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June 27, 2006

Warhawks offer ULM Fresh Start

With the pageantry of a pep rally, Louisiana-Monroe revealed its new Warhawk logos on Monday.

A crowd of 1,200 arrived for the 4 p.m. unveiling at Fant-Ewing Coliseum. ULM president Jim Cofer called it a historic day as the school turned the page on the Indian mascot that lasted 75 years and allowed its latest logo to take flight.

The reception in these friendly confines was festive and favorable. From the stands, the fans cheered the various logos and then lined up to buy the fresh merchandise. Splashed across t-shirts and caps, the aggressive maroon and gold bird is hotter than the blacktop parking lot outside.

"Look around this place," Cofer said, "and you have to be moved with the metamorphosis — everything from the dorms to the logo to the kids to the faculty — this is a heck of place to be right now.

"We're going to be able to get our logo out there because people are excited about ULM. If you win, that's icing on the cake. But people are excited about the logo because I think they're excited about the university."

The logo change comes as ULM moves all of its sports teams from the Southland Conference to the Sun Belt Conference. The campus has undergone a remarkable rebirth in the past year. The institution has come a long way, Cofer reminds you.

Sure the Indian had its moments. The reason some ULM fans still claim allegiance to their old logo is the tradition and history that went along with it. In athletics, much of that came when the school was known as Northeast Louisiana University.

The football helmet logo in 1987 was essentially a knockoff version of the lid worn by the Washington Redskins. But that helmet and that logo represent something special because it was what the team wore when it won the I-AA national championship.

Coach Linda Harper and her dynamic women's basketball team won the first Southland Conference championship in 1983. Being called the Lady Indians worked just fine for them then.

But things change in life and we all have to adapt. On this issue, the NCAA took a stance and decided that the way ULM and some other schools portrayed Native Americans was offensive.

With the change, ULM has the opportunity — and the challenge — to make Warhawks a meaningful logo too.

For now, enjoy the honeymoon period.

Your Warhawks are undefeated. ULM's Warhawks have an untarnished brand name. Wearing a Warhawks cap, you've never left Malone Stadium or Fant-Ewing muttering about a meltdown.

The Warhawks never lost to Wofford in football. That was the Indians.

"There was a lot of success here," ULM men's basketball coach Orlando Early said. "As you look around Fant-Ewing, there are a lot of banners hanging up there with the Northeast Louisiana Indians logo on them.

"It's our job to get some momentum behind the Warhawks now."

ULM Warhawks will catch on.

"It's going to bring us new traditions, there's no doubt," said ULM fan David Robinson, a Delhi native. "Especially moving into the conference, that's a lot for one year. Maybe this logo change will give the university a positive spin."

Truth be told, the ULM Indians haven't had a great run since the school changed its name in 1999. Maybe a completely fresh start will do the place good.

"Winning cures all, we know that," Early said. "We have to start the tradition of a new logo, a new nickname. We have to build championships with it — and move on."

ULM enters a new era this summer on a wing — and a prayer.

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