Written by Tiara Bell, Staff Writer
As you can probably imagine, it brought great controversy to the Valdosta community. Many people loved the new mascot as much as many people hated it.
Deborah Davis, who attended Valdosta State College in the 1980s and is also the director of VSU Archives and Special Collections, said in “A Blazin’ History” article that the mascot change from the “Rebels” to the “Blazers” “was a move to adopt a more socially acceptable image.”
In the mid 1950s, the population of men was larger than the population of women. Fraternities were created, and eventually athletics became a big part of campus life. That is when the all-male basketball team claimed the name, “Valdosta State Rebels”.
“In hindsight, it seems fairly clear that it was a move away from images that had once evoked ‘southern history’, and after the civil rights movement, may have evoked something more disquieting,” Davis said.
However, being in South Georgia with the intolerable heat, you can only imagine what the student on the inside of the heavy costume went through while trying to interact with fans.
Just like the previous “Rebel” mascot, “Blaze the Dragon” was met with some opposition from students and faculty as well.
In “A Blazin’ History” article, Woody Hearn, who graduated in 1998 talks about the time when he realized a new mascot was needed.
“Escorted by two VSU cheerleaders, this large mass of dull green fabric, topped with a Puff the Magic Dragon-esque head, ambled in slowly from somewhere in the back of the arena, waved and then returned from where it came,” said Hearn.
Hearn felt that the dragon failed to “whip the fans into a frenzy.” The VSU community agreed with Hearn; a new mascot was needed that would be more appealing to the fans.
Blaze, a flaming matchstick man, was then created to fulfill the spirits of Valdosta’s community. Blaze can be seen at a wide range of events around campus such as athletic events or community service.
Many of the students, faculty, and staff love the new mascot, as he has been apart of the VSU family for over ten years. He has kindled many memories along the way and looks to keep the flame going for years to come.