Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 20, 2013


Host: Ted Simons

Sparky Controversy


  • Arizona State University recently unveiled a revised look for its Sparky mascot. The new design has been scrapped after a huge backlash. Arizona Republic reporter Anne Ryman and ASU Downtown student government President Joseph Grossman discuss the changes.
Guests:
  • Anne Ryman - Reporter, The Arizona Republic
  • Joseph Grossman - Downtown Student Government President, ASU
Category: Education   |   Keywords: ASU, sparky, mascot, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: ASU's recent unveiling of a revised Sparky mascot was met with skepticism at best. The reaction against the new look quickly grew louder and stronger, so much so that the university decided to dump the new design and try again. I'll talk to a reporter and An ASU student government representative about the change, but, first, some ASU students offer their thoughts On the mascot makeover.

SOT: There is aura about him that is not -- it is not Sparky. It is way to Disney and too animated. He is happy but for all of the wrong reasons.

Tyler Bell: I don't like the Sparky at all. I think his eyes are big, weird looking. I feel like he is a little kid toy kind of thing. I don't like that at all. We are in college. We should have a mascot that is kind of scary looking. We're Sun Devils. That is how I feel about that.

Tyler Bell: They sprang it on us. They didn't tell us they were going to be bring out a new sparky, they did let us have any input in it.

Emily Schilling: I was pretty upset. It looks like an alien to me. Very cartoon. I feel like it is not threatening and it goes very far from the original Sparky. And I like that the original one was made after Walt Disney and I feel like this was Disney trying to get rid of that, trying to get rid of the evil Walt Disney image. I just thought that was weird.

James Corbett: It looks like something on a cereal box.

Aubree Abril: I thought it was weird looking. It looks like a bumblebee looks super evil. I know he is supposed to be a devil. I'm like no, it is just too much.

Ted Simons: Here to talk more his all-consuming nightmare For ASU loyalists is Anne Ryman, who has been covering the story for the "Arizona republic." also joining us is Joseph Grossman, president of the undergraduate student Government at ASU's downtown campus. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us. We are having a little fun with this. But are you surprised with the reaction that this thing got?

Anne Ryman: Yes and no. College mascots are very historic and traditional. There have been other cases when they have tried to change them or alter them slightly people get very upset. I would say generally, yes, the reaction kind of surprised me.

Ted Simons: The idea of -- why was a new Sparky needed? What was the reason here?

Joseph Grossman: I think the university is actually trying to approach a younger audience and kind of get more buy in. If you hear about the new American university, we talk all of the time about trying to get the entire community and embed them into the culture of the issue. I think that was the approach that they went. However, we have had a plethora of different changes from up until today. And this is just kind of the approach that we currently took.

Ted Simons: How long -- do you know how long the decision was made? And what the criteria was for this new Sparky? What are you looking for?

Anne Ryman: Looking for something that would appeal to a younger audience. More of a superhero features. And so they kind of used that -- apparently they did a lot of marketing research also. This wasn't a decision that was made lightly.

Ted Simons: Indeed. And I would imagine, as we take a look at the new Sparky or the long-gone Sparky, whatever you want to call him, it doesn't look like much of a superhero to me.

Joseph Grossman: No, I wouldn't say it looks much like a superhero at all. I think it is interesting. It was coming out at the same time the pitch fork that was coming out, initiated two years ago. Numerous amount of focus group that was supposed to do this and then it got to this point. They are planning on having action comic books and all of that stuff as well.

Ted Simons: I think he has a little emotional trouble there, if you ask me. Again, he has to do stuff like that. He has to be a mascot. When he looks like a villain from a s film, it doesn't seem like a lot of folks are buying into that.

Anne Ryman: The other thing that confused people is they also have the iconic logo from . It has been around. And I think some people thought that they were going to get rid of him also. And so that may have played into some of it. There were people that did look at the costume mascot and didn't like it. And then there were other people who also thought that that little beloved Sparky that we see everywhere is just -- is going by the wayside.

Ted Simons: Yeah. With your position as president, do you get a lot of response, a lot of reaction?

Joseph Grossman: Yes, I mean, in my role specifically, there was a lot of uprising, a lot of students didn't like it. I got contacted by a numerous amount of alumni and so forth. The university handled it very well. Took the feedback and we met with them a week, two weeks after, we originally thought it was going from the athletics perspective but it was handled under public affairs. We went in and met and we met the compromise where currently are approaching where students, faculty, alumni, and each student would get one vote and that would be the change of the Sparky. You look at Oregon, Oregon when they had the mascot, tried to make changes, there wasn't much push-back -- push-back from the students but the university was not very accepting of that. In this case, I think the university did a good job in handling it and trying to please the rest of the university and alumni base --

Ted Simons: What kind of reaction did you get from the university on this?

Anne Ryman: From the university itself. It is difficult to -- for something that didn't work out all that well.

Anne Ryman: From their constituents, they have heard a lot of feedback is how they worded it. Based on that, they decided to go to a vote. And the feedback that I'm getting from readers is that, you know, they're anxious to take part in the vote. There is a lot of people, especially alumni wondering how is this going to work? How will I vote? Do they have my email address? How are they going to reach me? How many times can I vote? I was hearing from people today especially that they want to be sure that they have input in this and they are wondering will the Sparky mascot that is currently out there be offered as one of the choices?

Ted Simons: That brings me to my next question. From what you have heard and when you were reporting on this and people were telling you and the comments and these sorts of things, was it the fact that they changed Sparky or was it the fact that they changed Sparky to this dude?

Anne Ryman: I think it was the latter. It was a big change. Some people said they were okay with smaller change. Smaller changes. There are people that say well, maybe his outfit needs to be updated a little bit. But it was the fact that it was such a big change.

Ted Simons: Where do we go from here?

Joseph Grossman: Yeah, well, I mean, I think now what we are doing we are getting options for students, alumni, faculty and staff to have a say on that. There is a date for that. We are trying to roll all of that out. I think there is a good response. There was a lot of negative reaction to this. Especially since it wasn't a small change. It was a huge change. Even coming from myself when we first found out about it, the process in that situation was not what we were most favorable of. Yes, granted the university moves quickly and something that was done two years ago, the whole -- a year, two-year basis. With that being said, I think that the next step will be everyone gets one vote. That will go through the process to make the Sparky how they see the university can apply or give them options and they will get to create that and a voting process will go through and we will see which one that ends up being at the first home football game.

Ted Simons: Very good. Amazing how a mascot can cause such havoc. Good to have you both here. Thank you for helping to explain it to us.

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