By Jija Dutt
“Battling” isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “Bishop”—unless you go to Ohio Wesleyan.
Coined in 1925, the term “Battling Bishop” was the winning nickname selected through a contest held by the Phi Delta Epsilon journalism fraternity. Prior to that, OWU sports teams were called “The Red and Black,” or “The Methodists,” according to the athletics department’s website.
Director of Athletics Roger Ingles said he likes the Battling Bishop a lot.
“It gives a sense of history of the Methodist relationship of the college and it evokes a tone of a feisty athletic team,” he said.
Cole Hatcher, director of media and community relations, said the name is “definitely the opposite of ordinary.” He said he finds it interesting to see where OWU ranks in the polls “that look at unique school mascots.”
“In 2012, Chester Cheetah included OWU among Cheetos’ Top 25 Cheesiest Mascots,” he said. “We were No. 6. We lost to the Fighting Pickle of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.”
The August 26, 2010, issue of the Connect2OWU newsletter talked about the change in the Bishop costume. The article said that the new Bishop would have a “more determined expression.”
Hatcher said the current Bishop is a “little more buff than some of his predecessors, representing his tie to the OWU athletic program.” He said the mascot used to be more “friendly-looking” to appeal to children.
“As someone who has escorted the Bishop at events aimed at children, I understand that logic,” he said. “But OWU sports fans wanted a more determined Bishop, and we tried to meet that need.”
Ingles said then-President Tom Courtice bought the original costume. The friendlier successor was purchased during Mark Huddleston’s presidency, and the current Bishop came after the inauguration of University President Rock Jones.
Senior Jake Stang, quarterback for the Bishops football team, said the costume makes him proud to be a Battling Bishop.
“Our mascot is different, so I like it a lot,” he said.
Freshman Trenton Williams said when he initially heard about OWU’s mascot he found it funny, but he likes it because it’s red, his favorite color.
However, for senior Olivia Gillison, a member of the swimming and diving teams, the “Battling Bishop” is a strange notion. She said she had never really thought of the Bishop as a mascot before.
“Most sports teams have some type of animal or bird (or the like) as their mascot because there’s a sense of symbolism behind that animal,” she said. “Here as a battling bishop the mascot has never really taken on a meaning for me. He’s just been a figure used for promotion.”
Gillison said she is glad to have had the opportunity to be a Battling Bishop and represent OWU throughout the NCAC conference. But she said the role is “something I’ll just have to accept and perhaps never really understand.”
The Bishop is usually seen at most OWU sports games and events such as the Day on the Jay that bring the whole community together. Hatcher also said he arranges for the Bishop to be at the Main Street Delaware’s “Mascot Madness” First Friday celebration.
“The event brings mascots together from lots of local/regional organizations to meet the community, take pictures, give hugs and high-fives,” he said. “It’s always a lot of fun.”
Ingles said the criteria behind selecting who gets to be the Bishop is simple: willingness to do it.
“We look for students who want to play the Bishop, have a good sense of humor, likes to entertain and who often will entertain more when no one knows who they are versus people knowing it is them,” he said.
Senior Jordan Grammer said he served as the Bishop during his freshman year.
“It always looked cool on TV, and I had a lot of school spirit freshman year,” he said. “Best part was hanging out with cheerleaders and the worst part was the constant heat, no pay, I couldn’t use the Facebook page and I couldn’t tell people who I was.”
Nancy Bihl Rutkowski, assistant director of Student Involvement, said the committee is currently in the process of making a lot of changes to the selection process of who gets to serve as the Bishop. She said it is usually done very informally, but in about a month’s time she will be able to give more information on it after the changes take affect.
Hatcher said if he had to come up with another mascot for OWU, he likes the sound of the “Ohio Wesleyan Warriors.”
Ingles said he wouldn’t want to be anything but a Battling Bishop.
“I was once a worthless nut (Buckeye) and the Bishop has way more meaning,” he said.