Associating the tribe’s name with the school also has a deep and long heritage. In this context, the use of Utes can be considered an honorific. But a similar argument could be made for calling the athletic teams of the university the Mormons, and no one would seriously propose that because it would be deemed offensive. —The Salt Lake Tribune lead editorial, Jan. 13, 2012
It’s been a privilege to be a member of the Mascot Nomenclature Working Group, a panel of distinguished alumni, prominent community leaders and randomly selected hot-dog vendors. (The working group is code-named “Adam,” who, as everyone knows, was tasked by God to provide appropriate names to the beasts of the field). We at “Adam” have been tasked with coming up with a new nickname for athletic teams at the University of Utah.
My particular role has been to act as chief liaison officer, reporting back to both the Board of Regents, and the Quorum of the Twelve. I must say, I have been extremely impressed with the dedication of all my fellow “Adam” members. From the start, we all agreed to begin with a clean slate; consequently, we have been open to suggestions from all sectors of the community, carefully considering each and every proposed nickname with the utmost seriousness and absence of prejudice.
With that in mind, my fellow nomenclature members asked me to set the Tribune editorial board right as regards their well-intentioned, but superficially reasoned, editorial, the crucial section of which has been quoted above. Contrary to the nameless editorial writer’s assertion that “no one would seriously propose” the nickname Mormons “because it would be deemed offensive,” I am here to tell you that the nickname Mormons has been seriously proposed; furthermore, not only has it not been “deemed offensive,” but it also has been enthusiastically championed by several of the Brethren (another proposed nickname, but that’s another story.)
Making “Mormons” the U of U mascot is still very much in play; I would not be at all surprised if our “Adam” nomenclature panel eventually decides to go with “Mormons.” In the mean time, other possible mascots have emerged from out exhaustive brainstorming sessions. As you might imagine, several of us were reluctant to give up “Utes.” Cognizant of the possible offense to our indigenous peoples, but at the same time eager to pay homage to the original inhabitants of our divinely blessed continent, we entertained the notion of going with “Lamanites,” the Hebrew tribe in the Book of Mormon who were the ancestors of Native Americans such as the Utes, the Goshutes and the Paiutes.
The advantages of “Lamanites” are obvious. For one thing, we would be able to keep the drum and feather logo, both of which are described at length in The Book of Mormon (Alma 13: 76). And think of all the inspiring rhyming cheers you could come up with (“Lamanite, Lamanite/ Fight, fight, fight!). And “The Fightin’ Lamanites” has a nice ring to it.
I chuckle to myself when I think of how excited everyone was in the initial stages of the “Lamanite” groundswell. “It will drive BYU nuts!” said one local powerbroker. “They’ll have to change their name to ‘The Nephites,’ and then we’ll have a real Holy War!” Someone else pointed out that no one could be offended by “Lamanites,” since, in the final analysis, they were just made-up characters in a book of fantasy.
We have had many spirited debates over other suggested nicknames. For a while, many members were in favor of honoring deceased figures from Utah history, the obvious examples being the “Parley Pratts,” the “Porter Rockwells,” and the “Gordon Hinckleys.” Everyone on the Adam nomenclature committee loves our next president, Willard “Mit” Romney, but finally decided the “Fighting Willards” just wouldn’t have the desired name recognition.
Once we got started on the idea of honoring famous Utahns, it was a no-brainer to nominate Richard Burwash, Mike Winder’s illustrious and highly accomplished alter ego, as the next University of Utah mascot. There was some opposition on the part of members who thought outsiders wouldn’t know what a “Burwash” was (as if anyone knows what a Buckeye or Hokie is). Once they were clued into the burgeoning international fame of Burwash, however, they clambered aboard the Burwash bandwagon.
Just yesterday, however, another nickname suddenly entered the fray. After Salt Lake City was named the “Gayest City in America,” we’ll be hard-pressed not going with the “Utah Gays.”
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.