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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Prowler is out, Billy the Panther is back in

He’s big. He’s buff. He’s back.

Billy the Panther returned after a five-year hiatus and made his first appearance of the new school year at the beginning of the Eastern-Indiana State football game.

Secrecy swirled around the new mascot before Saturday’s game. Eastern’s athletic department didn’t reveal anything about Billy before the game.

“We spent a lot of money to keep the mascot on the (down low),” Eastern director of marketing and promotions Ryan Gilmore said.

Billy sat in a green cart that sped across the field ahead of the charging Eastern football players before the start of the game. The crowd exploded with cheers as the announcer introduced Billy.

The new mascot is a muscular panther.

He wore a tight, blue Eastern jersey with the No. 90 and his name on the back.

Billy is dark black with blue streak marks on his face.

Eastern’s student section, the Blue Crew, was excited with Billy as the new mascot.

Members were yelling “Sexy Panther” and “You’ve been working out, Billy!”

Junior marketing major Jennifer Washburn, a member of the Blue Crew, took a picture with Billy when he went into the stands.

“I love him,” Washburn said. ” I’m putting this picture up on Facebook.”

Freshman music education and jazz studies major Jacob Unterber said he thinks Billy represents a new era for Eastern athletics.

“You have to respect the old mascot, but the new one unites not only the athletes but the fandom,” Unterber said.

Eddie Smith, a freshman speech pathology major, said he thought the new mascot was “kickass” but could see why some people would miss Prowler.

“It’s not the same,” Smith said. “It’s like if (the mascot) at your (high school) changed.”

Sandy King, a graphic designer for Eastern’s sports information department, said she designed the new version of Billy.

She said it took her five to six hours to draw up the general concept.

“President Perry wanted our mascot to be ferocious but not scare young children,” King said.

Eastern athletic director Barbara Burke said the athletic department wanted to update the mascot. She said it was a way to bring back an old tradition at sporting events.

“The costume was old, and we needed to revitalize it,” Burke said. “It was an opportunity to go back to tradition in a new character.”

Burke said the costume cost about $5,000 to design and purchase.

Former Eastern athletic director Rich McDuffie retired Billy in 2003 and introduced Prowler. Math professor and cheer adviser Andrew White helped design Prowler who lasted until this year.

Bob Bajek can be reached at 581-7944 or at [email protected].

Prowler is out, Billy the Panther is back in

Prowler is out, Billy the Panther is back in

After five years, Billy the Panther returned to O’Brien Stadium with a revitalized look as the Eastern mascot. Billy was redesigned by Sandy King, graphic designer for Eastern’s sports information department.(Robbie Wroblewski

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