- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lately, it’s tough being the Wichita State mascot.

The costume is heavy, making it hard to see and move around in, and the big, bright yellow head has a tendency to fall off.

Because of that, the school is planning to replace the WuShock costume with one that looks more like the team logo: a fisted caricature with wheat sticking out of his head and clenching a wheat stalk in his teeth.

The current costume is made up of a rectangular head with wheat sticking out the top, yellow hands, and black pants and top. During the NCAA tournament, when Wichita State lost to George Mason in the Sweet 16, a Sports Illustrated writer said WuShock resembled a “stubbed-out cigarette butt.”

Officials are hoping a more accurate, professional mascot will give the university a better image.

“It’s going to be an improvement,” WSU athletic director Jim Schaus told the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle. “The current costume is kind of ratty. It’s not really as first-class as we would like.”

Wichita State, formerly Fairmont College, is in the heart of Kansas’ wheat-growing country. In 1904, the team was known as Wheatshockers, an unofficial name that caught on and survived until it was shortened to Shockers, according to the school’s Web site.

At that time, many football players earned their tuition harvesting, or shocking, wheat during the summer harvest. Early games were played on a stubbled wheat field and pep club members were then called Wheaties.

The Wichita State symbol — which until 1948 was simply a nameless shock of wheat — has undergone some major changes since junior Wilbur Elsea won a competition to design a mascot that year. Another student, freshman Jack Kersting, suggested the winning name of WuShock.

Known affectionately by students as Wu, the mascot underwent a major redesign in 1998 to mark his 50th birthday by getting a pumped-up physique.

The latest update came in 1999, when the head was redesigned to give it a more intimidating look.

The university is hoping to have the new costume in time for the fall.

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