Big Red celebrates 41st birthday

Big Red eats volleyballs in Diddle Arena on October 6, 2019.

Sean Snyder

Hilltoppers are celebrating a very special birthday today as our mascot Big Red turns 41 years old.

Big Red was first introduced in 1979 after a series of failed attempts at deciding on a mascot. Some contenders for the role include a variety of animals and a WKU version of Uncle Sam. 

He was designed by alum Ralph Carey with hopes of boosting enthusiasm at sports games. Carey’s goal was to avoid any “hillbilly” stereotypes about Kentucky when designing the mascot.

Carey himself premiered the homemade costume at the Dec. 1, 1979 home basketball game. The original Big Red costume consisted of air conditioner foam, fake fur and aluminum wiring. Once finished, the costume cost about $300. That original costume now sits on display at the alumni center.

“I was there when the original Big Red was introduced,” Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper said. “Big Red now represents a sense of pride for WKU students. He’s nationally known and represents the true spirit of Western Kentucky.”

Big Red has gone on to make national headlines in both sports and mainstream media. He’s appeared on popular shows such as “Wheel of Fortune,” “Deal or No Deal” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” He was also runner-up in the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket during the COVID-19 shutdown last spring. 

Many students, alumni and faculty took to Twitter to express their love and admiration for the beloved mascot.

“Big Red is the best mascot in all of sports,” Alum Nicole Ziege tweeted. “No, I will not be taking comments at this time.”

President Tim Caboni retweeted a tweet from WKU Admissions saying “HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the best mascot in the universe! We love you @WKUBigRed!”

The iconic Big Red himself took to his personal twitter to thank everyone for the wishes.

 “Happy Birthday to me!” Big Red tweeted. “It’s been a great 41 years, reply below with your favorite memory of us! #GoTops.”  

With over 30 comments, many replied with photos and stories of their time with our mascot on the Hill.

Here’s to 41 more years with the iconic red blob.

Sean Snyder can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @seanwsnyder