A Chat with Robert Beagle, vice president for University Advancement
Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862
A New Rhody the Ram
1.Why change the suit (costume) now?
Beagle: Several reasons. The old one is worn out. It was becoming hard to keep clean. It was scruffy and hard to keep tailored. We were starting to get a great deal of comment from people that Rhody was showing a lot of wear and tear. Plus, the design of the old suit made it uncomfortable for the students. We think the new look will not only be more comfortable, but will give the mascot much more flexibility to do routines and entertainment stunts.
2.You say that mascots are important because they are permanent. Aren't you concerned that changing the look of Rhody will affect that permanent symbolism?
Beagle: No. Rhody is Rhody. If you go through the files, you will see that he has evolved over the years, but his basic features and his basic character have remained the same. Part of the reason you update a mascot costume is to keep the mascot modern and fresh.
3. URI is in the midst of a comprehensive branding campaign. How does Rhody fit into that, or does he?
Beagle: Yes, in the sense that he is one of our greatest marketing tools.
Also, one of the underlying themes of the brand is that URI is a big time school in a relatively small, intimate environment. It's important therefore that people see our mascot as being big time too. Plus, the fact that Rhody is so warm and approachable fits right into our caring, intimate, community environment theme.
4. Who designed the new look?
Beagle: We formed a committee composed of staff from the Advancement Division and Athletics. Brittany Manseau, a former president of our Student Alumni Association and now a member of our Alumni Relations staff, took the lead. There isn't anybody more passionate about Rhody than Brittany. She was diligent and outstanding in getting this job done. Chip Amoe, a former Ram now living in the Washington, DC area was also very involved and helpful. Chip, by the way, was recently featured in a Washington area publication about former college mascots. A Canadian company manufactured the costume.
5. Why is Rhody the Ram so important?
Beagle: He is the most recognizable symbol of the University. His appeal spans generations--from little kids to the oldest of alumni.
6. What does that mean for the University?
Beagle: Every institution has to have an enduring symbol. Mascots are enduring symbols. Buildings can come and go, faculty come and go, administrators come and go, new students pass through the campus every year. But the mascot stays the same. Alumni especially, but other stakeholders, need an anchor--they need something permanent that represents the past and the present. People see Rhody and they say "Hey, that's URI!" He's one of our best marketing tools. While we don't do it, some schools even use their mascot as the school logo.
7. Rhody seems especially popular with kids.
Beagle: Kids are probably Rhody's No. 1 fans. They love him. He's cuddly and warm. He gives them high fives. My grandson Ryan loves to go to URI games just to see Rhody. If Ryan doesn't see Rhody right away, he starts asking where Rhody is. That's a pretty common reaction among kids. We also know that kids and their parents love to do photo shoots with Rhody, which by the way, is a good reason to have Rhody dressed in a clean and well tailored suit. Appealing to families is an important part of building our athletic fan base. By the way, the fact that kids are a big fan base helped to shape the new look. We were very concerned that Rhody would have a look that wouldn't be scary or intimidating to children. Some schools like their mascots to look ferocious or aggressive, because of their participation at games. Other schools, like us, strive for a mascot that doesn't look like a pushover, but that also is warm and friendly.
8. So, how did you manage that?
Beagle: We thought the old Rhody was too skinny and not physical enough. So, you will see that the new one is more bulked up. But the new one also has warm eyes and an engaging look. We think we've got the best of both mascot objectives. His new look suit shows strength and warmth. By the way, Brittany shared with us pictures of the other Ram mascots around the country. We think our new look Rhody will be the best-looking Ram in America!
9. How is Rhody used?
Beagle: The obvious usage is athletic contests. We want him to become more and more part of the pre-game and during the game entertainment. We want him to continue to walk around among the crowed. Fans of all ages love that.
Mascots are inherent parts of athletic events. But Rhody is part of many other URI events, including URI open houses, student orientation, campus celebrations, our annual Distinguished Achievement Awards program. Rhody in a tux at some of those events has become a real highlight. He is an extension of the University, and therefore we feature him at as many public settings as possible. We even have alumni who request Rhody for weddings or other family celebrations. Last year he did a holiday photo shoot for those wanting to use Rhody as part of their holiday cards or greetings.
Other Rhody news:
"Ramminí with Rhody through the years"
"Buff, smiling Rhody huge hit
, new-look mascot greeted with rousing ovation"
New-look Rhody to take center stage
at Ryan Center, Feb. 25"
And about the Rams' win over Dayton...
Takes Down Dayton 93-91 in Overtime"