Tuesday, April 26, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Meaningful new mascot

A public hearing was held last week to discuss ideas for a new mascot for Jacksonville High School. Residents made clear they want a new look and a fresh start for the new Jacksonville High School, which could cost as much as $60 million and will be built at the old middle school site.

The ideas so far proposed by Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials have yet to inspire the community. School administrators have enough on their mind as they work to establish a new district, fully independent of the Pulaski County Special School District, by July 1.

We thought we’d offer a few ideas to continue the brainstorming process.

The new campus will take a few years to build, so there’s plenty of time to come up with a new symbol and color scheme at the high school. It’s something students and teachers should participate in, too.

It seems the era of the Red Devils and the Falcons has ended. Both mascots have connections to the Air Force: The 50th Airlift Squadron and JHS use the Red Devils for their mascots, although the high school mascot predates the 50th Airlift Squadron’s arrival here. The Falcons are the mascot of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The school district’s new mascot should also have an Air Force theme. Jacksonville is the home of Little Rock Air Force Base — the largest C-130 base in the world — and seeing C-130s fly overhead makes residents feel proud and optimistic.

“Herc Life” decals can be seen on vehicles in Jacksonville, Sherwood and Cabot. It features a silhouette of a C-130 tilting as it turns in flight. That would look sharp on a football helmet.

We’ve said it before: Go Hercs!

Imagine, foam C-130 Hercules hats like the beloved Hog hats and other marketing opportunities that could instill pride in the community and help keep military families who’ve moved to other cities in recent years. Maybe Lockheed Martin, which makes C-130 planes, could help the new district develop academic courses and build the school’s sports complex.

There are lots of marketing possibilities by promoting the Four Fans of Freedom, as C-130s are sometimes called.

The color scheme could be the Air Force Academy’s blue and silver, or the digital camouflage pattern that adorns airmen’s uniforms, even flight-suit green is as distinctive to Jacksonville’s character as any other color.

The San Diego Padres often wear a digital-camo pattern on their jerseys as the city is home to the Navy’s largest base on the West Coast. The New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds have also worn digital-camo jerseys.

It’s eye-catching, modern and patriotic.

The Hercs would be as unique as the Monticello Boll Weevils, the Beebe Badgers, the Stuttgart Ricebirds, the Pine Bluff Zebras or the Conway Wampus Cats.

The Leader’s creative editor, Christy Hendricks, suggests the Black Knights, as members of the 19th Airlift Wing are known. That would be an easy color scheme and logo and would pay homage to our airmen, who have been deployed nonstop since 9/11 and whose children will attend the new high school. Black uniforms, maybe some silver letters and numbers, similar to the Brooklyn Nets NBA team.

Other mascots worth considering: the Airlifters or Workhorses, as C-130s are called.

But if a military mascot doesn’t suit you, try the Red Birds. This is still Cardinals country after all, and it would be a fitting combination of the Red Devils and Falcons, and the mascot logo could be similar to the Arizona Cardinals or the Louisville Cardinals. The color scheme could be a brighter red than the current shade used at JHS.

The Beebe School District recently hired a Little Rock public relations firm to give its Badgers mascot a more up-to-date look. It was an affordable service, though the new look has yet to be revealed.

The new Jacksonville district should consider hiring a professional design team once a mascot is chosen. It will be a worthwhile investment.

The district should allow incoming freshmen to choose a mascot next school year. They will probably be the first graduating class at the new campus, making their choice all the more significant to the community.

As Jacksonville works to revive its school system, finding a new mascot is a great opportunity to give a fresh face that better expresses the community’s character and make it clear that this is a new dawn for all of Jacksonville.

Whatever the new mascot turns out to be, it should be a unique reflection of what Jacksonville is all about: Optimism and perseverance.