The Loyola Ramblers’ erstwhile mascot Bo Rambler was the real Cinderella of March Madness mascots.
While most programs mascots are vicious critters or students dressed as caricatures of distinguished men, Loyola’s Bo Rambler was a homeless vagabond who captured the hearts of a Jesuit University in Chicago.
According to the paper, two employees in the athletic department, Tom Cooney and Marty Hawkins, developed the idea in 1981 while patronizing a liquor store. The new mascot would be a hobo. That wasn’t colloquial language. Bo was actually a homeless caricature.
The idea was supposed to be an allusion to the now-defunct football program’s history of barnstorming across the country to play in the 1920’s and the basketball team taking up residence at several home venues across Chicago in the 1970’s and 80’s.
If Notre Dame’s Leprechaun mascot fell upon hard times and the bright green faded from his clothes and hat over time, he’d be Bo Rambler, dropout Loyola student who still hangs around dorms and sleeps on a different student’s couch every night.
“It was counterculture,” Loyola alumni Maureen Burke told the Tribune. “We were proud to have a bum. It was the hippie era. Most of the students looked like Bo and you felt a connection. I think in our own way, we were trying to be hobos.”
Bo was a homely, strung-out looking mascot head with droopy eyes and a shaggy beard. He wore a suit jacket rife with patches. A shabby hat with an “L” topped it all off. Bo carried a suitcase, presumably containing his only belongings.
It wasn’t the sort of thing that would fly in today’s more politically correct culture. The only thing missing was a park bench and a cardboard sign. Even the name Bo Rambler conjures up images of a hipster you knew freshman year, struggling under the weight of student loans and a depressed job market.
Via Chicago Tribune:
“We thought it would be fun,” Cooney said, “and we wanted to bring fun to the games.”
They brought the idea to athletic director and basketball coach Gene Sullivan, who expressed little interest either way but told them, Cooney recalled, “Don’t get in trouble” and “we’re not paying for it.”
Loyola even encouraged the students in the costume to play up the hobo stereotypes by staging choreographed fights with other mascots, getting into character and acting rambunctious during games.
He was known to make inappropriate gestures at cheerleaders and referees. Staged, jokey bouts with Northwestern’s Willie the Wildcat and DePaul’s Billy Blue Demon erupted into mascot street fights, one of which Cooney had to break up.
“I got them under the stands and they take off their giant heads,” Cooney recalled, “and then they start fighting again. I had to tell one to stay on the north side of the court and the other to stay on the south side.”
Bo was the mascot you’d least like to meet in a dark alley. The ’80s were truly the 20th century’s edgiest decade. However, in the early ’90s, the university went mainstream and axed Bo Rambler in an effort to clean up their image. Bo was replaced with Lu the wolf, an acronym for Loyola University, inspired by the wolves depicted on Loyola’s crest.
But even today, Loyola alumni long for his return on the national stage as they prepare for the NCAA tournament.
Unfortunately, Bo will not be returning as mascot according to the athletic department. There are only the memories. In 2013, a Twitter account, @BoRambler, sprung up to keep the memory of Chicago’s favorite hobo alive. Last year, the athletic department released a “Retro Ramblers” apparel line which included a Bo Rambler logo.
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