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The origin of the Blugold

By Lark Keating-Hadlock

Eau Claire Rivermen graphic

The Eau Claire Rivermen was one of the five finalists chosen to be paired with the Blugold name after a mascot contest in 1965.

Throughout the history of UW-Eau Claire, the question has been asked, "What is a Blugold?" Over the years, many have speculated on the origin of the Blugold. Research shows that the term simply evolved from the phrase "the Blue and Gold." The first use of the term "Blugolds" occurred in the fall of 1935 when the student newspaper reported that the Blugolds defeated the Winona Teachers College football team. The author of the Spectator article shortened the combination of the school’s colors into a single word, much as we currently do to introduce new words into our lexicon, and the term "Blugold" stuck!

When the State Normal School at Eau Claire was founded in the fall of 1916, the student body had already chosen the school colors of blue and gold. The first references to the school basketball team labeled the team as the Eau Claire Normals. Eau Claire had eight sister normal schools at that time. The northern section of the basketball conference was called the Normal Conference, which included Stevens Point Normal, Oshkosh Normal, Superior Normal, River Falls Normal, Platteville Normal, Whitewater Normal, Stout Normal, La Crosse Normal and Milwaukee Normal. These schools, along with the Madison, Green Bay and Parkside campuses and 13 two-year colleges, comprise our current University of Wisconsin System. A name to differentiate the Eau Claire Normals athletic teams from the other Normals teams was desired.

In 1920 it was decided that a new school song was needed to "express our feelings for our Alma Mater." A song contest was held, and the top two winners were "Eau Claire Normal," winning first place, and "Let’s Go, Eau Claire," winning second place. "Eau Claire Normal," sung to the tune of the 337th Regimental March, was penned by Cora Bartlett and Ellen Charles:

Eau Claire Normal, dear Eau Claire Normal,
You’re the best of all;
We’ll be true to your traditions
Whatever may befall;
Eau Claire Normal, dear old Normal,
Pride of the whole Northwest;
Will fight to show our loyalty
And help you win the victory,
Our Alma Mater of Eau Claire.

The words and music of the second-place winner, "Let’s Go, Eau Claire," were composed by Owen Lyons:

Let’s go, Eau Claire to victory,
Let’s fling our banner high;
Let’s sing our praise in these humble lays,
And we’ll shout it to the sky,
Let’s cheer them on to victory,
And all the honor share;
Beaten never, fighting ever,
Let’s go, Eau Claire!

These songs died out in the early 1930s but were reintroduced in 1939. The current school song, penned in 1969 by two of the Singing Statesmen, is sung at commencement ceremonies. The Blugold "Fight Song" also is performed regularly at UW-Eau Claire events. It can be heard, performed by the Singing Statesmen, at

Throughout the 1920s, the Eau Claire football and basketball teams were referred to by many names: the Blue and Gold Football Artists, the Blue and Gold Warriors, the Blue and Gold Gridders or Gridirons, the Normalites, the Normals and simply the Blue and Gold team. In 1928 W.L. "Bill" Zorn came to Eau Claire State Normal School to coach football and basketball. During his long tenure of 40 years, the Eau Claire teams were commonly referred to as the Zornmen, the Zornadoes and the Golden Zornadoes. However, the moniker the Blue and Gold was used regularly throughout the history of UW-Eau Claire.

In a quest for what some view as an embodiment of school spirit and a source of pride, the debate over a school mascot has surfaced periodically. Since the 1940s, students have tried to define a "Blugold." In 1945 the Spectator sponsored both a banner contest for the newspaper and a nickname contest with the hope of finding a more "distinctive and original nickname" than Blugold. The judges were the Spectator staff and the athletic committee. Not a single entry was turned in for the banner contest, and there is no mention of the nickname contest. In 1956 the Art Club sponsored a mascot contest. The mascot was to be voted on by the student body and subject to the approval of the alumni. Though almost one-third of the student body voted in that contest, and "Buster Bulldog" won first place with 82 votes, no record has been found authorizing a mascot. In 1965 a mascot committee held a Blugold mascot contest that resulted in 26 entries pairing a symbol with the Blugold name. Five finalists were chosen: the Blugold Beaver, the Norse god Odin, the Blugold Eagle, the Golden Eagle and the Eau Claire Rivermen. Students and faculty were encouraged to vote for the Blugold mascot from these five. Reportedly, the University Senate rejected all election results due to the fact that the students were not given the choice of a "no" vote.

The mascot issue has resurfaced in the last two years. In February 2006 senior Aaron Olson, then-president of the Student Senate, authored a resolution to recommend that the chancellor form a committee to review the need for "redefining" a Blugold. In 2007, instigated by student Casey Driscoll, the university administration was petitioned for the creation of an official Blugold. Driscoll even went so far as to design and construct his own Blugold suit of a mythical bird called Chip E. Wa, which he has worn around campus. According to Driscoll, the E. stands for "Excellence," embracing UW-Eau Claire’s mantra: "Excellence. Our measure, our motto, our goal." In the fall of 2008, a survey asked members of the university community if they wanted a mascot, resulting in 7,000 responses. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors responded favorably with 69 percent of the vote. To date, the current administration has still not committed to an official mascot, stating the opinion that "the word Blugold embodies a certain spirit, ‘It’s a state of being rather than a thing,’ while a mascot is something that can change over the years."

In researching the origin of the Blugold, it has become apparent that every few years a lot of time and energy is spent trying to sanction a mascot. It also appears that the majority of the university community would like to have an official mascot. There is even a Facebook group called "What the Hell is a Blugold?" with more than 1,430 members. The university has embraced an official banner with the historic Council Oak tree incorporated in the seal. "Excellence. Our measure, our motto, our goal" has been endorsed as the official motto. Until an official mascot is endorsed by the university administration, the age-old question "What is a Blugold?" will inevitably resurface.

Article reprinted with permission from the March 2009 issue of McIntyre Library’s Off the Shelf newsletter. Lark Keating-Hadlock is an archives assistant in the library’s Special Collections unit.


What is a Blugold?

A contest to select an official mascot for UW-Eau Claire may finally answer the often-asked question, "What is a Blugold?"

The Blugold Mascot Design Contest, sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association, runs through June 15, with the winner to be announced by July 15. The winner will receive $500 from UW-Eau Claire.

The contest was created after a 2008 survey of the university community showed strong support for a mascot. Nearly 7,000 people responded to the survey, with 69 percent of the respondents indicating that they favored having a mascot. The survey was initiated by a committee of students, faculty, staff and community members who were charged by Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich to research the mascot issue.

The contest is open to students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends of the university. The mascot entry must relate to UW-Eau Claire’s current nickname, Blugolds; must incorporate the school colors of blue and gold; and must represent the positive attributes of Blugold students and alumni.

For contest rules and other details, visit


Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.