One of the key images of the
university's 2005 branding campaign is a newly designed eagle. The North Texas eagle has gone through several variations over the years, but the first official eagle design was copyrighted more than 80 years ago.
In the early 1920s, North Texas had yet to settle on a mascot. Its athletes faced other college teams with Southwestern-themed names, from the Buffaloes of Canyon to the San Marcos Bobcats, and North Texas wanted its own mascot to promote spirit and strengthen pride on campus
On Feb. 1, 1922, the eagle was adopted. The Feb. 4 Campus Chat student newspaper provides rationale for the choice:
"No beast of the field or bird of the air was ever so graceful, so swift, so aggressive; none was ever so loyal to its kind. An Eagle will die in defense of its nest. ... When an Eagle screams, all other beasts seek cover. ... The keen eye, the speed, the endurance, the aggressiveness, the beauty, the strength and the independence of the Eagle typify similar qualities found in our teams and in our school."
The mascot was quickly welcomed by students, alumni, faculty and staff, featured at pep rallies and promoted in campus publications.
In 1923, an athletic award featuring the new eagle mascot was created. Among those who helped design that first eagle image was junior Gladys Bass, whose future husband, J.R. "Roy" Whisenhunt, played on the 1923 football squad.
Bass's sketches aided in the design of the award -- an eagle ready for flight with its talons resting on a log base and its spread wings attached to a gold medal bar.
The award, which could be worn as a pin or a watch fob, was first presented in August 1924 to students who during the previous year were active in debate, football, basketball, baseball, track or tennis.
That eagle was copyrighted in the fall of 1924 with plans for use on items such as college rings, letterhead and pennants. Although subsequent years have brought new designs, the eagle has reigned as a mark of recognition and a symbol of pride for North Texans ever since.