Volume 93, Issue 66
Thursday, January 27, 2000
Myth, magic and mascoting
Gazette file photo
A HORSE IS A HORSE, OF COURSE, OF COURSE. Even today, Western's mascot JW continues to party it up - every horse has a story.
By Brian Carey
He's the familiar face seen at campus sporting events, as well as numerous other University functions. You can even see him tossed around by Western's cheerleaders. We're talking about JW, Western's mascot and ambassador. The question is who is the heart and soul inside JW?
In April of 1984, University Students' Council VP-student affairs Craig Cohen and Jamie Bone, the sports information director, decided to run a contest to design a Western mascot open to all students, faculty and staff. One of the designs submitted was from David-Lee Tracey, the current coach of Western's cheerleading squad. For his efforts, Tracey pocketed the $100 prize and got to see his design become a reality.
The first JW outfit was a little different in appearance from the friendly face seen on campus today. Tracey said the original was made by fashion designer Elizabeth de Lanse of Impressions, a shop that specialized in costume design and construction. With some heavy duty sewing of purple and white material and a mere $900 production cost, JW the Mustang mascot was born.
The next task was finding a name for Western's mascot. "[We] wanted a name that could not be thought of as male or female, clearly associated with Western and no alliteration," Tracey said. "A small list was brainstormed but JW won hands down. It has "W" in the name and furthermore, it is synonymous with J.W. Little Memorial Stadium and its benefactor."
The first JW actor, he said, was selected from a group of four students who applied for the position. Their task during the interview was to entertain the selection committee for five minutes, without speaking. Tim Miller had the honour of being first JW from 1984 to 1986.
Originally there was one person who played JW. Presently, there are three male students attending to JWs social life. According to Bonnie Cooper, co-ordinator of Intercollegiate Athletics, anyone can apply to be JW, but a person's height could be a factor in the decision. "There is only so much room inside the costume and the best fit is a person approximately five feet eight inches to six foot one inch."
Cooper said the current costume cost $3,000 to make and was designed by the same firm that came up with the Toronto Blue Jays mascot, B.J. Birdy. "Intercollegiate Athletics decided to change the look of JW in 1992 and contracted the computer design firm to come up with a softer, more likeable cartoon-type character that would appeal to all ages."
Only those closely associated with JW know the true identity of the players. Cooper said a co-operative agreement was made between IA and various JWs to insure they remain anonymous so that as the years pass, JW will basically remain the same.
One of the JW veterans was willing to share some memorable moments as the beloved mascot. "I changed in the equipment room and came out of the stadium at the same time as some of the players. Fans congratulated me on a good game and said they saw me on the field.
"During a game you meet people, shake their hands and have your picture taken but no words are spoken. When you say hi to these same people and you are out of uniform they give you a strange look. You have to remember, you see them and they see JW not you," the veteran said.
JW is not ready for the lush green pastures of retirement yet too many duties, so little time. His future plans include continuing to entertain fans at Western with his antics, maybe writing an autobiography someday, tour with mascot mimes or even becoming a mascot in residence.
The sky is the limit for this Mustang.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000