Mascot change needed?

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The ability to pass down Blue Devils uniforms and equipment. could help the ECMS athletic programs save money. The switch from green and gold to blue and white could also give a more consistent look and atmosphere for Atmore’s county schools.|Photos by Chandler Myers

Escambia County High School athletic director Mark Heaton has a set of football jerseys and pants that could easily be passed down to the middle school — but there is one problem.

The schools don’t share a mascot.

ECHS is the Blue Devils, while ECMS is the Eagles.

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“Typically, schools that have feeder schools such as ECMS is to our school (share mascots), and then it allows the high school to hand down equipment,” Heaton said.

Sports equipment costs are rising all the time and the high school equipment could lighten the burden on the middle school if it were passed down, Heaton said.

That financial issue has raised questions about whether it would make sense for the schools to share a mascot.

“Here at ECHS, we have a set of old jerseys and old pants that we could easily give to the middle school and save them the expense of buying new uniforms. That’s one good thing about having the same mascot and colors. Another thing is that our helmets have to go through reconditioning at the high school. That can run from $3,000 to $5,000, which the high school can handle, but the middle school does not have the finances to do it. If the school had the same mascot and colors then it is something that we could incorporate into the programs as a whole on the varsity and middle school level.”

But ECMS’ mascot has a history that dates before integration, and keeping the tradition has been important to alumni of Escambia County Training School, school officials said.

From 1947 until 1969, there were two high schools in Atmore until integration combined Escambia County High School and Escambia County Training School.

Escambia County High School remained, while the training school was closed and opened the door for the Escambia County Middle School to be opened up eventually.

Following the closure of ECTS, the middle school became to be known as the Escambia County Middle School Eagles, while ECHS remained the Blue Devils as they always had been.

The history of the mascots would make it difficult to make a decision on combining them, Escambia County Middle School athletic director Robert Smith said.

“Well, there will be people complaining on both sides,” he said. “Mostly, students that went to the old training school will have the most complaints. They will want to keep the school as the Eagles to keep a reminder of where they went to school. I can’t speak for everyone, but some in the black community might be upset if it changed from the Eagles.”

Although the change could be difficult to make, Smith said he does see that benefit of making the change.

The burden of raising funds makes it difficult to keep athletic and academic programs running, he said.

“Anytime we can get a financial blessing is a great thing for the kids and school,” he said. “Right now, our budget is very tight with all of the programs that we run. If we are unable to have fundraisers then we have trouble keeping those programs alive. Now if we could get help with Blue Devils equipment from the high school then I’m all for it.”

Along with the financial aid that it could bring to the middle school, the consistency of having the same mascot and colors could benefit the schools and community.

Along with equipment being passed down, the ability to cheer for one mascot could be positive, ECHS principal Zickeyous Byrd said.

“When I transitioned from the high school to the middle school, I had a slip up of the tongue saying mighty Eagles, but the crowd quickly reminded me that we are the Blue Devils,” he said. “Consistency is always important for everyone. We have so many different logos for each school that it can sometimes create confusion. If it were just consistent from Rachel Patterson all the way to the high school, it would be easier for everyone.”

Making the Blue Devils a consistent mascot for schools would do much more than bring the community together around one team, Heaton said.

Young children that grow up waiting to become Blue Devils would get to be a part of that tradition earlier if the middle school made the change, he said.

“The desire and hunger for those children is to grow up and wear that blue and white,” he said. “They want to become a varsity Blue Devil one day and that could be a lot stronger if they became Blue Devils much younger and felt like they were a part of this program. The traditions that take part in this program could be pushed down to the middle school and begin earlier.”

If a change was ever made, a move could be made to create a reminder that the Escambia County Training School did exist.

A reminder in the middle school could be created to keep the Eagles there, while changing the mascot to the Blue Devils, Byrd said.

“That can definitely be done,” he said. “We would never try to do away with the Eagles because of the history that it has. There are several things that could be done to make sure people remember the training school. It could be painted on the walls or put out there in some other fashion, but I think that consistency is always good.”

Another thought could be to create some sort of historical marker to preserve the memories of the Eagles of ECTS. It might not appease people, but it could benefit both sides, Smith said.

“They could come up with a historical marker that would tell people that the training school was in Atmore and was known as the Eagles,” he said. “It’s hard to please everyone, but the main thing is to look out for the schools and the kids. If it will help financially to make the middle school the Blue Devils, then I’m all for it.”

For everyone involved, the change, if it ever came to light, would be more about the students involved, Heaton said.

The benefits are something that make Heaton think that it should be taken into consideration, he said.

“I just thing it’s definitely something to look at and that could be a positive change for the kids,” he said.