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    Sports talk at University of Michigan-Flint sparks more mascot consideration

    by Beata Mostafavi | The Flint Journal
    Monday September 22, 2008, 4:34 PM

    FLINT, Michigan -- The University of Michigan has its stocky, sharp-clawed Wolverine, a mighty-jawed weasel with the power to kill a moose.

    UM- Dearborn has its ferocious-looking, wild howling dogs, the Wolves.

    So could a new mascot someday join the UM family?

    As UM-Flint seriously explores the possibility of an intercollegiate athletics program for the first time, students remain divided on whether campus should be distinguished by its own team symbol or blend in with the Wolverines.

    "There are a lot of students who want to stay with the Wolverines because it's a part of the Michigan tradition," said Shawntae Harris, 23, president of UM-Flint's Spirit Club and who was on a committee pushing for a new mascot last year.

    "Dearborn has their own mascot, and I think we're moving in that direction. It would give us something to own and be proud of."

    In spring, roughly 700 UM-Flint students voted for a new mascot, with "The Victors" -- UM's trademark fight song -- winning with nearly 300 votes. Other choices were the Stones and the Flash.

    But the vote was met with some protest, many students arguing that Flint's campus should stick with the furry UM icon so famous in the college world.

    "I think a lot of students feel a sense of security in calling themselves Wolverines and they were seriously questioning why this campus needs another mascot," said Jesse Hurse, UM-Flint's student activities coordinator.

    Student government president Owen Agho, 20, said he would still like to call himself a Wolverine.

    He noted that some students want to stay more closely connected to the nationally renowned campus in Ann Arbor whose name appears on their diplomas, which they may later donate money to or whose parents attended.

    "I personally see myself as a Wolverine and would like to remain so. However, I can understand the need for a mascot," Agho said. "In the future, hopefully whatever mascot is chosen, it does have to do with the Michigan tradition and Michigan spirit."

    Some students say as the Flint campus grows, with new student housing, increasing enrollment and now the possibility of varsity sports teams, it's time to create a UM-Flint brand and identity unique from its Ann Arbor parent.

    Harris, a history major, mentioned the time UM-Flint's ultimate frisbee team played against Ann Arbor's team.

    It was the Wolverines versus, well, the Wolverines.

    "It was kind of funny because typically we root for Ann Arbor. It would be nice to have something to distinguish ourselves," Harris said. "(Having a mascot) doesn't mean we have to stop being Wolverines. I'm still going to go to Ann Arbor and cheer on the Wolverines."

    A commission of roughly 35 people have been meeting to consider the feasibility of an athletics program at the Flint campus to later be presented to the UM Board of Regents.

    A consulting firm is helping the group explore costs and resources, which sports make the most sense and what the community thinks about such a program.

    UM-Flint graduate student Wade Merrill, who serves on the athletic commission and who led the campaign to give Flint its own mascot, said the question will likely come up again depending on what happens with athletics.

    "I think it's something that helps with community pride, which is something the sports program is going to have to generate if we ever have varsity sports," said Merrill, 29, president of UM-Flint's Student Athletic Association. "It's not that we're not Michigan fans but we also want to have our own flavor in Flint of being a Michigan student. With our campuses, there is always striking a balance."

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