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June 30, 2006

Warhawks take flight

The Warhawks are here.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe's new mascot officially assumed its role as a symbol of the university with the unveiling of the Warhawks' logos this week.

It's a new era for the university and community after 75 years as the Indians. The transition to a new mascot — a new identity — is a big change, but also provides an opportunity for ULM to "reinvent'' itself.

A new mascot, logo, merchandise and image give the university new tools to strengthen its branding, marketing and drum up more support.

Give ULM credit for a good, thorough process. The school sought alumni and community input along the way and kept people informed about the process of big change.

The transition comes at a good time as ULM continues its resurgence from tough times and becomes a full-time member of the Sun Belt Conference.

The NCAA forced ULM's hand with a stance against the use of American Indian nicknames. The time, however, for change had arrived.

The university and its supporters certainly never intended anything derogatory with the Indians nickname, but we cannot imagine the use of any other ethnic group as a school mascot. For that reason alone, Warhawks is a positive change.

Now it will be interesting to see how successfully the university markets its new identity, and how well the community and alumni embrace it.

Warhawks merchandise, at least what's available so far, has been popular this week. That's a good short-term sign. The long-term interest and support will provide the true gauge of acceptance.

Of course, winning will help more people jump on the Warhawks bandwagon.

The university is vital to Monroe, West Monroe, Ouachita Parish and the region. We have often said that Monroe/West Monroe has never fully embraced the role of a college community.

Maybe a new mascot and fresh identity will help inspire a little more college spirit.

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