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From left: Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin; Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass; Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas; Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park; Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Ft. Worth; and Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, during a legislative hearing in Edinburg in late September 2014.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Students at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley would be able to vote this fall on an official athletics nickname for their school, which would best define the image of students, former students, graduates, staff, faculty, and administrators, while still keeping Vaqueros as the mascot, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured fourth from right, has proposed. “Holding an election on an issue of such importance – deciding on what the world will call the people of this incredible university – is the ‘American Way’,” he said. On Friday, January 23, the House District 40 lawmaker, who represents the Edinburg campuses of UT-RGV, filed House Bill 901, which would require the UT System to allow students to determine the name by which they will be known. The House District 40 lawmaker represents the largest campus – both in enrollment and physical size – of UT-RGV, along with a major component of the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. Under HB 901, the students at UT-RGV, which is also set to open its full-fledged medical school in late summer 2016, would be able to choose from “Broncs”, “Ocelots” and “any other options the university chooses, including nicknames nominated by students and approved by the university.”

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UT-RGV students would get to vote on school athletics nickname, which would be its worldwide image, under legislation filed by Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Students at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley would be able to vote this fall on an official athletics nickname for their school, a measure which would best define the image of students, former students, graduates, staff, faculty, and administrators, while still keeping Vaqueros as the mascot, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has proposed.

On Friday, January 23, the House District 40 lawmaker, who represents the Edinburg campus of UT-RGV and a major component of the UT-RGV School of Medicine, filed House Bill 901, which would require the UT System to allow students to determine the name by which they will be known.

Under HB 901, the students at UT-RGV, which is also set to open its full-fledged medical school within two years, would be able to choose from “Broncs”, “Ocelots” and “any other options the university chooses, including nicknames nominated by students and approved by the university.”

“Holding an election on an issue of such importance – deciding on what the world will call the people of this incredible university – is the ‘American Way’,” he said.

A college nickname or mascot defines the school and the students who attend it, as well as the alumni and fans of each particular institution, according to SportsPageMagazine.com.

“It serves as a rallying cry and source of pride to all those affiliated with the school,” explained Loren Nauss, the magazine’s author of The Top 100 College Nicknames/Mascots Among NCAA Division I Schools. “Some schools only have a nickname, others have a nickname and mascot which are different, while the majority have a nickname and mascot which are the same.”

With a nickname and mascot with different names, UT-RGV would be in an elite class of major universities, Canales noted.

“In many universities throughout the nation, their mascot has a different name from the student body and its sports programs,” he illustrated. “Texas A&M’s mascot is a magnificent collie named ‘Reveille’, while everyone involved with the university are proudly known as ‘Aggies’.”

An Aggie is a student at Texas A&M University, according to the university’s website. In the early 1900s A&M students were referred to as Farmers. The term Aggie began to be used in the 1920s and in 1949, when the yearbook changed its name to Aggieland, Aggie became the official student body nickname.

“In our case, the UT System selected Vaqueros (Spanish for ‘Cowboys’) as the UT-RGV mascot, but under my proposal, the students who are enrolled on the first day that UT-RGV becomes a reality, would sometime during the Fall 2015 semester vote on what should be the official sports nickname, which will be how the world will come to know them and future generations,” Canales said.

On Thursday, November 6, 2014, the UT System Board of Regents accepted a recommendation from Dr. Guy Bailey, President of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, to do away with the Bronc, which is the mascot for UT-Pan American, and also eliminate the Ocelot, which is the mascot for UT-Brownsville, and replace those names with Vaqueros (cowboys).

“President Bailey, whose extensive credentials include serving as president of The University of Alabama, is intimately familiar with a major university having an athletics nickname and mascot name that are different,” Canales said. “The University of Alabama’s mascot is an elephant named ‘Big Al’, but the school’s athletic nickname is ‘Crimson Tide’, which is what everyone in the country knows them by. That’s why allowing students to vote on UT-RGV’s athletic sports nickname is so very important.”

Under legislation in 2013 cosponsored by Canales, UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the UT Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville will be merged into one Valley-wide institution of higher education that will also feature a full-fledged medical school. Those actions are scheduled to take place in late summer 2015 and late summer 2016 respectively.

Perhaps as important, UT-RGV bandits medical school now have access to the Permanent University Fund (PUF), a $14+ billion revenue source which is used to fund special construction projects, such as the UT-RGV medical school, for campuses which are part of the UT and A&M systems.

The Edinburg campus by far has the largest enrollment – 21,042 for the Fall 2014 semester – and physical size, while UT-RGV’s Brownsville campus had 8,015 students enrolled last fall semester.

The first two years of medical education at the UT-RGV School of Medicine will take place in Edinburg, next to the UT-RGV campus, with the third and fourth years taking place in Harlingen.

Efforts are currently underway, spearheaded by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the City of McAllen, to build a UT-RGV School of Medicine campus
immediately across for the DHR network of hospitals, but in the McAllen city limits.

That McAllen campus, if approved by the UT System Board of Regents in the coming months, would feature 448,000-square-feet of medical graduate education, known as residencies, as well as science laboratories, clinical services, and medical faculty offices.

Highlights of Canales’ HB 901 follow:

The university shall hold an election to select the athletics nickname of the university. The university shall include on the ballot: the “Broncs”; the “Ocelots”; and any other options the university chooses, including nicknames nominated by students and approved by the university.

The board shall designate as the athletics nickname of the university the nickname selected by a plurality vote of the students voting in the election held under Subsection (a). In case of a tie between nicknames receiving more votes than any other, the board shall designate the athletics nickname of the university by lot.

SECTION 2. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley shall hold the election required under Section 79.11(a), Education Code, as added by this Act, not later than December 31, 2015.

The board of regents of The University of Texas System shall make the designation required under Section 79.11(b), Education Code, as added by this Act, not later than May 31, 2015, for application beginning with the 2016 fall semester.

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