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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Marco: Bison, Myth, Legend

A+sketch+of+Marco%2C+Marshalls+mascot
Nolan Duncan
A sketch of Marco, Marshall’s mascot

Marco is the “spokes-buffalo” for Marshall University, said the head of Archives at Marshall. 

Lori Thompson, the head of Archives at Marshall University, said Marco is important in building the brand of Marshall University. She said mascots are important in building a sense of identity in a college community.

“It can be a huge honor for people to service the mascot of the university,” Thompson said, “and then that is a role model or a representation of the university out in the wild.”

Thompson said she had acquired a research paper from 2014 titled “The Definitive History of Marco: The Mascot of Marshall University” written by Katherine Endicott. The document went into detail about not just the history of Marco but how he spawned from the term “Thundering Herd.”

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Thompson said the term “The Thundering Herd” originated in the 1920s as the name of a local newspaper writer. She said the name led the university to choose a buffalo as its mascot after administration noticed the species used to live in the state of West Virginia. 

Endicott’s research paper covered the beginnings of Marco as a character. The paper said that it began with the cartoonist Irvin Dugan creating various characters throughout his comics, one of which was an anthropomorphic buffalo referred to as Herd or Marshall.

Thompson said before Marco was introduced, the original mascot was a two manned costume of a real buffalo.

“The first mascot from Marshall was a buffalo created out of two people in the 1930s,” Thompson said. “Students created it out of paper mache.”

Thompson said the cartoon character by Dugan did not make an appearance in any official Marshall-related media until it featured in the 1958 Marshall University yearbook. She also said the first version of the costume appeared in 1965.

Besides Marco, Thompson added the university attempted two other mascots. She said one was a female counterpart to Marco named Marsha.     

Thompson said Marsha appeared in the 1970s as a way to encourage inclusivity with the rise of women’s sports.   

She said Marsha lasted for a few seasons, though she gave no reason for the character’s end.

Thompson said the other extra mascot was a live buffalo that also appeared in the 1970s.

“The rumor is that he got loose during one of the football games at Fairfield and was trying to eat the turf,” Thompson said. “He had been resigned later on to live a life at the petting zoo at Camden Park.”

Thompson said the biggest redesign for Marco came in 2013 and was vocally hated by the local campus and Huntington community. She said the new design looked angrier than the happier Marcos of the past. He also touted an out-of-proportion head that clashed with his more human body.

“I think a lot of people liked the more fan-friendly Marco of the previous generations,” Thompson said. “Part of that being ill-received was that we kind of always treated our Marco as a fun-loving, kind of mascot.”

Thompson said after the 2013 football season, the same year as the new design’s reveal, it was decided to create a new design.

Thompson said Marco helps better connect Marshall University with the wider Huntington area. She said that having that connection allows everyone to feel like one group.

“I don’t know, Marco’s got a long history here, and I think that Marco’s work isn’t done,” Thompson said.

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