Denver Boone: DU's original mascot cracks the whip on calls for a replacement

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The University of Denver has been meeting with members of the DU community to discuss the "mascot development" process. Doug Hirsh has been following the process with particular interest: He was the first human Denver Boone, chosen to portray the caricature that Walt Disney donated to DU to serve as the embodiment of the Pioneer spirit. In 1968, when the school held a try-out for a student to play Boone, Hirsh showed up wearing a fake beard and a coonskin cap he'd found at his frat, the Beta House, and carrying a bullwhip. One crack of that whip, and he had the gig.

"I won," he remembers. I was Denver Boone." As Boone, he would show up at various school sporting events and other functions, wearing a fake buckskin suit from the theater department; he also had to glue on a beard before every performance. "Taking it off was a pain," he recalls.

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Doug Hirsh as Denver Boone.
Such a pain that on a trip to Europe that summer (his traveling companion was his one-time boarding-school roommate, Bill Husted, formerly of the Denver Post), he just grew a beard so that he could continue to play Boone his senior year without resorting to glue.

Hirsh who played lacrosse while in school and now coaches the Washington and Lee women's team (when he's not managing a hotel in Massachusetts), has been back to DU many times since graduating in 1970. And he's followed the mascot saga with interest. In 1998, then-chancellor Daniel Ritchie sent Boone to the wilderness and brought in Ruckus, a red-tailed hawk.

That concept didn't fly, though, and in 2008, Chancellor Robert Coombe opened the door for Boone to return -- in an unofficial capacity. The Boone who's been dancing around sporting events for the last five years is more of a cartoon character than Hirsh's Boone -- a frontiersman who was basically a hairier version of himself.

"It was a lot of fun," Hirsh says. "I just don't see why he's offensive to anybody. He's just a pioneer, a mountain man, a little bit of the heritage of the first settlers who came to Colorado."

But now, even the cartoon Boone will be banned; after a vote by the Undergraduate Student Government in late February following a Harlem Shake Boonedoggle, the school is looking for an entirely new mascot. The meetings and focus groups have been part of that process.

Here's the explanation that DU sent out to graduates, Hirsh included, on April 3.

Continue for DU's take on the Boone controversy, plus more photos.

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davebarnes topcommenter

PC run amok.

"it stands as an old-fashioned, nostalgic symbol of a past in which the marginalization of women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans in the historical record was common"


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