ST. LOUIS • Hours after first promoting the new St. Louis University Billiken mascot, President Fred Pestello took to Twitter defending its honor — sort of — against a barrage of backlash.
Between two soccer matches Tuesday afternoon, SLU unveiled a two-toned mascot that matches the logo the campus rebranded with last November.
People in the SLU community and beyond seemed to like the logo last year, but according to social media backlash, they aren’t on board with the new Billiken mascot.
One person called it “Killiken.” Another called it “the stuff of nightmares.”
“Change is hard,” Pestello tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “@The_Billiken is currently going through puberty. Like us, his awkwardness is best met with compassion.”
This is the first significant mascot change for SLU in about 20 years, unlike most institutions that update their mascot every eight years. The unveiling was timed well as SLU’s men’s basketball team tips off its season Nov. 4 at Chaifetz Arena.
“We feel particularly blessed because our mascot is so unique,” Pestello told the Post-Dispatch Tuesday. “(Students) pushed for a Billiken that was a little more contemporary. More aggressive looking, but still smiling and giving that knowing wink.”
In a tweet to Pestello, St. Louis Magazine writer Joe Bonwich joked that “at least 1 of original Exorcists is still alive and might even live on campus,” making reference to the new mascot’s looking demonic.
Pestello responded: “You haven’t heard? @The_Billiken is in the next season of Stranger Things,” referring to the popular science fiction show produced by Netflix.
That is one of several exchanges that Pestello, who has boosted his Twitter game as of late, joked with Wednesday.
SLU’s relationships with its mascot has long been a bit of an oddity. In a world of tigers, bulldogs and lions, the school remains the only institution with a Billiken.
The fictitious character is a Japanese good luck charm of sorts. It was invented by a Kansas City art teacher in 1908.
SLU acknowledges that no one is quite sure how the charm came to be its mascot.
It’s an usual and obscure history, but one that at least a half dozen SLU students seemed to have a command of as they talked about their mascot to a reporter Wednesday.
None was on board with the latest incarnation of the school’s lucky creature.
“It just doesn’t look like a Billiken anymore,” said Carolina Lopez, a freshman from Dallas. “It looks like a mutated frog.”