Today, the Musketeer pacing the sidelines during basketball games is a caricature of the real thing, with its oversized head and cartoonish demeanor. It even has a goofy sidekick, the Blue Blob, to keep little fans happy. But both are a far cry from the version Bill Peters introduced at the Homecoming football game in 1965.
Peters was a member of the student advisory board for his Class of 1968, which was brainstorming what their class should give the University. “We’d always had a Musketeer title but never a mascot or logo,” says Peters, a military contractor in Dale City, Va. “One guy said, ‘Every class gives a gift when they leave. Why don’t we give a gift while we’re here?’”
They decided on a victory bell and a mascot. The theater department at Our Lady of Cincinnati College created a costume that billowed and flowed. There were blousy knee-length pants of navy blue corduroy with a black stripe and silver buttons, a brown-suede vest and white shirt with blue pleats, a royal blue cape that hung to the knees, shoe covers that looked like knee-high boots, a black hat with a big gray and white feather and a brown sash that went from right shoulder to left hip and had a sleeve for a sword. Peters, who paid for its cleaning, was proud to wear it.
“When they played ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I’d always salute the flag with the sword,” Peters says. “The mascot kept me in college. It was a responsibility, and I could do things that were fun that would make the image of Xavier better.”
Peters and the Victory Bell became a fixture at football games. He would run the length of the field with his sword flailing, cape flowing and sleeves and pantaloons billowing, cheering and revving up the crowd while grabbing at his ill-fitting girls’ tights that kept slipping down.
After graduation, Peters handed over the box containing his beloved costume to his replacement, Bob Rice, who graduated the following spring. The mascot was seen at games into the early 1970s, but then disappeared after the demise of football in 1973.
Art Shriberg, professor of management and entrepreneurship, took over sports services in 1983 and began rebuilding support for athletics, which included cheerleading, spirit squads—and bringing back the mascot. His assistant, Sally Watson, designed an early version of today’s mascot with a large prefabricated head. By 1985, however, realizing that children were frightened by the large-headed Musketeer, Watson designed the soft, furry Blue Blob.
Today, five or six people are selected to wear the Musketeer costume, says Jim Ray, director for recreational sports, and two or three for the Blob. They are chosen for their ability to play the role and get the crowd into the game. The costumes are kept by recreational sports, which also repairs and cleans them. That’s something Bill Peters would have appreciated.