By Dave Stancliff/for the Times-StandardPlease try to keep a straight face. What I’m about to share is true, so go easy on the folks involved, okay?
Quick history note: Utah has Cougars, snakes (Diamond Backs), Falcons, and other creatures, and it’s not uncommon to see them as school mascots. If you were to check, you’d see that Cougars are a common name for mascots in the state. Fair enough?
Not for the school board members of a new school slated to open in 2013. Recently named Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah (photo), it already faces a controversy.
The school board members polled students on what they’d like for a team name. They voted in favor of the Cougars. Cougars inhabit territory all across Utah. According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, the only place in Utah they're not found is in the salt flats west of the Great Salt Lake.
Cougar was a natural choice. The students didn’t foresee any problem with having a Cougar for a team mascot. Why should they? They had heard of schools with Cougars as mascots at different grade levels throughout their lives.
Superintendent of Canyons School District, David S. Doty (I’m not making up that last name), made a surprise announcement; Cougars was not an acceptable team mascot name! How could that be? Why did everyone say the name was okay when it was voted on?
Now here’s the part where I ask your indulgence. Try not to laugh too hard at the reason why Cougar suddenly became banned as school mascots. One more thing, I’m not making this up.
Doty said Cougars was unacceptable because it “has a negative double entendre,” as in older women who date younger men. No, really. I guess we can thank the television show, "Cougar Town," starring Courteney Cox, for those votes overturned. Apparently their Moms and Dads watch the show.
When some parents (the story doesn’t say how many) called the school board and complained, saying Cougars was a negative term, the board dissolved into Cougar scat.
I can’t help wondering about schools like USC who use “Trojans” as a team name. Is it time something was done about that obvious double entendre? Are TV shows the next barometer for a school’s team name?
Back to the Draper school board. They also felt the school’s blue/white/silver color scheme looked too much like Brigham Young University team colors. I don’t know what they said behind closed doors about the longtime university team name, the Cougars. One can only imagine.
This really isn’t the end of the story. The school board, in it’s infinite wisdom, voted unanimously to select Charger as the mascot, noting no other high school in the state had used it. A curious fact.
Cool. But what happened to the student input? Am I missing something here? The school board happily noted the alliteration of Corner Canyon Chargers, and said a Charger, a war horse, was selected because it is “a prominent animal in Draper and an image of strength that could unify the community," according to the Board of Education summary.
There’s no word on how the students felt about the new team name. I wouldn’t be surprised if some conjure up the image of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. That might be acceptable because it’s on the beach in California, where I suspect the students would rather live!
Still, it’s just not right. Kearns High School football coach and athletic director Bill Cosper recently told The Salt Lake Tribune, "To me, a mascot is usually an animal - I mean, I don't know how to even respond to Chargers.”
Perhaps reflecting what a lot of people think, Cosper said, "In all my years here, or in all of sports, that's never been brought up before.” I’m not sure he’s right, but I can’t readily recall any other case about animals becoming a problem as a team symbol.
The whole thing is laughable, but sad too. People are so easily swayed by what they see or hear in the media. Common sense is often suspended in the name of political correctness.
As It Stands, if you still feel like laughing, I don’t blame you.