New Nicknames Eyed For Arkansas Tech

Wednesday, July 11th 2007, 7:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ Ladies and gentlemen, your Arkansas Tech ... Copperheads?

Concerned over having different team names and mascots for men's and women's sports, Arkansas Tech is considering doing away with the nicknames Wonder Boys and Golden Suns. The school is also worried the name Wonder Boys might be hurting recruiting.

``It's one of those things that has been kind of a constant theme on our campus every few years,'' said Sam Strasner, an assistant to the university spokesperson.

Arkansas Tech announced Tuesday that a committee of current and former students and members of the school administration is reviewing the nicknames. Nine of the 12 committee members voted that they were not satisfied with the current situation.

Strasner said the next step is a ``public input phase.'' The school is asking for feedback via an online survey, which includes some potential nicknames. Some of the more unique possibilities: Comets, Copperheads, Sharks and Terrapins.

Strasner stressed that the Division II school in Russellville hadn't made a final decision to adopt a new nickname.

``It's far from a sure thing that it's something we're going to do,'' he said.

A majority of the committee voted that it is very important for a new nickname to be neutral in terms of gender and race. The school said in a release that having two different nicknames ``makes it difficult for the general student population to rally around a singular, campus-wide identity.''

The school also cited concern by the committee over evolving connotations of the term Wonder Boy.

``These connotations include slurs about an individual's manhood or race, and the slurs have been used against Tech when recruiting,'' the release said.

When asked to elaborate on that, Strasner said that concern came up within the committee.

``I know one thing that was said by one of the student-athletes in the committee meeting _ one of the things that I've heard repeated several times _ was that once they leave Russellville and go back home, they don't really like to associate themselves with that name because of some ribbing they take from their friends,'' Strasner said.

The school expressed concern that current nicknames ``do not lend themselves to a visual identity suitable for printed materials and other marketing initiatives.''

The school said some students have dressed up as superheros, which it said ``is not consistent with the spirit or the proud history of the name.''

The nickname Wonder Boys took hold after a 1919 football upset victory over what is now Arkansas State. A sports editor at the Arkansas Gazette coined the name Wonder Boys as a compliment to Arkansas Tech's team, which was then called the Aggies.

The women's teams became the Golden Suns during the 1970s after being known as the Wonderettes.

Surveys during the 1980s indicated that a majority of students were dissatisfied with the nickname situation.

Arkansas State is also moving closer to changing its mascot _ the nickname Indians ran afoul of an NCAA ban on ethnically or racially ``hostile'' or ``abusive'' nicknames at championship events.